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The First Multiracial Miss Universe Japan Has Been Crowned

Image: Ariana Miyamoto to represent Japan at Miss Universe
Ariana Miyamoto (C) from Miyazaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan, makes a speech in Tokyo on March 12 after being chosen to represent the country at this year's Miss Universe contest. Her father is American and mother Japanese. Kyodo / AP

The stunning Miss Nagasaki, Ariana Miyamoto, is the first multiracial contestant ever to be crowned Miss Universe Japan and will represent Japan in the 2015 Miss Universe pageant.

Born in Japan to a Japanese mother and African American father, Miyamoto is a Japanese citizen, grew up in Japan, and identifies as Japanese. Described in local media as a “saishoku kenbi,” a woman blessed with both intelligence and beauty, she holds a 5th degree mastery of Japanese calligraphy.

But reaction to her win has been both positive and negative, with some people questioning whether a multiracial person can truly represent Japan. According to local media, even she was initially a little wary about entering the pageant because she was “hāfu,” the Japanese word used to refer to multiracial or multi-ethnic half-Japanese people.

“The selection of Ariana Miyamoto as this year's Miss Universe Japan is a huge step forward in expanding the definition of what it means to be Japanese,” filmmaker and co-director of the film “Hafu,” Megumi Nishikura told NBC News, “The controversy that has erupted over her selection is a great opportunity for us Japanese to examine how far we have come from our self-perpetuated myth of homogeneity while at the same time it shows us how much further we have to go.”

According to the film, “Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan,” 20,000 half-Japanese people are born in Japan each year, including both multiethnic and multiracial people.

“In a country where the majority of fashion beauty magazines and TV shows are reigned by ‘hāfu’ models and actors,” filmmaker and co-director of the film “Hafu,” Lara Perez Takagi told NBC News, “It was actually about time that a mixed-race Japanese girl won the Miss Universe pageant.”