Beauty pageants are a common phenomenon around the world. Nonetheless, the news of a Pakistani woman walking on the international stage for the first time has garnered a considerable amount of attention.
Karachi-born Erica Robin made history at the 2023 Miss Universe beauty pageant by being the first Pakistani woman in its 72 editions. She not only made it to the list of the top 20 contestants out of 80 participating countries but also made a powerful statement with her noteworthy ensembles that showcased her culture.
Although the 24-year-old model couldn't make it to the top 10, she left an indelible mark at the Miss Universe pageant by donning a burkini during a swimsuit competition.
Who Is Erica Robin?
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Erica belongs to a Christian religious minority, which makes up about 1 percent of her country's population.
She started her career in professional modelling in 2020. In the same year, Erica also appeared in an issue of Pakistan's acclaimed Diva Magazine. She was crowned Miss Universe Pakistan in September 2023.
However, Erica revealed that the news of her participation in Miss Universe 2023 opened to mixed reactions in her country, and she also faced major backlash for it.
"I'm most proud of standing up for what I believe in my life. Recently, right after I was announced as the new titleholder for Miss Universe Pakistan, I received some backlash from different sectors of the community, but I would like to stand up for what I believe in. Despite these criticisms, I was ready to face any challenges ahead of me while maintaining my values as a young modern Pakistani woman, representing our rich culture and heritage, and showing the world that Pakistan can celebrate the success of women,."Erica Robin said in her Miss Universe bio.
In a 'Voice for Change' video submitted to the competition, Erica showcased her advocacy for humanitarian causes. She also revealed that she volunteers at the nonprofit Karachi Down Syndrome Programme and utilises her platform to uplift gender equality in the workplace.
Erica is also an integral part of the Red Cross family, being a member of the Red Cross Youth Philippines. The humanitarian organisation is committed to various social welfare services and promoting volunteerism in the country.
Relaying Her Cultural Identity Through Fashion
On several occasions during the Miss Universe pageant, Erica has expressed her admiration for Pakistan's rich cultural diversity. For the preliminary contest for Miss Universe, where contestants were required to sport their national costumes, Erica chose to wear traditional attire, which she referred to as Pehchaan (identity).
Speaking about her costume, the model wrote on Instagram, "The intricate patchwork blends the rural and urban elements, paying homage to the rich crafts and heritage of Pakistan. The handcrafted fan, a major part of Pakistan’s tribal lifestyle, is a symbol of power, and elegance and an ode to its roots. Meanwhile, the grand silhouette serves as a powerful visual testament to Pakistan's remarkable growth and evolution over time. It embodies the nation's journey from its roots in tradition to its strides toward modernity since gaining independence."
For the competition's finale, Erica walked the ramp in a kaftan during the swimsuit round of 20 finalists. While other contenders wore metallic swimsuits, Erica wore a pastel burkini with a shiny neckline that covered most of her body.
For the preliminary evening gown competition, Erica wore a white sequin dress paired with a veil that covered her head.
Describing her outfit, the model wrote on Instagram, "I come from the 1% minority of my beloved country Pakistan which symbolizes the color white in our flag. I became the 1st ever Miss Universe Pakistan - a huge honor and privilege to stand here and be the voice of my community."
Previously, women of Pakistani origin have taken part in local beauty pageants held in different countries. However, this was the first time Pakistan, as a country, was represented on a global stage like Miss Universe.