Friday, June 21, 2024

Was Mpule Kwelagobe also subjected to Trump’s racist, misogynistic abuse?

As Miss Universe 1999, Mpule Kwelagobe would definitely have crossed paths with Donald Trump on a fairly regular basis. The question is, did the New York billionaire who owns the pageant then, have treated the Botswana beauty queen as dastardly as he is alleged to have treated other beauty queens? It has always been on the public record that Trump is crudely misogynistic, in one instance telling a female contestant on his reality TV show (The Apprentice) that she would look a pretty picture dropping to her knees to perform fellatio. At the first round of presidential debates of the Republican Party, a female moderator asked Trump about the nasty comments he has publicly made about women over the years. Miffed, Trump would later say post-debate that the moderator had “blood coming out her whatever” which was rightly interpreted as insinuation that she was on her period and not thinking straight.

In his first debate with Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, it was revealed that Trump ill-treated Miss Universe 1997, a Venezuelan woman called Alicia Machado who is now a naturalised American citizen. Machado says that Trump called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”, the former a slur for what Trump believed was her excessive body weight for a beauty queen and the latter a stereotypical label for work that is mostly done by Latin Americans in the United States. Trump thought nothing of shaming Machado by arranging a public gym workout session at which he invited the press and said (on the record) that the Venezuelan beauty queen was gluttonous. “She weighed 118 pounds or 117 pounds and she went up to 160 or 170. So this is somebody who likes to eat,” Trump is quoted as saying at the time. Beauty queens have to smile all the time and photographs from this incident show that even as she was being mercilessly humiliated, Machado kept a huge smile on her face. Two years after her reign, the Miss Universe crown was worn for the very first time by a black African, Mpule Kwelagobe. As with all his sociopathy, Trump has done a poor job of hiding his racism towards black people.

In 2016, this strain of racism has not abated and it is legitimate to ask what form this pathology took when he interacted with Kwelagobe 17 years ago. Trump’s candidacy has also revealed that he is a miser and conman who does not always pay people who do business with him. At the time Kwelagobe won Miss Universe, press reports said that she would stay rent-free for a full year at a flat owned by Trump. She did indeed stay at such flat but as the Observer found out when it visited, she was sharing the flat with two other beauty queens. “Miss Universe and Miss U.S.A. each have their own bedroom; Miss Teen U.S.A., Ashley Michelle Coleman, sleeps on their couch when she visits, about twice a month, from her home in Delaware,” reads the Observer story which subtly highlighted Trump’s miserliness with a “Three Beauty Queens in One Apartment” headline. That a black girl was staying in this flat was itself a story because in the early 1970s, a younger Trump didn’t allow black people to live in his flats. US media reports say that in a lawsuit filed by the government, superintendents at these properties revealed that applications by blacks were marked with “C” for “coloured” and routinely rejected.

Another racism allegation against Trump (made by a black former employee) is that when he visited one of the casinos that he owned in the 1980s, black employees were hidden away because he couldn’t stand their sight. Even without these allegations, Trump’s own words are evidence of what he thinks of black people. At a campaign rally a few months ago, he referred to one of his black supporters as “my African-American.” Given the historical relationship between whites (masters) and blacks (slaves), no right-thinking white person would want to use such label. What Trump has publicly stated and what has been alleged about him strongly suggest that he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near underage girls and young women because he has impure thoughts about the former and may have absolutely no compunction about pimping the latter.

Appearing on a US talk show, he said that he “would perhaps date” his daughter Ivanka if they were not blood-related. On another such show he said that when he saw a 12-year, now 34-year old New York socialite called Paris Hilton, the first thought that came into his mind was “Who the hell is that?” (“Socialite” is a term that usefully defines as “Someone who has money and doesn’t work, instead devoting his/her life to being “socially active.” Socialites go to parties, gather media attention, and essentially “work” at being popular. This often comes at the expense of any meaningful contribution to society or culture – outside of catchphrases-that-aren’t-really-catchphrases, like Paris Hilton’s “That’s hot!” The shorter version describes a socialite as “a no-talent sex video-making tramp”.) While Trump would later say that he was not sexually attracted to the 12-year old Hilton, that a grown-up man would describe a child in such terms is evidence of a deeply pathologised mind. Visiting one of his golf clubs in Los Angeles, Trump is supposed to have instructed that a beautiful waitress be brought over to a table where he was meeting a group of businessmen.

Trump, who is not Jewish, asked the young woman: “Do you like Jewish men?” This raises serious questions about what sort of things this businessman would be willing to do with his female employees to cut business deals. Miss Universe winners are his employees. In a 2005 interview, Trump revealed that he made a habit of busting into the dressing rooms even when the contestants were not dressed. “I’ll tell you the funniest is that I’ll go backstage before a show and everyone’s getting dressed,” Trump told a shock jock called Howard Stern. “No men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in, because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it…. ‘Is everyone OK’? You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody OK?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that.”

Since Kwelagobe’s win, there has been very little to write to New York about Miss Universe-wise but if lightning strikes again, another Motswana girl might just end up sharing a Manhattan flat with two other beauty queens. She would be one of Trump’s employees and likely to suffer all the racism and misogyny that seems to come standard with interacting with him. Whatever virtue there may be to it, revealing this abuse could expose one to litigation (something that Trump has proved to have huge appetite for) as well as incremental public humiliation. In the final analysis, Kwelagobe and others will probably never publicly state how Trump treated them.


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