Miss Earth Canada Jaime VandenBerg said she experienced almost two weeks of sexual harassment during the recently concluded Miss Earth pageant, which held its coronation event in Pasay City last Saturday.
On Wednesday, the 21-year-old candidate took to Instagram to allege that one of the pageant's sponsors harassed her and even asked her for sexual favors.
She also said that she has "completely lost faith" in the Miss Earth organization over how it responded to her concerns.
VandenBerg said that on the second day of the pageant, the sponsor got hold of her cellphone number without her consent and used it to call her and ask which hotel room she was in.
"I gave my phone to a team manager so that she could resolve the issue, but it did not work," she said.
The sponsor allegedly proceeded to show up at "almost all" of VandenBerg's events, "telling me he could take care of my needs and asked for sexual favors in exchange to get me further in the pageant."
"I was disgusted," she said.
While VandenBerg did not identify the sponsor, she revealed in her post that he owned a yacht that was kept at the Manila Yacht Club.
She said that at one point, the team managers—who had been assigned to the contestants to help them—"laughed and told us to be nice" when she and some of the other contestants sat outside during an event because they did not feel comfortable with the sponsor.
"That night a few of us were given the opportunity to bring our concerns to Miss Lorraine, the woman in charge of the pageant," she said, referring to Lorraine Schuck of Carousel Productions, the organization that owns and runs Miss Earth.
"I went through almost two weeks of sexual harassment before I anything was done about it," said VandenBerg.
"I was told he would not be around any more, but I had advised Lorraine of several other issues that were not resolved," she added.
I left to compete at an international pageant in the Philippines about a month ago. I was so excited because I had been to the Philippines before and loved the country and the people; however, the experience with the pageant was not what I had expected. I left Miss Earth because I did not feel safe under their care. The second day of the pageant I felt uncomfortable because a sponsor from the first night was given my phone number, without my consent, and was calling me asking for my hotel and room number. I gave my phone to a team manager so that she could resolve the issue, but it did not work. He showed up to almost all of my events telling me he could take care of my needs and asked for sexual favours in exchange to get me further in the pageant. I was disgusted. He showed up to a hotel some girls were staying at and when I ran into him he continued to ask for my room number. I was lucky I wasn’t staying at that hotel. After so many strange calls, I recognized his phone number and was able to block it. At an event at the Manila Yacht Club he took all of the delegates in my group to his yacht and had some girls take sultry photos. Again, I was disgusted. Later in the pageant we had another sponsor event at the Manila Yacht Club and he was telling girls he could take them to Boracay, as long as we didn’t tell any one. A group of us left to sit out side as we did not feel comfortable. He followed us outside and was upset we were not dancing with him. The team mangers laughed and told us to be nice. Eventually we were allowed to go and sit on the bus because we refused to go back to his yacht. Six girls and myself left because we felt unsafe at that event. I asked many times why more girls weren’t given the option to leave but, was never given an answer. That night a few of us were given the opportunity to bring our concerns to Miss Lorraine, the woman in charge of the pageant. I went through almost two weeks of sexual harassment before I anything was done about it. I was told he would not be around any more, but I had advised Lorraine of several other issues that were not resolved. Miss Peachy, another employee of the pageant, spoke with me at an event about...
'I did not feel safe under their care'
VandenBerg also said that the pageant had "confiscated" her passport and that she felt she couldn't leave, and that the team managers took things from her luggage without her permission.
"I am so thankful for the friends I made who helped me fight to get my passport back and leave the unsafe situation I was in. I shouldn’t have to face any kind of harassment in order to represent my country," she said, adding #MeToo to her comment.
According to a report on "24 Oras," Vandenberg left the Philippines early and was not able to finish the competition.
At the start of her Instagram post the Canadian beauty queen said that she had been excited to take part in the pageant. "I was so excited because I had been to the Philippines before and loved the country and the people," she wrote.
"However, the experience with the pageant was not what I had expected. I left Miss Earth because I did not feel safe under their care."
Schuck counters VandenBerg account
In an interview on GMA News' Lhar Santiago, Schuck said that they gave VandenBerg her passport back immediately after she asked for it.
Shuck also claimed that VandenBerg did not bring up the sexual harassment issue even as each of the groups were assigned team managers whom they could confide in.
"Because she never told us. She came here on the sixth, we found out about it on the 14th. She never told anyone," Shuck said.
She said that several policewomen were there to make sure all candidates were safe, and maintained that she would have never allowed such an incident to take place if she had been informed directly.
"So galit na galit ako sa mga team managers kasi kung ako tinawagan nila at may incident na ganoon, ipu-pull-out ko lahat because I won't allow that to happen," she added. — BM, GMA News