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Ugly truth behind male beauty pageant contest organized by Mister National Universe

Yeshey Lhadon

Pema Khandu Wangchuk wished he never reached out to a male pageantry contest held by Mister National Universe Organization (MNUO), Thailand. Pema feels that it did more damage than welfare to him.

He said, “Before coming here (Thailand), I thought it’s an international pageant just like many people. I thought it’s a huge platform with opportunities to get exposure and experience. But once I got to know the inside story, it wasn’t as expected.”

Pema withheld from sharing his side of story for safety reasons as he was living in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok exploring opportunities for himself.

The Bhutanese actor-model returned home on Friday after MNUO stripped off the Mister National Universe title on July 19. He represented Bhutan and was crowned the first runner up during the grand finale of fourth edition of male pageantry held on June 6.

The latest male pageantry controversy surfaced when MNUO posted a press release dissociating and tarring Pema’s image accusing him of indecent photo shoot containing autoerotic asphyxia and BDSM (Bondage and discipline, Sadism and Masochism) .

The press release also  threatened Pema to take legal action against him  if found using MNU’s trademarked logo or photos clicked during the competition. The organizers asked him to return the sash, trophy and broach awarded to him.

Pema Khandu Wangchuk said, “They are making a big fuss about the picture which is not nude. If they care so much about the image of MNUO, then how come they invited a male stripper and a local porn star to contest?”

MNUO claimed that they didn’t sign any formal or written contract with the 22 participants. MNUO said that Pema was briefed not to do any nude photoshoot which is inappropriate for minor viewers below the age of 18. “The agreement was verbal,” said MNUO.

Pema said that he sought organizers’ suggestions for the photo shoot. “She texted and said that MNUO doesn’t have a problem with the pictures but right after that, I was shocked when she posted a press release,” he said.

MNUO said that Pema was granted permission to take modelling jobs without having to pay a fee to the organization. “We wanted to know who the modelling jobs were for, to uphold the pageant’s reputation,” MNUO added.

Pema refuted  on that note, “Why and how could the organizer take a fee for the job I got myself? If I had signed a contract and she pays me salary then has the right to talk about the fee,” he said.

MNOU also said that they allowed Pema to join the pageant without having to pay a fee to support Bhutan. “An invitation letter was sent to him which allowed him to find sponsors to support his journey to Thailand,” said MNOU.

Regarding the entry fee Pema said, “I don’t think the organization asked for an entry fee from any contestants. Forget about the fees, I have noticed some contestants living in Bangkok would ask the organizers to pay their taxi fare even just to reach the dinner venue.”

In fact, Pema claimed that almost half of the contestants in their pageantry were already living in Thailand. “They weren’t coming in from their respective countries, they were living and working in Bangkok. And they were recruited by the organization’s modelling team,” he added.

“The owner of the pageantry show thinks that it’s hard to get a tourist visa to Thailand and always she. and always reminds the participants that they are in Thailand because of her. She acts like she favoured us,” he said.

MNOU considers  BDSM photographs (Bondage and discipline, Sadism and masochism) in the nude as different from being photographed in a swimsuit. But fans who have seen the pictures claimed that it’s not as bad as the organization is trying to project.

MNOU said that these BDSM photos were available to buy on the Only Fans application where you must be 18 or older to view.

Social media critics said, “But the pageantry organizers and sponsors enjoy the sight of handsome men with chiselled bodies, on a ramp, in swimwear and sometimes exploiting them.”

While talking of decency, upholding values and thriving to be a role model, Pema highlighted some unpleasant realities of male pageants which have returned after a two-year hiatus.

MNOU’s magazine claimed that 22 men each representing their country travelled to Thailand from countries like Turkey, Vietnam, Mexico, Northern Philippines, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Crimea, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Brazil, Korea, South Ukraine, Malaysia, India, Iran, Pakistan, Thailand, Philippines, USA, South India, Nigeria and France. However, Pema claimed that most of them were already living and working in Thailand.

MNOU’s international pageant for men was started to promote tourism in Thailand. Pema claimed that he enjoyed going around tourist hotspots in Thailand’s province Suphanburi, HuaHin and Bangkok.

“But I must say the organizers were pretty messed up. They didn’t even hand out a proper schedule of activities they were going to carry out during the stay rather they would always give us last minute information,” he said.

Things turned bitter when the organizers took out contestants to one of the sponsor’s restaurant cum bars for dinner in HuaHin. Pema claimed that they were made to walk around to please and entertain elderly  and transgender audiences, dividing them in three groups.

He said, “They pinned money on our sash like we were some strippers. I was quite surprised and upset when they let us do all these things.”

He was in the first group and went back to the other room with two of his friends to take a rest. But the organizer was drunk and came looking for them. “She yelled at us and belittled us claiming that she’s privileged and she’s doing it for us. She made us go back in and do the same thing,” he added.

He said that the money collected from the crowd was taken by the organizer . “She said that it’s for the charity fund and even during the competition it was all about making money for herself,” he added. The organizers think that they are a money making machine to collect money from the sponsors in the name of competition.

He also felt unfair treatment and favouritism. “Those contestants living and working in Thailand and those invited by their agents were given more attention. But it didn’t affect much,” he said.

However, during the finale night every viewer expected Pema to win the title when the top three had equal points and asked the tie breaker question by the owner herself, ” To explain love has no gender.”

“She didn’t give the title to me because  she was looking into the future benefits. Since Bhutan is not a country obsessed with beauty pageantry contests unlike in Vietnam. It’s a huge thing in Vietnam, so she was thinking of her own future benefit and crowned him a winner,” said Pema

“For me even if I win, it wouldn’t change anything and I am not disappointed that they crowned him a winner,” he added.

But when people criticized the unfair judgment  she tried shooting them down by claiming that the crowning was done in consideration of the whole duration. He asked, “Why did she say that they had equal points if the whole duration was counted?”

Next day, he was asked to make a video telling the fans that he is very happy and thankful for the title to let people know that he’s not sad to hush the critiques. “I didn’t do as she said. I only thanked my supporters and that must have infuriated her,” he said.

After the competition ended, Pema said that he didn’t know that they still needed to be with the organizers for another week. He said that they wereย  not even given a proper farewell. “The next day, I planned out things for myself,” he said.

He visited a clinic  with friends for free facial service but they posted on their social media page which again made the organizer scold him. ” She said that the Sponsors were unhappy and it’s disrespectful,” he said.

MNOU said that they are saddened and disappointed by Pemaโ€™s actions. “But we look forward to working with future Mister National Universe Bhutan candidates,” added MNOU.

“He had plenty of time to apologize and to work this out quietly, but he chose not to,” said MNOU.

“She seems to have a problem with everyone who does things their way. She treats us like she owns us. One of the contestants was scolded for visiting the sponsors’ resort in HuaHin after the competition,” he said.

 “I think she was holding a grudge on me since the people criticized the final night.”

“From this pageant it only benefited her. I told her to take back the trophy and sash. And she thinks I got all the fame because of MNOU, which is indeed laughable,” said Pema Khandu Wangchuk.

Pema warns the people that they are an unethical organization who posts every question one asks for clarification on their page. “Be careful while asking them questions,” he advised.

Moreover, Pema’s facebook page with more than 29,000 likes and 37,000 followers has been hacked by someone living in Veitnam. ” That page doesn’t belong to me anymore, so please report it and I am not accountable for anything posted there,” said Pema.

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