Miss Michigan’s 5-Second Political Smackdown Won Miss America 2018
Sunday night marked the first swimsuit-free Miss America pageant, where opera singer Nia Franklin took the crown as Miss New York. But it was Michigan’s entrant, Emily Sioma, who became the most talked-about contestant of the night.
Sioma took the seconds-long moment reserved for introducing herself and listing her personal achievements and turned it into a call-out to remind people that the residents of her home state’s city of Flint still don’t have clean drinking water.
Residents of Flint have been without clean drinking water since 2014, and the crisis has resulted in at least 12 deaths due to lead contamination in the aging infrastructure of the city’s water system.
Although Sioma didn’t crack the pageant’s top 15, her call-out was widely applauded online. “Miss Michigan should automatically win for starting with this,” one viewer tweeted. Activist Shaun King also lauded Sioma for emphasizing the crisis, and others thanked her for using her platform to remind people that the crisis still exists.
The Flint water crisis came to national attention after officials learned that some 8,000 children under age six had been exposed to potentially brain-affecting levels of lead from drinking the city’s tap water. The toxic water was attributed to the city’s decision in 2014 not to continue buying fresh water from Lake Huron and the Detroit River as a cost-saving measure, and to rely instead on the corrosive Flint River for the city’s water supply.
Beyond the lifelong health issues that lead poisoning causes in children (specifically in the area of brain development, which can lead to both mental and physical defects), officials also learned that the water contained deadly bacteria and cancer-causing chemicals that had been spilled into the river.
For more than 100,000, mostly Black residents of Flint, the wait continues as the freshwater initiative doesn’t look like it will be completed until 2020 at the earliest. Public officials have been tried for their roles in the deaths of residents from water-borne toxicity, and those living in the area are still being advised to use bottled water only. The state was funding a bottled water program, but ended it in April of this year, leaving thousands of low-income residents without access to water.
Celebs like Bruno Mars and Jayden Smith have stepped up, however. The latter founded Just Water with his father, actor Will Smith, and the pair continue to donate thousands of bottles of water to the residents of Flint.
(Photo via Donald Kravitz/Getty Images)