Miss Belize Universe and Tony Rath’s Controversial Exposé
Miss Universe 2016, held in Manila, Philippines at the end of January, is now several months behind avid fans of pageantry. The stellar performance of Miss Belize Universe, Rebecca Rath, galvanized Belizeans all over, despite failing to place in the top thirteen contestants. But tonight, there is controversy brewing in the aftermath of a five-part article written her father, photojournalist Tony Rath, which has been shared on Facebook. The article, titled “The Rocky Road to Miss Universe”, documents the family’s journey from Dangriga to Manila, as well as the often tumultuous relationship they purportedly experienced with the pageant’s country director. Rath does a remarkable job of chronicling each step of that journey; however, there are points in between during which he throws local organizer Opal Enriquez under the bus. She is shaded for what can only be described as incompetence in fulfilling her obligation to the contestant and the pageant. That article has picked up considerable steam in the realm of social media and continues to be the buzz around the water cooler. Earlier today, we spoke with Therese Rath who stands firmly behind her husband’s decision to publish the story of Rebecca’s pursuit of the coveted title.
“Tony’s work, job, career is to photograph and document. He’s taken up many issues, they’ve tend to be conservation or, you know, the Chiquibul. I guess he’s well known for the Chiquibul issue. This was something that encompassed our lives for six months and it had a great impact on us and so Tony documented with our full support.”
“In the article there are points in which Tony borders maligning Opal Enriquez, based on either the professional and other claims that don’t necessarily appear to be substantiated. Do you stand behind the claims that are being made based on your experiences having dealt with Ms. Enriquez?”
“Actually I absolutely do. You know, I think that a lot of people are not familiar with the process for these international pageants and how they actually work. These are private sector driven, with contracts that clearly stipulate what the licensee is supposed to fulfill and it is a license that you have to apply for and are granted and in many cases, this one in particular, you have to pay for. The fees are not small, they are manageable but they are not small. In this case I believe the Miss Universe contest, the competition is in the vicinity of seventy-five hundred U.S. dollars. My daughter participated in a contest, Miss Belize. There were specific prizes that were mentioned at the contest, in public, on Channel Five and there is a contract that she was obligated to sign as a contestant for Miss Universe. I am not in the pageant community but I am in business and so the first thing I did was read the contract and ensure through our own legal advice and to ensure that whatever Rebecca signed we are able to fulfill. Now there is also a contract that the licensee had that specifically says what they were supposed to do. The public presentation in the country of Belize is that it was Queen of the Jewel Miss Universe, Queen of the Jewel Miss Belize. All, everything they’re talking about is Queen of the Jewel. The company that is incorporated in this country, the principals of whom are Reynaldo Malic, OJ Elrington and Opal Enriquez. So the general impression, if you look in the media, is that those people or that committee, as people keep referring to it, are people who are responsible for the Miss Belize Universe. That is incorrect. The license for Miss Belize Universe says nothing about Queen of the Jewel. It is granted specifically to Opal Enriquez and it specifically says that Opal Enriquez is the country director and that she has to ensure that those obligations that are clearly stipulated are met.”