Miss South Africa has been forced to fend off allegations of racism after she was photographed wearing gloves to meet orphans with HIV.
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters met children at soup kitchen in Johannesburg, handing out meals at what was intended to be a feel-good charity event.
The 22-year-old, who is mixed-race, said she wore disposable gloves for hygiene reasons as she was dishing out food at Ikageng community centre.
But she faced a barrage of criticism on Twitter, with some many accusing her of being racist or afraid of touching people with the disease.
All of the children at the soup kitchen on Wednesday were either orphans, HIV-positive, or both.
One Twitter user wrote: “I want to know why she would put on latex gloves to touch black children.”
Another said: “I really can’t believe ‘our’ Miss SA is wearing latex so that she can touch these kids!”
A third suggested she wore gloves “to protect herself from black kids” becaues she feared they would “contaminate her”.
The hashtag #MissSAChallenge went viral on Thursday, after thousands of South Africans posted photos poking fun of the beauty queen.
Some posted photos of themselves wearing gloves to type at a desk, make a drink, and read a book.
But the community centre described the social media storm as “ridiculous”, with programme director Carol Dyanti adding: “All volunteers, including our staff members, wore gloves during the food preparation. It was mandatory.
“It was such successful day and I am sorry that the focus is now on the gloves rather than the positive impact it had.”
Miss Nel-Peters, in a video posted on Twitter, said: “We were handing out food to young kids and that was the only intention with wearing the gloves.
“It was purely to be as hygienic as possible. I really feel like my intention were really misunderstood but I would like to apologise if I offended anyone.”
Race remains a sensitive issue in South Africa, where apartheid ended in 1994.
Source: The Independent UK