Priyanka Yoshikawa, Japan's Half-Indian Miss World Contestant, Speaks Up Against 'Haafu' Bias

"We have problems, we've been struggling and it hurts."

06/09/2016 3:24 PM IST | Updated 06/09/2016 4:42 PM IST
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Priyanka Yoshikawa smiles as she holds the trophy after winning the Miss Japan title during the Miss World Japan 2016 Beauty Pageant in Tokyo on September 5, 2016.

Japan's recently-selected representative for the Miss World beauty pageant this year has already caused quite a stir on social media. Priyanka Yoshikawa, born of Indian father and a Japanese mother has been subject to a lot of criticism for her win as Miss Japan due to her bi-racial heritage.

Yoshikawa's victory was reportedly discouraged by several critics who felt that a 'pure' Japanese should represent their country at the beauty pageant, leading to outrage on social media on racial inequality.

However, Yoshikawa came prepared to face the slander: in an interview with AFP, she credited her victory to Ariana Miyamoto, who faced a similar, if not bigger backlash after she became the first black woman to represent Japan last year at the pageant. "Before Ariana, haafu (those born with one Japanese parent) girls couldn't represent Japan," said the 22-year-old who is a certified elephant trainer and kick boxing enthusiast. "That's what I thought too. I didn't doubt it or challenge it until this day. Ariana encouraged me a lot by showing me and showing all mixed girls the way," she said.

Yoshikawa also said just because she was proud of her Indian roots, it did not mean that she was not Japanese. She also vowed to fight against the existing racial prejudice in Japan that reared its head against her win. "We have problems, we've been struggling and it hurts," she admitted in an interview with The Guardian.

"When I came back to Japan everyone thought I was a germ ... like if they touched me they would be touching something bad. But I'm thankful because that made me really strong....As Miss Japan, hopefully I can help change perceptions so that it can be the same here too. The number of people with mixed race is only going to increase, so people have to accept it."

She was congratulated on her win by the Indian Embassy in Tokyo, and will be representing the country in Washington this December.

Here are some tweets that supported her win:

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