Photo: Colombo Gazette
Photo: Colombo Gazette

Controversy erupted at the Mrs Sri Lanka beauty pageant in Colombo on Sunday when a former winner forcefully took the winning contestant's crown off her head and awarded it to the runner-up. She falsely claimed that the winner, Pushpika De Silva, was divorced, and hence ineligible for the contest, which is only open to married women.

Controversy at a beauty pageant? Who would have seen that coming?

The incident happened moments after De Silva was announced the winner and given the winner's sash and crown. The crowd cheered her on as she waved to them with a huge smile across her face. Her competitors stood unmistakably broken, though cheering her on, but hoping it was them. De Silva's happiness was short lived.

Just a few moments later, while all the contestants were still on stage, the 2019 Mrs Sri Lanka and 2020 Mrs World, Caroline Jurie, made her way to the stage and picked up the microphone.

"I have a small announcement," she started. As heads turned to her, she continued, "As for the Mrs World Inc, there's a rule that you'll have to be married, and not divorced. So, I'm taking my first step saying that the crown goes to the first runner-up".

To everyone's shock, Jurie then turned to De Silva, forcefully stripping her of the crown she was wearing, hurting her in the process, and put it upon the head of the runner up. De Silva was shocked at this, and feeling insulted, she walked right off the stage. All of this was recorded on camera.

After the incident, the organisers announced that Jurie was wrong about her claim that De Silva was unmarried. She and her husband are separated, but they have not gotten a divorce. As per the rules of the competition, contestants must be "married at the date of entry." Correcting Jurie's actions, they gave the crown back to De Silva, declaring her once again the winner of Mrs Sri Lanka 2020.

Mrs World Inc issued a press release to address the incident itself. "We are deeply disturbed and sincerely regret the behaviour of our current title holder, Mrs Caroline Jurie, Mrs World 2020, at the crowning,” read the statement. They announced that they were looking into the matter, affirming that the right steps will be taken.

"Let it be known, Mrs World Inc does not sit in moral judgment," the statement read. "If the delegate sent by Mrs. Sri Lanka-World to compete in the international competition is legally married she will be accepted."

De Silva too took to Facebook to express her anger and dismay at the situation. In her statement she clarified that while she and her husband were separated, they were not divorced. She said that such things would not have been ignored by the organisers, and had she been ineligible, she wouldn't have gotten this far.

Expressing her disgust at the actions of Jurie, she said in her statement, "I say a true queen is not a woman who snatches another woman's crown, but a woman who secretly sets another woman's crown!"

She found it best to forgive and in a followup statement made on Facebook, wrote, "I don't hate anyone and I've forgiven those who did that to me at the same moment. Nothing can be won by hate."

De Silva now goes onto compete with other countries' winners for the crown of the international pageant, Mrs World.