Hispanic Miss USA Contestants Explain Why They're Staying in Pageant Despite Donald Trump
"The Miss Universe Organization is an organization that works to empower women to be an inspiration to the rest of the world and to be an advocate, and we can't let political process put shade over that."
Despite all five of the Miss USA Pageant's scheduled co-hosts — Jeannie Mai, Thomas Roberts, Cheryl Burke, Roselyn Sanchez and Cristian de la Fuente — dropping out of this year's event following co-owner Donald Trump's anti-immigration comments, several contestants with immigrant backgrounds have chosen to remain in the pageant scheduled to take place on July 12.
Speaking to Mashable on Monday about Trump's controversial remarks, a few of this year's Miss USA hopefuls shared that the pageant was the perfect platform at which to speak on behalf of the immigrant families who may have felt targeted by his words.
"When I heard the comments from Trump, it was hard to hear because I'm so compassionate towards immigrants," said Natasha Martinez (Miss California), adding that she herself is from an immigrant family.
"This isn't about how big your hair is onstage or how good you look in a bikini. ... Now, I have this opportunity to really speak upon immigrant families and children of immigrants to really be proud of their family's journey."
Anea Garcia (Miss Rhode Island) admitted that, although it is "not fair" for Trump to "generalize one group of people," the Miss Universe Organization is an empowering opportunity for women to inspire. "We can't let political process put shade over that."
Polikseni Manxhari (Miss Massachusetts), an immigrant from Albania, shared that she took the political candidate's words lightly and without much thought. "It's a free country, and people can say whatever they like — that's the beauty of our country," she said.
"For me personally, as an immigrant, I did come to the United States when I was 5 years old. Just like any other family, my parents brought me here to provide a better opportunity for me. ... I wasn't really hurt or insulted. I just kept moving. I just took it with a grain of salt."
"I'm very proud of my roots, but never once did I think about leaving the pageant," added Ylianna Guerra (Miss Texas). "The Miss Universe Organization is about service to others and about being an inspiration and a good role model for young women."
In light of the controversy circling Trump's Mexican-immigrant "rapist" comments, several of the musicians and judges — including Flo Rida, Emmitt Smith and Natalie La Rose — previously scheduled to take part in the pageant announced they would be pulling out of the event.
The show still is scheduled to air this Sunday on Reelz.