Miss USA 2018, Ms Sarah Rose Summers, has come under fire just days before taking the stage in the ongoing Miss Universe contest for mocking fellow contestants Miss Vietnam and Miss Cambodia for their poor English language skills.
Ms Summers, 24, has since apologised for what social media users called racism and bullying, saying that she "would never intend to hurt another".
She made the comments alongside Miss Colombia Valeria Morales and Miss Australia Francesca Hung in an Instagram Live video on Ms Morales' account on Wednesday (Dec 12).
The clip begins with Ms Summers asking Ms Morales and Ms Hung: "What do you think about Miss Vietnam?"
She then goes on to say of her Vietnam counterpart H'Hen Nie: "She's so cute and she pretends to know so much English, and then you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her and she goes (nods and smiles)."
Ms Summers then laughs and calls Ms Nie "adorable".
And when prompted by Ms Morales, Ms Summers again imitates Ms Nie nodding and smiling.
The contestants then pointed out that Miss Cambodia Nat Rern also does not speak any English, and "not a single other person speaks her language".
Ms Summers describes it as isolating and confusing, and adds: "Poor Cambodia."
Soon after the video surfaced, including on popular Instagram account diet _prada, Ms Summers met with sharp criticism.
Instagram user potskzi said in a comment: "Miss USA and Australia just lost all of my respect... That's NOT what real beauty is all about."
On Thursday, Ms Summers responded to the controversy with an apology on her Instagram account.
She wrote: "In a moment where I intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters, I said something that I now realise can be perceived as not respectful, and I apologise.
"My life, friendships, and career revolve around me being a compassionate and empathetic woman. I would never intend to hurt another. I am grateful for opportunities to speak with Nat, Miss Cambodia, and H'Hen, Miss Vietnam, directly about this experience. These are the moments that matter most to me."
Ms Nat on Friday sought to soothe tensions online when she shared group photos taken with Ms Summers, Ms Morales, Ms Hung and Ms Nie on her Instagram account, which show the five of them in smiles and hugging.
"I speak the language of love, respect and understanding. I love you, my sisters," she said.