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In Israel, Miss Universe says no place for politics in beauty pageant

Andrea Meza, the reigning Miss Universe from Mexico, poses overlooking the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock as she tours the Old City of Jerusalem, on November 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Andrea Meza, the reigning Miss Universe from Mexico, poses overlooking the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock as she tours the Old City of Jerusalem, on November 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

The reigning Miss Universe says the long-running beauty pageant shouldn’t be politicized, even though its next edition is being held in Israel amid pressure on contestants to drop out in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The 70th Miss Universe pageant is being staged in the southern resort city of Eilat in December. Dozens of contestants from around the world will arrive there in the coming weeks to compete in national costumes, evening gowns and swimwear. They’ll also have their public speaking prowess tested with a series of interview questions.

But the pageant is in the spotlight for being held in Israel amid boycott calls against the country over its treatment of the Palestinians. At least one country has already called off their participation.

“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,” Andrea Meza, the current Miss Universe, tells The Associated Press ahead of a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City. “It’s just about embracing other women.”

Meza, 27, represents Mexico and was crowned in May, during a COVID-delayed ceremony in Florida, where contestants accessorized their sparkling gowns with face masks. She hands over the crown in Eilat on December 12.

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