Karachi’s Erica Robin, Pakistan’s first-ever Miss Universe contestant, is at the center of a storm of controversy as she gears up for the Miss Universe finals in El Salvador in November, marking Pakistan’s debut in the pageant’s 72-year history.
Erica Robin was selected as Miss Universe Pakistan from a pool of five finalists in the inaugural competition held in the Maldives. Her victory was hailed by many as a historic moment, symbolizing Pakistan’s foray into the world of beauty pageants. When asked about her aspirations for her country, Erica expressed her desire to change the perception that Pakistan is a backward nation.
While she received praise from various quarters, including renowned journalist Mariana Babar, who applauded her as “beauty and brains,” not everyone was pleased with her participation. Senator Mushtaq Ahmed of the Jamaat-e-Islami party went as far as to call it “shameful.” The caretaker Prime Minister, Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, ordered the country’s intelligence agency to investigate the organizers of the Miss Universe Pakistan pageant for holding the competition without government approval.
Critics argued that Erica’s representation of Pakistan was unwanted, and Kakar described the staging of the Maldives pageant as a “shameful act” and an “insult and exploitation of women of Pakistan.”
Islamic scholar Taqi Usmani took to Twitter, expressing concerns about the participation of five young ladies from Pakistan, asking how far the country would go.
He urged that the impression should disappear. Right-wing commentator and columnist Ansar Abbasi questioned who allowed these Pakistani girls to represent the nation in the Miss Universe beauty pageant, demanding clarity on whether this decision had cabinet or ministerial advisor approval.
Federal Caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Murtaza Solangi, clarified that only government and state institutions could represent Pakistan and that no non-governmental entities had been authorized for such activities.
Beauty pageants are relatively rare in Pakistan, a Muslim-majority country, and Erica Robin addressed the backlash in an interview with the BBC. She expressed her confusion about the criticism, emphasizing that she does not intend to parade in a swimsuit before a room full of men. Erica, a graduate of St Patrick’s High School and Government College of Commerce and Economics, began her modeling career in January 2020, with her pictures featured in several magazines, including Diva Magazine Pakistan.
Erica maintained her stance that she is not breaking any laws by representing Pakistan on the global stage and is committed to challenging stereotypes about the country. In an interview with Voice of America, she stated, “I won’t do anything that would harm the reputation of the country.”
Erica’s journey to the Miss Universe finals in El Salvador continues to stir debate and conversation about Pakistan’s evolving stance on beauty pageants and women’s representation in international competitions.