Who is Alicia Machado?

Miss Universe Alicia Machado at a press conference in Singapore in 1997. She defended her weight then, saying she wanted to show people that one could be beautiful "with a little more weight".
Miss Universe Alicia Machado at a press conference in Singapore in 1997. She defended her weight then, saying she wanted to show people that one could be beautiful "with a little more weight".ST FILE PHOTO

Venezuelan-born Alicia Machado won the Miss Universe crown in 1996 at the age of 20. She became an American citizen in August because her daughter was born in the United States.

A few months after she won her title, there was talk that pageant organisers threatened to strip her of her crown if she did not lose weight, something they later denied. The 1.73m beauty queen had gone from 51kg to 60kg at one point.

Mr Donald Trump, who owned the pageant, claimed she was once about 77kg. He staged a press conference at a gym in New York where the press was invited to film Ms Machado working out. Dubbing her an "eating machine", he said: "We've tried diet, spa, a trainer, incentives... Forget it, the way she's going, she'd eat the whole gymnasium."

Ms Machado has said that this fat-shaming caused her to develop eating disorders. But on a visit to Singapore in 1997, she said it did not bother her. "I don't care about this," she said with a shrug to reporters' questions then. "When people say she's fat, or not fat, pretty or not pretty, more movie and TV offers come in for me. This is the first time Miss Universe is so famous."

In Singapore to attend the Miss Singapore Universe finals, she defended her weight, and said she wanted to show people that one could be beautiful "with a little more weight". She told The Straits Times then: "Maybe, before, I was anorexic. Standing at five feet eight (1.72m), 49kg is an unreal weight."

But the recent spotlight has forced Ms Machado's past scandals to resurface.

 

She was accused of helping boyfriend Juan Rodriguez Reguetti kidnap his 11-month-old nephew from his brother-in-law in Venezuela, according to reports in 1998.

Witnesses said they saw Ms Machado drive the getaway car. She denied the claims in court and was not indicted due to insufficient evidence.

The real-life drama did not halt her career in Spanish telenovelas and reality TV.

More recently, there have been claims that Ms Machado's daughter was fathered by notorious drug lord Gerardo Alvarez-Vazquez, who is now behind bars.

Ms Machado has said her daughter's father is a businessman named Rafael Hernandez Linares.

Chew Hui Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 02, 2016, with the headline 'Who is Alicia Machado?'. Print Edition | Subscribe