Miss Iceland, Arna Ýr Jónsdóttir, became an internet sensation and a body image activist this week when she dropped out of the Miss Grand International pageant after organizers allegedly told her to lose weight.
The 20-year-old Reykjavik native announced she would be bowing out of the competition on Monday by posting a handwritten letter to Instagram that was addressed to event president Nawat Itsaragrisil. In it, she wrote:
“I truly hope that the organization opens their eyes because the year is 2016 and if you are gonna hold an international pageant you have to be able to see the international beauty.”
In an interview with The Independent, Itsaragrisil admitted to advising the pageant contestant to lose weight. He claims that in pictures from a previous event, Jónsdóttir looked “slimmer and more beautiful.”
“She asked some questions and for suggestions from our staff which they’ve replied according to what they think, she may be a little bit fat and they recommended her, in good way, to try to lose some weight in order to improve her chance to win,” he said. “This is a normal process for the three weeks during the pageant, everyone should show their improvement.”
Jónsdóttir told the Iceland Monitor that a spokesperson for the organization advised she shed weight over the days leading up to the pageant by skipping breakfast, eating salad for lunch and drinking water throughout the evening.
The statuesque blonde, who has been a gymnast since the age of 10 and is an international model for Nike, hit back at the body-shaming practices of event staff in her letter.
Since posting her letter to Instagram, Jónsdóttir has received overwhelming praise from supporters around the world on social media.
Translation: Hats off to #missiceland. What an amazing statement. Hear hear!
In the days following the controversy, Jónsdóttir has uploaded several pictures to her Instagram account, including glamour shots, outtakes from a Nike shoot and pictures of her fellow pageant contestants, with the message of celebrating women, strength, and both inner and outer beauty. She also posted a video saying she wasn’t offended by what she was told but felt it was her duty to publicly stand up for her rights and those of women and girls.
In a separate Instagram post, Jónsdóttir wrote that she intended to spend a few days after the event in Las Vegas, where it was held, to “explore the city and eat good food.”