Karolina Shiino, the Ukraine-born winner of last month's Miss Japan contest, has stepped down from her title amid a scandal involving her relationship with a married man. The 26-year-old, who was raised in Japan, faced major backlash following her victory in the Miss Japan 2024 pageant, as reported by BBC.
The controversy surrounding Shiino's reign erupted after a weekly magazine published an article detailing her involvement with Takuma Maeda, a married influencer and doctor, sparking widespread debate, with many questioning her eligibility to be honored with prestigious title of "Miss Japan."
Initially, organizers of the pageant came to Shiino's defense, claiming she was unaware of Maeda's marital status. However, it later emerged that she was indeed aware of his marriage but chose to pursue the relationship regardless.
In response to mounting criticism, Shiino issued an apology via Instagram, acknowledging her mistakes and expressing regret for any disappointment she may have caused.
Shiino also apologized to her fans and the public in a statement on Monday, where she said she had acted out of fear and panic in response to the report.
"I am truly sorry for the huge trouble I have caused and for betraying those who supported me," she said.
Shiino was crowned on January 22, marking a historic moment as the first person of European descent to receive this honor.
Born in Ukraine, she moved to Japan with her mother at the age of five, adopting her step-father's Japanese last name.
Having mastered both spoken and written Japanese fluently, she became a natural citizen in 2022. In her acceptance speech, she expressed gratitude, stating, "I have faced rejection as not being Japanese many times, but today I am filled with gratitude to be acknowledged as Japanese."
Her victory ignited public discourse regarding her heritage. While some celebrated the crowning of the naturalized citizen, others argued that she did not embody traditional Japanese beauty standards.
The resignation of Karolina Shiino as Miss Japan 2024 comes amid continued public scrutiny and disagreement over her suitability for the position.