But even though Trump wasn’t around during the event, his words still hung over the proceedings like a cloud.
One reason: 22-year-old Ylianna Guerra, Miss Texas, was one of the strongest competitors during the evening and eventually named runner-up (Olivia Jordan, Miss Oklahoma, took the crown). Guerra — who is Mexican-American and from the predominantly Hispanic city of McAllen, Texas — was one of several Latina contestants who spoke out about Trump’s comments during the days leading up to the competition. The significance of this was not lost on some viewers, particularly those on Twitter.
Guerra, whose parents are both Mexican, recently told her hometown newspaper The Monitor that she “comes from a family of immigrants, as well” and deemed Trump’s remarks as “unfortunate.” She said she never thought about dropping out of the competition, even though she did feel outside pressure to do so.
“I’m very proud of my Mexican roots,” Guerra said. “I’m here not only to represent every Texan, but also Hispanics and Mexicans as well.”
In her interviews, Guerra eventually tried to downplay the Trump controversy, telling NBC News, “This thing with Donald Trump, that’s the least of my worries.” But a few days before the competition, Latina Magazine asked Guerra what she wished Trump knew about Latinos. “The people that come to this country are hard-working people,” she responded. “They come here to make a better life for their family.”
While the pageant never addressed Trump’s infamous comments directly, multiple contestants danced around themes of acceptance during the question-and-answer session of the pageant. For example, when Miss Oklahoma, Olivia Jordan, was asked about the next major issue that the country needs to tackle on a national level.
Jordan’s answer: Race relations. “We need to work on being an accepting society,” she said, and ensure that every single person no matter of race or gender “has the same rights and privileges and opportunities.”
And when Guerra was asked if the government should impose boundaries on CEOs making 300 times more than the average worker’s salary, she said no — though it was hard not to read into the subtext of her answer.
“I think that if you work hard enough, you can attain anything,” she said. “This is the land of opportunity.”