Brave Miss World, Fame Done Well

Linor Abargil Uses Her Platform To Support Survivors

One thing I have come to appreciate about celebrities is when they devote themselves, their platforms, and their resources to worthy causes. Fame, I imagine, can be a lot of things to a lot of people. But I think everyone has the option to put their fame to good use. Examples are many, but a few in particular come to mind.

After touring several refugee camps in countries such as Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Cambodia, Angelina Jolie donated $1 million in response to a UNHCR emergency appeal. In 2001, the United High Commissioner for Refugees named Jolie their Goodwill Ambassador. In 2010, Leonardo DiCaprio donated $1 million to the Wildlife Conservation Society and produced the 2016 documentary, Before The Flood, which addresses multiple aspects of global warming. Also in 2010, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to the Newark, New Jersey public school systems. Later in the year, he signed The Giving Pledge with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. This stipulated that they would donate half of their wealth to charity throughout their lives.

Such philanthropic efforts are both inspiring and reassuring. They break the proverbial fourth wall between celebrities and the rest of the public. They indicate that, though not directly affected, celebrities are still aware of real-world problems. Even more so, they set tremendous examples for the rest of us to do what we can.

One such figure that I learned about recently who sticks out to me is Linor Abargil. She is definitely a lesser-known names in the United States. However, I came across her documentary, Brave Miss World, on Netflix this past week and felt the need to share.

At 18 years old, Linor Abargil unexpectedly won the 1998 Miss World Pageant. Hailing from rural Netanya, Israel, the beautiful young woman seemed a diamond in the rough, suddenly thrown into the limelight. Despite the instant fame and glamour, Abargil’s smile hid a world of pain. Only six weeks prior to her coronation, Abargil was raped at knifepoint by her travel agent in Milan.

According to the Brave Miss World official website, Italian authorities acquitted the perpetrator due to lack of evidence. However, after the Miss World pageant concluded, Linor went public with her accusations and Israeli authorities sentenced him to sixteen years in prison. In her words, “During the trial, I had to relive the events, and face the rapist’s denials. I advised other women not to be afraid of reporting their rapes, and to seek punishment for the perpetrators. As a result, there was an increase in the rate of rape victims reporting the crime in Israel.”

Currently, Linor is an active attorney, activist, model, lecturer, and actress. Her passion for law sprang from an indelible need to advocate for survivors of sexual violence. This led to the making and releasing of her 2013 documentary, Brave Miss World. In it, viewers witness Linor traveling to different countries to hear from a slew of survivors, experiencing personal trauma when her rapist is released from prison, and empowering others like her. According to her personal website, Abargil knew she wanted to do something for survivors as soon as she was crowned.

Because I believe that the title of Miss World holds a responsibility for social action, I would like to give my crown a personal and meaningful context… Together we can try to understand what happened to our lives after that trauma, how the course of our lives changed, the self accusation and the fears, and how we can rise up, rehabilitate and take care for ourselves.”

I have said in previous posts that isolation is one of the worst things a person can experience as an aftereffect of trauma. In the context of sexual trauma, many of us feel ashamed, dirty, hurt, or stunned into silence. While stigma still exists, the world around us is slowly changing for the better. More resources and supportive outlets are popping up. More platforms allowing survivors to share their stories, be heard, and feel validated.

Linor Abargil is one of these resources. Many of us may be inclined to believe that beauty queens have no reason to cry or feel pain. Linor openly defies this stereotype by admitting to what has happened to her and communicating openly about her life. Additionally, she utilizes her celebrity soapbox to provide comfort, help, and resources to those who have endured similar struggles without her level of support. Not on this, but she is a shining example of a person who underwent a transformation. Who endured something abhorrent, then allowed it to a catalyze her journey from victim to activist. These kinds of people inspire countless survivors who dwell in darker times and have yet to see brighter days.

For anyone interested in learning more about Linor’s influence, sharing a story with her, booking a lecture, or just looking to feel more understood, I have listed some resources below. Once again, her documentary is Brave Miss World and currently available on Netflix. I have also included a link to our website, Sayfty’s, Speak Our Stories initiative. Anyone may send in a story, anonymously or not, to be published on our website. This serves to not only allow liberation of speaking the truth to the teller, but also to further educate our visitors on the magnitude of the issue.

About The Author

Anneliese Aberg Scalzo is a senior World Literature major at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She hopes to pursue a career as a human rights attorney. Anneliese is immensely passionate about issues involving disadvantaged populations around the world and hopes to utilize her affinity for words to spread awareness. In her downtime, Anneliese enjoys practicing her Swedish language skills, adding to her home library, and relaxing with her dogs.