Patcharaporn Chantarapadit, 22, was crowned Miss Grand Thailand 2020 on Sept. 20 at an event during which she said she sided with pro-democracy protesters. (Photo: YouTube)
The newly crowned winner of a prestigious beauty pageant in Thailand has come in for plenty of name-calling, including racist abuse, from many of her fellow Thais over her open support for pro-democracy demonstrators in a beauty-obsessed yet politically divided country.
Patcharaporn Chantarapadit, 22, was crowned Miss Grand Thailand 2020 on Sept. 20 at an event during which she gave voice to her political views by saying she sided with pro-democracy protesters who had staged a mass rally in Bangkok the day before.
“We need real democracy,” Patcharaporn said in English in response to a question to contestants about youth-led anti-government protests that have been taking place almost daily since July.
Her answer incurred the wrath of supporters of Thailand’s repressive military-allied government who began calling her names and saying she was “ugly.”
Many have also taken aim at Patcharaporn’s darker skin tone, likening the young woman dismissively to a “negro” while questioning the judgment of the pageant’s jury in selecting her as the winner of the event.
“She’s as black as burned coal,” one man commented online.
“This is the ugliest beauty queen I’ve ever seen,” said another commenter. “I thought this was a beauty queen from Africa.”
Several others called her “e-daam,” a derogatory Thai term aimed at women that roughly translates as “darkie.”
Pejorative views of Africans and people with dark skin are common in a country where a darker complexion is widely seen as a mark of inferior status and is associated with laborers and rice farmers who need to work in the sun for a living.
In June, a Catholic priest from Africa who has been working as a missionary in Thailand for years wrote an article in which he expounded on various forms of prejudice and discrimination he needs to endure regularly, which he put down to ignorance among many locals.
“I discovered that it was not easy to be a black person in this country,” the missionary wrote anonymously. “Many times I have been bullied and subject to discrimination just because of my black skin.”
Several locals with mixed Thai and African parentage have also spoken out recently about deeply ingrained prejudices in Thailand.
“Thai society still treats black skin as something unacceptable,” Natthawadee Waikalo, a young social media influencer whose father is from Mali and mother is from Thailand, told journalists at a press event in Bangkok in July. “You cannot [succeed] with this [dark] skin color.”
Yet many Thais have leapt to Patcharaporn’s defense in the face of the bigotry and verbal abuse directed at her because of her skin tone and political views.
“I love her and support her,” a young Thai transwoman said in a comment on social media.
“She has succeeded in poking strayed dogs into barking. Congrats to a well-deserved Miss Grand win,” added a young man from the southern province of Surat Thani.
A woman from the seaside resort town of Hua Hin concurred by saying “I love it when these idiots expose themselves [about their bigotry]” in an apparent dig at conservative commentators who routinely insult young Thais who call for democratic reforms.
“She is beautiful. Dark skin is great!” noted a woman from Bangkok who owns a café. “I never wanted my skin to be lighter. Getting more tanned is cool for me.”
Numerous expatriates, outraged by the racist abuse targeted at Patcharaporn, have likewise spoken out in her defense.
“Dark-skinned perhaps [she is] but she has brains and courage to stand up for what is right. That makes her more beautiful to me,” an American man said in a post on Facebook. “You’re my winner. Congratulations.”