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A foreign-born beauty queen shook up Japan's sense of self. A sex scandal brought her crashing down.

Miss Japan 2024
Karolina Shiino (center), the winner of the Miss Japan 2024, is photographed with other prize winners at the contest in Tokyo on January 22, 2024.MISS JAPAN ASSOCIATION/Reuters
  • Miss Japan winner Karolina Shiino gave up her crown two weeks after winning the beauty pageant.

  • Shiino, who was born in Ukraine, sparked debate over what it means to identify as Japanese.

  • The model was accused of having an affair with a married man.

The foreign-born Miss Japan winner, who shook up the country's sense of self, has given up her title following a newspaper report detailing her alleged affair with a married man.

Model Karolina Shiino, 26, became the first person of European descent to win the beauty pageant on January 22. She was born in Ternopil, Ukraine, and became a Japanese citizen in 2022 after moving to the country at the age of five with her mother, who married a Japanese man.

Shiino's victory sparked debate among social media users. Some people accused the pageant organizers of "whitewashing" by giving the crown to someone who wasn't ethnically Japanese.

Others suggested that Shiino's win could be an opportunity to challenge traditional ideas of what it means to be Japanese.

Miss Japan winner Karolina Shiino
Miss Japan winner Karolina Shiino,MISS JAPAN ASSOCIATION/Reuters

However, the conversation around Shiino's heritage came to an abrupt end when she announced plans to give up her title on Monday.

The resignation came after local tabloid Shukan Bunshun wrote that she was in a relationship with a married man, BBC News reported on Tuesday.

According to the BBC, The Miss Japan Association initially defended Shiino and said that she hadn't known the man was married. But the company retracted its previous statement on Monday, saying that the model had confessed to knowing about the man's marriage to begin with, the publication added.

Shiino shared a statement on Instagram, writing that she was giving up her title and that she was sorry "for the huge trouble I have caused and for betraying those who supported me," according to English translations shared by BBC News and Politico.

Shiino did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Representatives for The Miss Japan Association could not be reached.

Shiino's resignation brought an end to an important debate on Japanese identity

Shiino's resignation is significant — it brought a premature close to an important debate around Japanese identity that didn't yet have a conclusion.

As The Japan Times reported, the model received criticism from some viewers, who argued that she didn't represent "true Japanese beauty," which is listed as the official goal of the Miss Japan Association.

Meanwhile, others questioned whether Shiino prevented the association from promoting traditional Japanese beauty standards.

"If the Miss Nippon contest is based on the concept of beauty, I personally wish that it would be based on standards of Japanese beauty," historian Hiroe Yamashita wrote on X, according to an English translation by CNN.

"But With Karolina Shiino's appearance, an (ethnically) Japanese girl has no chance of winning under the modern values of beauty," she added.

There's also the question of cultural identity. Despite having lived in Japan for more than 20 years, Shiino said she didn't feel like she had been accepted as a citizen until she won the competition.

The model said in her acceptance speech that there had been "racial barriers" and it had been "challenging to be accepted as Japanese," BBC News' Tokyo correspondent Shaimaa Khalil reported.

"I was very worried whether they would accept me as Japanese and, in general, whether they would take me. I was in shock," she said in an interview with Ukrainian news channel TSN after winning the contest, according to The New Voice of Ukraine.

"I didn't think I would win."

Read the original article on Business Insider