Miss Earth 2018 candidates accuse pageant sponsor of sexual harassment, lack of action from PH organizers

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Miss Earth-Canada Jaime Yvonne Vandenberg, Miss Earth-England Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown, and Miss Earth-Guam Emma Mae Sheedy

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 8) — Three candidates of Miss Earth 2018 bravely came forward to reveal their experiences of sexual harassment involving a sponsor during the international beauty pageant, which was recently concluded in the Philippines.

Miss Earth-Canada Jaime Yvonne Vandenberg, Miss Earth-England Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown, and Miss Earth-Guam Emma Mae Sheedy all shared how excited they were to compete and to enjoy the Philippines, but it was ruined by a pageant sponsor's alleged sexual requests.

Vandenberg, who eventually withdrew from the competition, said the sponsor started harassing her on her second day in the country. She said the sponsor got her mobile number without her consent and kept calling her to ask for her hotel and room number.

But it didn't stop there. The candidate said the unnamed sponsor offered her competition mileage if she grants him sexual favors.

"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," Vandenberg wrote on her Instagram page on Wednesday.

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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...

A post shared by Jaime VandenBerg (@missjaimeyvonne) on

 

Miss Earth-England Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown also attested to this.

"I enjoyed 50% of my trip but the other 50% was over shadowed by feeling exploited, vulnerable, unnerved & sexually harassed as I was approached by a sponsor on many occasions who asked for sexual favours in exchange for the crown," she wrote on Instagram.

All three candidates recalled their experience with the sponsor when they attended two sponsored events at the Manila Yacht Club.

Miss Earth-Guam Emma Mae Sheedy said the Filipino sponsor, whom she identified as Amado Cruz, ensured that the team managers and security personnel were separated in another room during the event at the yacht club. She said he grabbed her bare backside during the National Costume Competition, but told her not to tell anyone about it.

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My side of the Miss Earth International Experience: - After a year and a half of preparation for my first beauty pageant; the Miss Earth pageant, I was excited to travel back to the Philippines for the 6th time. The hospitality of the Filipinos is not found anywhere else. The Philippines is like a second home to me. I joined the pageant to make a difference and be a role model to those around me. I enjoyed a majority of the pageant, but what I did not know, is that a specific sponsor from the Manila Yacht Club would change the way I see pageantry and sponsors. The sponsor who’s name is Amado S. Cruz became a problem for many of the delegates, including myself. To focus on ONLY myself, I was pulled aside multiple times to be invited to Boracay, private islands and into his house and insisted that I and “the latino women dance for him.” Amado S. Cruz grabbed my bare backside at the National Costume Competition where I was able to push him away, but he consistently told me not to tell anyone about any of the instances. At the Manila Yacht Club, Amado S. Cruz ensured that the team managers and security personnel were separated in another room, this is where he made many girls uncomfortable. A groups of us left the room because we felt uncomfortable, but Amado S. Cruz followed us and insisted that we stayed inside to dance with him. We asked our team managers to bring us to the busses, which took over 20 minutes for them finally to do. Later on that night @missjaimeyvonne and @Miss.Earth.England spoke on the phone with Lorraine Schuck, the Vice President of Miss Earth, who assured them that Amado S. Cruz would not be at any other event. From the moment the pageant started until coronation night, Amado S. Cruz was at every event and dinner he could physically get to. Since other delegates have posted, multiple other queens from past years have come out about the same behavior. I want to help put a stop to this sponsor being apart of the Miss Earth International Pageant because he has become a problem for years. #missearth2018 #missearth #MeToo @missearth

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Vandenberg said seven candidates left the event after they felt uncomfortable and unsafe in the sponsor's yacht. She added some candidates were even invited to go to the newly-rehabilitated Boracay.

"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 outside 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," she wrote.

Gyles-Brown recalled how she and the other women were harassed.

"It was not only myself and Canada who were approached on this night but other delegates who I believe are going to come forward and tell their side of the story... Myself and Jaime removed ourselves from this uncomfortable environment and sat on the bus away from further exploitation," she said.

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My personal encounter @missearth. It’s time to speak up about my personal experience. I have been in close contact with my national director and all incidents have been noted. I have worked very hard for my title of Miss Earth England and as I have previously mentioned I took 4 years to get to the top and win my place at the Internationals. I was elated to finally represent England over in the beautiful Philippines. My trip was a rollercoaster of emotions, stress and endurance and I did not leave the pageant as I was not going to miss out on the experience. I have many beautiful memories of my time here in the Philippines and many wonderful days. I met happy Filipinos who showed me such kindness and respect. I enjoyed 50% of my trip but the other 50% was over shadowed by feeling exploited, vulnerable, unnerved & sexually harassed as I was approached by a sponsor on many occasions who asked for sexual favours in exchange for the Crown. This happened at Manila Yacht Club on a sponsored evening meal away from the team managers behind closed doors. The sponsor also tried to find out what hotel and room I was staying in. Myself and Canada approached Team Managers to express our disgust only to be laughed at. Another official attendee of the night told me not to cry as I would ruin my makeup! There was no respect or compassion shown to myself or Jaimie. I felt traumatised by this experience and had many sleepless nights. I was not sure who had my personal details including my mob number and hotel room. It was not only myself and Canada who were approached on this night but other delegates who I believe are going to come forward and tell their side of the story. I approached Lorraine Schuck who is the Vice President Of Miss Earth she informed me that the sponsor would be removed from all contact with contestants but this did not happen. As other groups experienced the same issue. Myself and @missjaimeyvonne removed ourselves from this uncomfortable environment and sat on the bus away from further exploitation. This is one of many incidents we faced during our Miss Earth Journey! The said sponsor in fact show up at a prelim event and also attended the Coronation night

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CNN Philippines is trying to reach Cruz for comment.

Officials of the Manila Yacht Club, where the incident supposedly took place, said Cruz is not a member and could have just been sponsored by a friend who happens to be part of the club.

CNN Philippines learned Cruz has been unofficially sponsoring meals and dinners for the women for at least 5 years now since he owns a restaurant near the hotels of the contestants.

Lorraine Schuck, the founder and executive vice president of the production that runs the pageant, said they will ban the alleged sponsor from the pageant's next events. She said she told Cruz about the ban over the phone, but the organization doesn't see the need for a formal communication to restrict Cruz from future events.

"I really actually got mad at him. In fact I told him, 'You know Ms Earth has been promoting Philippines worldwide. Why are you doing this? You're destroying Miss Earth that's helping the Philippines,'" she told CNN Philippines.

However, Schuck was disappointed why the candidates opted to air their issues online even if they have already talked about it. She said the organization asked the candidates to file a written statement on the incidents to help them should Vandenberg and Gyles-Brown decide to file a case against the sponsor.

"We were ready to support the two in any action they may have wished to take against the individual who offended them.  Unfortunately, instead of working together with us on this matter they opted to go to social media and discredit and disparage the organization.

 

Allegations vs Miss Earth organizers

All three candidates believe Miss Earth 2018 organizers did not act on their complaints.

Vandenberg said that she was able to talk to Schuck, the founder and executive vice president of the production that runs the pageant. She said it took weeks before the Carousel Productions addressed her concerns.

"I went through almost two weeks of sexual harassment before anything was done about it," she said.

Gyles-Brown said that when she mentioned the Manila Yacht Club incident to Miss Earth organizers, they only scoffed at her.

"Myself and Canada approached Team Managers to express our disgust only to be laughed at. Another official attendee of the night told me not to cry as I would ruin my makeup! There was no respect or compassion shown to myself or Jamie. I felt traumatised by this experience and had many sleepless nights," she said.

Gyles-Brown said she was told by Schuck that the sponsor would not be allowed near the candidates, but it did not happen.

"The said sponsor in fact show up at a preliminary event and also attended the Coronation night," she said.

Sheedy believes that more candidates over the years will come forward with their revelations against the said sponsor.

Another allegation from Vandenberg was that Miss Earth organizers confiscated her passport on the first day of competition.

"The organization had confiscated my passport on the first day and I felt like I couldn't leave. When the team managers went into my room and took things from my luggage without my permission, I had completely lost faith in the organization," she said.

Miss Earth organizers denied Vandenberg's allegation, saying they only keep the passports for safekeeping.

Vandenberg also explained her decision to withdraw from the competition before the coronation night on November 3.

"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," Vandenberg wrote.