A Miss Universe pageant in Zimbabwe is sparking widespread discussion on social media after awarding its namesake honor to a white woman.
Brooke Bruk-Jackson was crowned Miss Universe Zimbabwe on September 16 at the nation’s first pageant in over 20 years. As a result of her win, Bruk-Jackson will go on to represent the small African nation at the Miss Universe pageant in El Salvador this November.
The 21-year-old beauty therapist was born in Harare, the country’s capital, where she still lives and works at an aesthetic clinic. While it is unknown how long her family has been in Zimbabwe, Bruk-Jackson completed her primary education in the country, but went on to graduate from the British Academy of Fashion Design in London before returning home.
In October 2022, Jackson was signed with Cape Town-based talent agency Boss Models South Africa, and has been working part-time in the modeling industry since.
Bruk-Jackson’s win came as a shock to many considering the extremely small population of European-descended people in Zimbabwe. According to a 2015 census, 99% of Zimbabweans are of African descent, while only a fractional 0.22% are European.
Days after she was crowned, the official Miss Universe Zimbabwe Instagram account was inundated with hateful comments as they uploaded photos of Bruk-Jackson in celebration of her win.
In one photo set from September 20, the model was seen on the catwalk during the cultural costume contest wearing an elaborate Shona-inspired outfit by Zimbabwean designer Jasper Mandizera of IVHU Tribe.
As though anticipating the response, the official Miss Universe Zimbabwe account called the photoset “a representation of unity amongst people,” adding: “The cowry shells are a representation of fertility and womanhood. This is to say we are all born the same way, no matter the colour or your skin. We are brought into earth through the same path.”
“CULTURAL APPROPRIATION!!! THIS IS WRONG AND RACIST ON SO MANY LEVELS. SHAME ON ALL OF YOU,” the top comment reads, with another user writing: “This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen! Nonsense.”
Others called Bruk-Jackson a “white colonizer,” while others said that she did not deserve to win as she was not representative of the majority of Zimbabweans.
“The girl who won is not representing the majority of Zimbabwe. See, she is white skin, meanwhile Zimbabweans are black color of skin,” one user wrote on Instagram.
But despite the immense backlash, some congratulated Bruk-Jackson on her win.
“She’s absolutely gorgeous. If she’s Zimbabwean-born, then she qualifies. Everything else is race drama. Let her enjoy her limelight moment,” Brian Ngoni Muzabazi commented on Facebook.
“I’m a black Zimbabwean male. Just like most Zimbabweans, I’ve no qualms with her representing us,” user Solicitor at Large wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Some on social media also noted that non-white people have represented European nations in the past at similar competitions.
Over the years, people of non-European descent have taken home beauty pageant titles in France, Sweden, Norway, Germany, and more.
This year, the Netherlands crowned a biological male the winner of their Miss Universe competition, marking the first time a “transgender woman” will represent the Dutch people on a global beauty pageant stage.