Posting the look to Instagram, the contestant wrote the following in the caption: “What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence! Thank you #MissUniverse for giving me this opportunity! My national costume is inspired by Singapore’s National Flag—it symbolises unity for all and social harmony in a multi-racial, multi-cultural and inter-religious country.”
Her collaborators on the dress, Meriales and Espinosa, echoed Ong’s message. “What made me say yes? It’s not just a national costume,” wrote Meriales. “It’s a statement and protest to stop Asian hate. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of such a cause.”
Ong’s look certainly sends a powerful statement, following a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes over the past year, and is especially timely as it is also currently AAPI Heritage Month. Given that Miss Universe has been no stranger to controversy in the past, with incidents of racism both against and involving previous contestants, Ong’s outfit made for a refreshing change. The look was even celebrated on Instagram by the likes of Diet Prada, who wrote “we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this one!” We certainly agree.