Ukrainian-born Miss. Japan returns crown weeks after vexed win, over affair with married doctor

An already controversial beauty pageant win was marred by scandal after foreign-born Miss Japan victor’s exposed inappropriate relationship left her returning her crown.

January’s Miss Nippon pageant had concluded with mixed reaction after 26-year-old Ukrainian-born Karolina Shiino walked away with the win, making her the first naturalized citizen to do so. However, the challenge over her title was overshadowed after local magazine Shukan Bunshun reported that the beauty contestant had been involved in a relationship with a married social media influencer known as “Muscle Doctor.”

While the Miss Nippon Association had initially defended Shiino, contending that she was unaware of Takuma Maeda’s marital status, the pageant winner went on to confess that she did know as she returned her crown.

In a statement posted to social media, the deposed contestant issued an apology that translated in part, “I am truly sorry for the huge trouble I have caused and for betraying those who supported me.”

Born in Ukraine in 1998, Shiino moved to Japan when she was five-years-old when her mother married her step-father, whose name she bears. It wasn’t until 2022 that she became a naturalized citizen and, upon winning the crown as the first foreign-born contestant to do so, she had told reporters, “It was like a dream.”

“I’ve had to face barriers that often prevent me from being accepted as Japanese, so I am filled with gratitude to be recognized at this competition as a Japanese person,” she had expressed upon winning. “I have lived in Japan since I was five and realized I was speaking Japanese and living as a Japanese.”

“But it was the first time I noticed my appearance was different due to comments from those around me,” contended Shiino.

Maeda had issued his own statement on social media apologizing for the controversy with a pledge to devote himself to his career and private life while expressing no intention of divorcing his wife.

The Miss Nippon Association announced that the title would remain vacant for 2024 after already facing mixed reactions for naming Shiino the winner. Her’s was the latest example of a non-traditional Japanese winner following the 2015 crowning of Ariana Miyamoto, the first mixed race winner born to a Japanese mother and a black father.

Historian Hiroe Yamashita had posted a grievance over the matter on social media arguing that since the pageant was already a matter of discriminating opinion of physical attributes, it was within reason that a “standard of Japanese beauty” be applied to a national contest.

“Racial discrimination should never be tolerated, but if we are going to compete on appearance under the concept of Miss Japan, I personally think that this should be the standard of Japanese beauty,” she wrote.

Addressing Shiino’s European features, Yamashita suggested, “a pure-blooded Japanese person has no chance under modern beauty values. If you are half European and American, maybe you have a chance of winning? By the way, denying the modern values of beauty, the original Japanese beauty has a hooked nose and eyes! It’s not that I think so.”

Kevin Haggerty

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