Ex-beauty queen trashes Korean pageant hosts

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Ex-beauty queen trashes Korean pageant hosts


May Myat Noe

A Burmese beauty queen stripped of her sash accused Korean pageant organizers of pressuring her to go under the knife and act as an escort with sponsors in a press conference in Yangon.

May Myat Noe, a 16-year-old aspiring K-pop star, won the 2014 Miss Asia Pacific World beauty pageant held in Seoul in May. But organizers stripped her of her title last week for alleged dishonesty and other misconduct as the pageant queen.

Noe, whose real name is That Htet Aung, said in a press conference in Myanmar’s capital of Yangon, her home city, on Tuesday that she was pressured by pageant organizers to undergo “head-to-toe cosmetic surgery” and said that she was pressured to act as an escort for Korean businessmen despite her young age.

“I was told that in order to generate funds to produce my music album, I needed to accept invitations to escort some business tycoons,” she said.

Pageant organizers denied all of her allegations and complained of Noe’s “continuing lies.” They claimed they paid for the teenager’s breast implants in Haeundae, Busan, last month, supposedly “under the supervision of her mother.” They also accused her of running off with a costly ruby and Swarovski crystal-studded crown after they decided to strip her of her title at the end of last month.

Noe also claimed that she was not paid for a commercial she filmed in Myanmar. The organizers say she was paid 30 million won, about $29,400.

The dethroned beauty queen denied that she received breast implants during Tuesday’s press conference.

“I will return the crown only when they apologize to Myanmar, for the dignity of our country,” said Noe, with the handmade crown, which was reported to be worth at least $100,000, placed next to her.

The annual beauty pageant, held by Korea-based management company Supertalent of the World Incorporation, was first launched in 2011 in Busan.

Noe was crowned on May 31, beating contestants from over 40 countries.

Young Choi, founder of Miss Asia Pacific World, claimed the organizers had photographic evidence of the breast implant operation and told the Korea JoongAng Daily over the phone, “We even provided her with a suite in the hospital in Haeundae for a week for her recovery.” Choi said Noe wanted the procedure to help establish a singing career in Korea.

“We are not in the position to force breast implants and anyway, we’d have to pay for them,” Choi added.

Choi said that Noe made a series of unreasonable demands of organizers, such as paying for her mother’s airplane tickets. She borrowed money to purchase larger bras after her surgery.

Controversy has accompanied the Miss Asia Pacific World pageant before. In 2011, British beauty queen Amy Willerton walked out of the competition after claiming it was rigged based on sexual favors given by contestants.

In regards to Noe’s allegations she had been pressured to offer sex to Korean sponsors, Choi said, “It’s a lie. She thought that she might make a stronger attack invoking the 2011 incident.”

Choi acknowledged that Noe’s age was 16, younger than the age limits for the pageant, which are 18 to 27.

“We were first told by her Myanmar agency that her age was 17,” he said. “We only learned in late April that her real age was 16.” They allowed her to participate in the contest anyway.

BY SARAH KIM[sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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