As a millennial, when I first heard about the way Donald Trump had treated the 1996 Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, I was very disturbed. For several reasons, I could not believe the account. First, Hillary Clinton was telling it, and after all the lies she has told, it is hard to believe anything she says. Secondly, the story seemed so out of character for the Trump that I knew.
Being a college student and having the unlimited sources of the internet at my fingertips, I decided to do my research. First, I looked into the recent interviews and articles published that target Trump’s presidential campaign. As you might guess, articles that are published during election time are not a good reflection of reality, so what I did instead was looking up the publications from 1996 and 1997. Thanks to Google, I could narrow down my search to published articles during that particular period. What I saw was shocking. The story was very different; so was the tone.
Based on the story that was told by Clinton and Machado, I was expecting to see insulting quotes from Trump or, perhaps, threats of taking Machado’s crown away; however, that was not the case.
The same media that are bashing Trump right now for how he allegedly treated Machado, were the same that kept Machado under a microscope and did not miss any opportunity to use her weight gain as a catching headlines. Just to give you a feel of how media was treating her, look at this headline published by CNN: “Expanding Miss Universe works to shed pounds,” January 29, 1997.(1) This one, published by People magazine, “Weight of the World,” appeared February 10, 1997.(2)
So, it was the media that used the weight gain of Machado for their own benefit and created a huge deal out of it.
Before addressing the accusations made against Trump, I have to make something clear: the Miss Universe Organization is not a charity or non-profit organization. They have certain criteria that the participants should meet. Contestants, upon signing the contract, agree to stay with the organization, follow their rules, fulfill all their duties as Miss Universe, and agree to many other terms mentioned in the contract. They all, willingly and with complete happiness, sign the contract, because, after all, they are getting a chance to walk on stage and possibly get crowned as Miss Universe, a title that is a dream to millions of young women around the world. The official website of Miss Universe provides the following answer in response to what criteria they use to judge to contestants:
“Contestants will be judged in three separate categories: evening gown, swimsuit, and a personality interview.”(3) The criteria that they use is not one’s SAT/ACT score, GPA, maximum bench press, or how fast they run a mile. The judgment of contestants, in most part, is based on their appearance, just as other competitions such as Mr. Olympia and others. Those who sign up to participate in these programs are fully aware of what they are doing and the categories on which they will be judged. Furthermore, as part of their agreement, they represent the Miss Universe Organization and, as a person who may potentially hold the Miss Universe crown, they have to stay in good shape and make sure they always appear on point. They freely make the agreement with the Miss Universe Organization. Those who make this agreement consider the possible reward worthy of the work. Once crowned Miss Universe, they would become a global figure known to people around the world, and this fame and title guarantee them numerous opportunities and contracts after their reign as the Miss Universe is over.
In the case of Machado, after getting crowned, she gained between 60 to 70 pounds. Which at the time was a 50% increase in her weight compared to the day that she was crowned. As we saw earlier, this career is in major part based on one’s appearance, and despite what some people might consider beautiful or not, the appearance of Miss Universe is demanded to be different than what Machado’s looked like after gaining a significant amount of weight. The media was focused on her, and the Miss Universe Organization could not look the other way and ignore the controversy.
Looking at what Trump did in this situation should, in fact, make people like him even more. Almost any modeling agency or any organization that hires individuals merely based on their appearance would, in a similar situation, simply end their contract. Just a quick search on Google will show numerous instances where models have been fired for gaining weight – most of them gaining much less weight that Machado did during the months following the May 17, 1996, Miss Universe crowning ceremony. Uncrowning Machado was, indeed, one of the options that the Miss Universe Organization considered. It was at this time that Trump, as the co-owner of the Miss Universe Organization, got more involved. On January 27, 1997, CNN reported that rumors also surfaced that she might be forced to give up her Miss Universe crown, but Trump, as co-owner of rights to the pageant, said he would never let that happen. “We had a choice of termination or do this,” he said. “We wanted to do this.”(1) So, it was Trump who came out and threw away the option of taking the crown away from Machado. In the same report Mr. Trump is quoted as saying, “Some people, when they have pressure, eat too much. Like me. Like Alicia;”(1) therefore, he tried not to make a big deal out of it and stop the media from going crazy over this matter. In an article published by People on February 10, 1997, they reported, “Trump, at the gym to oversee his investment’s crown jewel, blew off any suggestions that Machado had eaten herself out of her tiara. ‘We want her to stay as Miss Universe,’ he said, ‘and she is working on her problem.’”(2) He had a very gentle approach to it and tried to appeal to the media by saying that we are all human and we go through situations in our life that might result in physical change. Keep in mind that Trump, as the executive producer, did have the power and right to have a businesslike approach to this situation. He could just as easily came out and said that Machado had not kept the shape and physical appearance that Miss Universe needs to maintain and, therefore, it is the right of the runner-up contestant to obtain the crown – but he never did anything like that, and he sad that would never happen. After seeing the hard push from the media who, in fact, were playing the biggest role in putting all the pressure and attention on Machado, Trump came out and told the rowdy pool of reporters, “A lot of you folks have weight problems. I hate to tell you,” Trump said according to the same CNN report.(1) He did everything he could to avoid this from becoming a big deal. He hired one of the best trainers to work with Machado on her weight. He did not request Machado to lose so much weight that would be considered unhealthy. All he asked was that she lose 20 pounds so that she could be considered in good shape as a person who bears the title Miss Universe.
Based on all the evidence in hand, all we can see is a very professional and humane approach to this issue by Trump. The factual findings, however, go against the claims that Machado is making this year. Her claims are heavily biased and are mostly made up to support Clinton’s campaign. Just yesterday, Machado appeared on the Kelly File where, in response to Kelly’s questions, she was reading from something apparently held for her behind the camera. During this interview, however, she was caught off guard when Kelly asked her about her contradicting statement. Machado had previously claimed that as a result of what Trump had done to her she had developed an eating disorder. However, in a report published by the Washington Post on May 16, 1997, Machado had stated that before the 1996 Miss Universe contest she suffered from eating disorders. She told that she could not eat and that she would throw up anything that she would eat. Therefore, Machado did have an eating disorder beforehand, but now she is trying to blame that on Trump. After getting caught off guard by Kelly, Machado completely denied that claim, even though it was a direct quote from her interview with the Washington Post. For the rest of the interview, Machado tried to change the conversation from her contradicting statements to saying, “I know this person, and he is not a good person.”(4) This is interesting to hear from a person who was just caught lying on television. Machado then continued to say “If you gain weight, and if you’re not the most beautiful girl in the world, you have your mind, you have your heart, you’re strong, you’re intelligent.”(4) No one argues against this statement. What we should think about, however, is that Miss Universe is not a contest based on one’s mental abilities, good heart, or their physical or mental strengths. It is a widely known fact that physical appearance is the basis of the Miss Universe pageant. You can, indeed, join many different organizations that have set their criteria based on one’s good heart and mental and physical strength, but the Miss Universe Organization is not one of those organizations, and they have never made such a claim. A very similar comparison is the Mr. Olympia competition. No one enters the Mr. Olympia competition, a contest based merely on physical appearance, and then argue that even if one is not a great bodybuilder, one have possesses a good heart and strong mind. That may be true, but Mr. Olympia is not the place for that. If one wants to be Mr. Olympia, he should have biceps and traps, because that is what that organization is based on. The bottom line is that Machado’s claims are meritless and are only made to support Clinton’s campaign and to hurt Trump’s campaign. The Machado’s story is just an example of the good old attempt by Democrats to appeal to people’s emotions and paint their opponents as ruthless and inhumane. Good try Hillary, but maybe you should’ve asked your biggest supporters, the mainstream media, to delete their old articles that could reveal the truth. After all, you know a thing and two about deleting stuff.
1. Moos, Jeanne. “Expanding Miss Universe Works to Shed Pounds.”CNN. Cable News Network, 29 Jan. 1997. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.
2. “Weight of the World.” People. N.p., 10 Feb. 1997. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.
3. “FAQ.” Miss Universe. N.p., n.d. Web. .
4. ‘Kelly File’ Must-See Interview: Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado Speaks Out After Debate Mention. Perf. Megyn Kelly and Alicia Machado. Fox News, 2016. Web.