Ariana Miyamoto Becomes First Mixed-Race Contestant to Win Miss Universe Japan, Eliciting Criticism

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Ariana Minamoto has become the first biracial Miss Universe Japan, which has elicited criticism that she is not Japanese enough to win the title.

Half-Japanese and half African-American, Miss Nagasaki Ariana Miyamoto has been facing racial backlash following her crowning, with some saying she doesn't represent Japan's demographic and therefore, should not represent the country.

There are others, however, who believe the model is the perfect choice in helping the country to overcome long-lasting racial bias.

There is also the question of what defines beauty in a culture that considers pale skin a symbol of beauty. Japanese women go to great lengths to keep their skin from darkening by spending exorbitant amounts of money on whitening creams.

Born to a Japanese mother and African-American father from Arkansas, Miyamoto is considered "haafu," or half-Japanese, in the country where approximately 98 percent of the population is considered to be of the same race.

Ariana Miyamoto says she has endured racial bullying her entire life.

"In school, people used to throw garbage at me," Miyamoto has said.

Jeff Kingston, a professor of Asian Studies at Tokyo's Temple University, said discrimination and prejudice in Japan is common.

Kingston said the crowning of Miyamoto is a huge step for country resistant to change.

"It sends a very positive message about the changing Japan to the rest of the world."

As for Ariana Miyamoto, she said the criticism only inspires her to work harder for the global Miss Universe pageant in January.

"I want to tell the world, even a half-Japanese can represent Japan," Miyamoto said.

Pam Wright

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