Ukrainian-Born Model Wins Miss Japan Pageant, Sparks Heated Debate

By: ScreenGawk Staff | Published: Feb 02, 2024

Just last week, Carolina Shiino won the Miss Japan Grand Prix 2024 pageant, and her crowning has ignited quite the debate in Japan and around the world. 

And that is because Carolina Shiino, though she has lived in Japan all her life, was originally born in Ukraine and is the first naturalized citizen to ever win the competition. 

Who Is Carolina Shiino?

Carolina Shiino was born in Ukraine, and neither of her parents are of Japanese descent. They moved their family when Carolina was only five years old to the city of Nagoya, Japan, where Carolina lived for the rest of her childhood. 

Selfie of Carolina Shiino, winner of the Miss Japan Grand Prix 2024

Source: @pageantempire/Instagram

Growing up in Japan, Carolina attended Japanese schools and learned to speak, read, and write as if she was a Japanese child. However, while she sounds Japanese, Carolina certainly looks European.

Carolina Is Incredibly Proud to Have Won the Miss Japan Pageant

After winning the Miss Japan Grand Prix, she accepted the crown graciously and gave a small speech to the audience and other competitors.

Carolina Shiino, winner of the Miss Japan Grand Prix 2024, holding her trophy

Source: @goodnewsmacau/Instagram

Ms. Shiino said, “I’ve had to face barriers that often prevent me from being accepted as Japanese, so I am filled with gratitude to be recognized at this competition as a Japanese person.”

The Judges Believe Carolina Shiino Deserved to Win

After Carolina was crowned, the judges of the pageant were asked why they selected a Ukrainian-born winner. 

Carolina Shiino, winning the Miss Japan Grand Prix 2024

Source: @ibf_japan/X

To which the pageant organizer, Ai Wada, said, “She speaks and writes in beautiful and polite Japanese. She is more Japanese than we are.”

Many Agree that Carolina’s Crowning Promotes Inclusiveness

There are many people in Japan and around the world who believe crowning Carolina as 2024’s Miss Japan is a sign that the organization and the country are promoting inclusivity.

Carolina Shiino in traditional Japanese attire

Source: @maxumdigitalusa/Instagram

They say that by choosing someone who doesn’t look typically Japanese but embodies the country’s culture, language, and what being a pageant winner truly means, doors can open for other women who don’t necessarily fit the mold. 

What It Means to Be Japanese Is Changing

As the world has become more of a global community that even before, people are constantly immigrating to and from the country.

Crowded Shibuya scramble crossing in Tokyo, Japan

Source: Frederic Soltan/Corbis/Getty Images

And many say that this is leading to a change in what it means to be Japanese; they argue that it’s more about culture than it is about race.


There Are Some Who Don’t Believe Carolina Should Have Won

On the other hand, there are certainly many who do not support the pageant’s decision to crown Carolina Shiino. 

Competitors in the "Miss Japan Grand Prix Final" at Keio Plaza Hotel on January 25, 2010

Source: Junko Kimura/Getty Images

They argue that as Carolina does not have any Japanese ancestry and wasn’t even born within the country, she should not be eligible to win Miss Japan.


Many Worry How This Decision Will Affect the Young Women of Japan

Still others say that even if Carolina Shiino deserved to win the crown, it will send the wrong message to the youth of Japan. 

Competitors of the Miss Japan Grand Prix 2024 before the pageant

Source: @ibf_japan/X

One user on X responded to the news, saying, “I think that Japanese people naturally (would) get the wrong message when a European looking person is called the most beautiful Japanese.”


Others Believe It Was a Political Statement

There are even some who say that Carolina only won the competition because she is from Ukraine, and nowhere else.

A Ukrainian flag flies above the ruins of buildings destroyed during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian occupying forces

Source: Carl Court/Getty Images

One X user wrote, “”If she were born Russian, she wouldn’t have won. Not a chance. Obviously the criteria is now a political decision. What a sad day for Japan.”


Ariana Miyamoto’s Win in 2015 also Sparked Debate

Although this is the first time a naturalized citizen with no Japanese ancestry has won the Miss Japan Grand Prix, there was a somewhat similar debate in 2015 when Ariana Miyamoto won the crown. 

Winner of the Miss Japan pageant in 2015, Ariana Miyamoto

Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Ariana Miyamoto was the first bi-racial woman to win the competition, as her mother was Japanese and her father, African American. At the time, people wondered whether someone who didn’t look Japanese (but certainly was) should have won. 


Almost 10 Years Later, People Have Accepted Ariana as Miss Japan

As with most controversies, the debate as to whether a half-Japanese woman could win Miss Japan has dissipated. Now, the majority believe that Ariana Miyamoto deserved the crown.

Competitors of the Miss Japan Grand Prix pageant

Source: @ibf_insta/Instagram

However, many are still vehemently against Carolina’s crowning. One X post read, “If she was half [Japanese], sure no problem. But she’s ethnically 0% Japanese and wasn’t even born in Japan.”


Carolina Shiino Is Still Miss Japan 2024

Even with the debate raging on social media and news platforms, it doesn’t change the fact the Ms. Carolina Shiino has taken home the Miss Japan 2024 crown. And she couldn’t be happier about it.

Carolina Shiino and other competitors at the Miss Japan Grand Prix 2024 pageant

Source: @bbcmundo/Instagram

Carolina said in an interview, “Being recognized as a Japanese in this competition fills me with gratitude.”