Before he became president, Donald Trump presided over Miss Universe, reportedly hand-picking the pageant's finalists. And his reported criteria for what constituted a "winner" probably won't surprise many of his critics. Michael Isikoff and David Corn's forthcoming book, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, includes a host of juicy details about the intrigue involved in hosting the pageant in Russia in 2013. Among them is the revelation that Trump reportedly vetoed Miss Universe finalists for one pretty gross reason.
According to an unnamed Miss Universe staffer, Isikoff and Corn wrote, "if there were too many women of color, he would make changes." A separate Miss Universe staffer claimed Trump had a definite "type," citing previous winners Olivia Culpo and Dayanara Torres, and summed up his preference for finalists as "East European women." Bustle has reached out to the Trump Organization and the White House for comment on those claims.
As the former owner of the Miss Universe pageant, Trump was granted the last say in who made it to the finals. According to Russian Roulette, Trump removed himself to a private viewing room the day before the pageant in Moscow and watched videotape of the judges' choices for finalists.
A Miss Universe staffer told the authors that Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, could sometimes persuade Trump to allow a darker-skinned contestant to remain a finalist "by telling him she was a princess and married to a football player."
Trump had an exact idea of how he wanted his viewing room to be. He insisted there be Nutter Butters, Tic Tacs, and Diet Cokes at the ready, along with hand towels that were to be only rolled, never folded. Trump also demanded a pristine space, with walls free of "distracting pictures" — it appears Trump took his pre-pageant viewing sessions very seriously.
Trump has come under criticism for his behavior at pageants before. During the election, a handful of former Miss Teen USA contestants alleged that he had entered their dressing rooms while they were changing. He never bothered to leave or even apologize for barging in while several of the girls were naked. Trump's campaign issued a statement saying those claims had "no merit," and not all Miss Teen USA contestants remember Trump entering their dressing rooms.
But it's exactly the type of move Trump himself bragged about. In a 2005 interview with Howard Stern, the future president said, "Before a show, I'll go backstage and everyone's getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I'm allowed to go in because I'm the owner of the pageant." Then he admitted he went into the changing rooms: "You know, they're standing there with no clothes." He went on to boast that he could "get away" with it.
Trump also faced a media firestorm when former Miss Universe Alicia Machado resurfaced to tell her story about how she'd been treated by the the then-candidate. Machado claimed that after she put on weight during her reign as Miss Universe, Trump criticized her harshly and demanded she lose it. According to Machado, Trump called her "Miss Piggy" and, in a dig at her Latin roots (Machado is from Venezuela), also referred to her as "Miss Housekeeping."
Rather than deny or obfuscate the allegation that he'd pressured Machado to lose weight, Trump openly embraced his past action. During an interview on Fox News' morning program Fox and Friends in September of 2016, Trump defended himself. "She was the winner, and, you know, she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem," he said.
Trump's reputation for putting enormous stock in the physical appearance of women is one he's built over decades, but the fact that he'd discriminate against Miss Universe contests with darker skin marks a new low.