BANGKOK • Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers' chances of being crowned Miss Universe in Bangkok on Monday may have taken a big knock.
She has come under fire for mocking fellow contestants Miss Vietnam and Miss Cambodia over their English-language skills.
The 24-year-old 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.
The clip begins with Ms Summers asking Ms Morales and Ms Hung: "What do you think about Miss Vietnam?"
She then goes on to describe her Vietnamese 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 point 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, Ms Summers met with sharp criticism.
Instagram user potskzi wrote: "Miss USA and Australia just lost all of my respect... That's not what real beauty is all about."
Ms Summers apologised on Thursday 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 yesterday sought to soothe tensions online when she shared group photos taken with Ms Summers, Ms Morales, Ms Hung and Ms Nie, which show the five of them smiling and hugging.
"I speak the language of love, respect and understanding. I love you, my sisters," Ms Nat said.