Miss Earth delegates open up about sexual harassment in hands of pageant sponsor in PH
Miss Earth Canada Jaime VandenBerg recently took to social media where she stated that she was sexually harassed during the Miss Earth pageant in the Philippines. As per VanderBerg’s post on Nov. 7, she did not finish the pageant and left to go back to Canada because “I did not feel safe under their care.”
She shared that she felt uncomfortable during the second day of the pageant after her phone number was given to a sponsor from the night before without her consent.
The sponsor “was calling me asking for my hotel and room number,” wrote VanderBerg, who handed her phone to a team manager in the hopes of resolving the issue.
“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,” she alleged. “I was disgusted.”
VanderBerg did not mention the name of the pageant sponsor, although she detailed how he continued to pester her by asking for her room number and calling her phone.
“After so many strange calls, I recognized his phone number and was able to block it.”
It was during an event at the Manila Yacht Club where this very same sponsor took all of the Miss Earth delegates in VanderBerg’s group to his yacht. There, they were made to take sultry photos.
“Again, I was disgusted…” she said. “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.”
VanderBerg and six other delegates were eventually allowed to return to their bus because they refused to join the sponsor in 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.”
After the incident, the girls were given a chance to bring their concerns to Lorraine Schuck, executive vice president of Carousel Productions, the organization that runs the Miss Earth pageant.
“I went through almost two weeks of sexual harassment before anything was done about it,” VanderBerg said. “I was told he would not be around any more, but I had advised Lorraine of several other issues that were not resolved.”
Schuck, on her end, has since addressed VanderBerg’s accounts. In an exclusive interview with GMA on Nov. 7, Schuck stated that VanderBerg did not immediately bring up the sexual harassment issue.
“Because she never told us. She came here on the sixth, we found out about it on the 14th,” Schuck was quoted as saying. “She never told anyone.”
Moreover, Schuck said in the report that there were policewomen around to make sure the delegates were safe, adding that she would never have let such harassment happen if the team managers called her directly.
More Miss Earth delegates have since come forward following VanderBerg’s statement, such as Miss Earth England Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown and Miss Earth Guam Emma Mae Sheedy who also took to Instagram recently to share their own experience of sexual harassment.
Miss Earth England Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown
Gyles-Brown wrote on Instagram on Nov. 7 that she only enjoyed 50 percent of her trip to the Philippines as the other half was overshadowed “by feeling exploited, vulnerable, unnerved [and] sexually harassed.”
Gyles-Brown’s story echoed that of VanderBerg’s, saying that she was approached by a certain sponsor many times throughout the pageant. She said she and VanderBerg brought the matter
to the team managers but were only laughed at.
“This happened at Manila Yacht Club on a sponsored evening meal away from the team managers behind closed doors,” she stated. “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.”
View this post on Instagram
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 Manager 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
Gyles-Brown added that other delegates apart from her and VanderBerg were also propositioned by this certain sponsor.
Moreover, despite being informed by Schuck that the sponsor would be removed from all contact with contestants, Gyles-Brown said that the sponsor still showed up at a preliminary event and during the coronation night last Nov. 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City.
Miss Earth Guam Emma Mae Sheedy
Miss Earth Guam Emma Mae Sheedy, on her end, dropped the name of the sponsor who approached her and her fellow delegates.
“The sponsor who’s name is Amado S. Cruz became a problem for many of the delegates, including myself,” wrote Sheedy on Instagram today, Nov. 8.
“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.'”
Cruz reportedly also grabbed Sheedy’s bare backside during the National Costume Competition and “consistently told me not to tell anyone about any of the instances.”
Sheedy also backed Gyles-Brown’s account that Cruz was present from the moment the pageant started until coronation night, despite being told that he was going to be kept away from them. Cody Cepeda/JB
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.