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Greece says beauty queen ‘boycotting’ Miss Universe in Israel isn’t its contestant

Organization that chooses country’s entrant says its pick is Sofia Arapogianni — not Rafaela Plastira, who said she wouldn’t attend Eilat contest over Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Screen capture from video of Greek beauty queen Rafaela Plastira. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of Greek beauty queen Rafaela Plastira. (YouTube)

The organization in Greece that selects the country’s entrant for the Miss Universe contest has denounced as a fake a beauty queen who said she was boycotting this year’s event because it is being held in Israel.

The Star GS Hellas company said that Rafaela Plastira wasn’t going anyway because she isn’t the country’s entrant.

Plastira, 22, announced in October that she was pulling out of the contest, which will be held on December 12 in the southern Israel port city of Eilat, because she “could not go up on the stage, acting like nothing is happening when people are fighting for their lives [in Israel and Palestine].”

However, Star GS Hellas said last week that Plastira, who won Miss World Greece in 2019, is not the country’s entrant for the 2021 Miss Universe event.

Plastira “never had the official blessing to represent our country,” Star GS Hellas President Giorgos Kouvaris said in a statement posted to the organization’s Facebook page on Thursday, noting “the official Miss Universe Greece for 2021 is Sofia Arapogianni.”

“Regarding the issue of Rafael Plastira’s departure from Miss Universe 2021, in which the Palestinian issue was cited, it is all false,” he wrote.

Kouvaris stressed that only GS Hellas has the “legal rights and contracts” to select Greece’s Miss Universe contestant and that “everything else is false, unsolicited and cunningly alleged misinformation.”

Arapogianni, 21, is listed as the Greek entrant on the official Miss Universe website.

She has since arrived in Israel to participate in the event.

H Ελληνίδα Καλλονή Σοφία Αραπογιάννη , η οποία εκπροσωπεί την Ελλάδα στην κορωνίδα των παγκόσμιων διαγωνισμών ομορφιάς …

Posted by Star & Mr GS Hellas on Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Nonetheless, Plastira has continued to insist she had chosen not to attend the contest and that she is “fine and proud of my decision” to pull out.

“I may not live in Palestine, but Palestine lives in my heart forever,” she posted last week to her Instagram account.

The pageant is in the spotlight because it’s being held in Israel amid boycott calls against the country. The South African government has said that it was dissociating itself from a decision by the reigning Miss SA to take part. The decision came after growing calls for Lalela Mswane to boycott the pageant over what government officials said were Israel’s “atrocities against Palestinians.”

Contestants of the 2021 Miss Universe pageant, to be held in Eilat, seen during a visit to the Tower of David Museum in the Old City Of Jerusalem ahead of the 70th Miss Universe pageant, November 30, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Amid pressure on contestants to drop out in solidarity with the Palestinians, reigning Miss Universe Andrea Meza said earlier this month that the long-running beauty pageant shouldn’t be politicized.

“Everyone with different beliefs, with different backgrounds, with different cultures, they all come together and when you are in there you forget about politics, about your religion,” Meza told The Associated Press ahead of a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City. “It’s just about embracing other women.”

Hosting the show is a coup for Israel, which for years has been confronting a campaign calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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