QUEENS — There are more questions about the 2017 Miss Universe Guyana Pageant. Now the big one is, did the pageant owner/national director help a favored contestant win?
The contest was held in August at York College in Queens.
We previously told you about pageant contestants who came forward to say they never received many of the perks they’d been promised for their $2,500 entry fees. Their complaints included the lack of promised accommodations, transportation and special events in the week- long event.
Pageant boss Jyoti Hardat never responded to our requests for answers to our questions. And when I paid a visit to her house in August, her mother wound up slamming the door in my face.
Since our first story aired, several pageant insiders have come forward to tell us more and raise some new troubling issues.
Delroy Walcott told us he was the administrative assistant to Jyoti Hardat and considered her a friend.
“One thing that I noticed was favoritism,” Delroy said.
I asked him who was being favored.
“Miss Rafeiya Husain, she was being favored on almost every level.”
Rafeiya Husain was the ultimate pageant winner. She is Miss Universe Guyana 2017 and will compete in the big Miss Universe Pageant.
Other contestants and Delroy Walcott say Rafeiyah was the only contestant permitted to have her own hair and make-up people as well as backstage visitors on the night of the pageant.
On the phone, Rafeiyah denied getting special treatment and said she went through the same experience as the other women. Although she did say her extensive pageant experience gave her an advantage. She was last year’s Miss Universe Guyana runner up. Many of the other women were beauty pageant novices.
But online, Rafeiyah posted a video several days after the pageant. She mentioned having her personal make-up artist at this year’s pageant.
No one alleges Rafeiyah did anything wrong herself. She just allegedly received perks from the pageant operator that other contestants did not get. But there are questions about Jyoti Hardat.
Delroy Walcott says he sat at the judges’ table and knew the scores. He says Jyoti Hardat canceled the final question claiming time was too short. He says at that point, another contestant, Sharisse Victor was ahead. And he gave her name to the host to announce to the crowd as Miss Universe Guyana 2017.
“Sharisse Victor, and I’m saying this with very affirmative words - she was in the lead. The judges, they knew this and everyone knew that too.”
But Delroy says someone pulled a switch. And Jyoti Hardat’s preferred contestant was declared the winner.
“I think Miss Hardat had a preconceived notion of who she wanted to be there knowing that if she would have selected the rightful woman she would have had to start from scratch in raising funds for that young lady.”
Delroy says he went to Jyoti Hardat right after Rafeiyah Husain was crowned.
“And she said to me she said uh this is my pageant. I have to deal with the winner for a year. And I know I have to know what I’m working with.”
We also spoke with Andre Ragnauth, a CUNY professor of medical science who says he was on what he considers a somewhat informal pageant board of directors. He says he was shocked to hear how other contestants complained about not receiving the treatment they were promised. And he’s concerned about all the allegations.
So, I asked, “Andre, why do you think Miss Hardat has not come out and spoken up and tried to refute some of these allegations?”
He told me, “I think that there is recognition that the rest of the people who’ve been involved will then come out very clearly and express their doubts about the honesty of the pageant outcome.”
As for Sharisse Victor, the novice contestant Delroy Walcott says actually was leading when the contest ended, she told us:
“I’m happy that people are at least questioning the way this pageant organization is run. And hopefully there will be a change in whoever runs it next year.”
We wanted a response from the Miss Universe Organization to the questions raised here. Our inquiries generated no response. However, when they were first contacted for our initial report, the organization said it stood behind the results making Rafeiyah Husain Miss Universe Guyana 2017.
And after multiple attempts to reach Jyoti Hardat and try to get some answers, she left me a brief voice message just hours before our latest story was scheduled to be on the air. But nothing substantive. She just said she was returning my call.
We do want to speak with her. If she gets back to us, we’ll let you know what she has to say.