Beauty Pageant Director Accused of Using Contestants to Overthrow Government

No, this isn’t the plot for Miss Congeniality 3. But it could be.
Miss Nicaragua Sheynnis Palacios is crowned Miss Universe 2023 during the 72nd Miss Universe Competition in San Salvador, El Salvador last month. Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images.

A beauty pageant director planning to overthrow an oppressive Central American regime with some of the country's most stunning, intelligent, and anti-government women could be an amazing plot line for Miss Congeniality 3. But according to the Nicaraguan government, this is an actual conspiracy to take down authoritarian president, Daniel Ortega.

Nicaraguan police announced Friday that they want to arrest Karen Celebertti, the director of the Miss Nicaragua beauty pageant, for allegedly fixing the competition to favor anti-Ortega beauty queens to win. The shocking announcement from the authoritarian government came less than two weeks after Nicaraguan beauty queen Sheynnis Palacios won the Miss Universe competition, placing the country at the forefront of the beauty queen world. It was the first time a Nicaraguan had ever won the competition.


The Nicaraguan government, helmed by 78-year-old Daniel Ortega, has slowly become one of the most isolated regimes in the world. Ortega, a former revolutionary icon, once helped end a four-decade-long dictatorship, before eventually turning Nicaragua into his own authoritarian state. His continued repression of dissidents, including everyone from activists to members of the church, have led to protests in the country off-and-on for years. In 2018, an uprising was violently squashed by government forces, with over 300 people being killed.

When Palacios won the competition last month, it should have been a bright spot in what have been years of poor press for the country in the international media. However, the government quickly became worried when photos of Palacios participating in the 2018 protests circulated widely online. Palacios also wore a blue-and-white cape during the pageant, which many believed was a nod to the national flag that was banned in 2018. Ortega instead now uses a red-and-black Sandinista banner as his preferred national symbol.

A few days after Palacios' win, Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo spoke harshly of how opposition supporters were taking advantage of her victory.

“We are seeing the evil, terrorist commentators making a clumsy and insulting attempt to turn what should be a beautiful and well-deserved moment of pride into destructive coup-mongering,” said Murillo.

The national police pointed the blame at the pageant director in a statement, claiming that Celebertti was also involved in the 2018 protests, which they called “the terrorist actions of a failed coup.”

“(Celebertti) remained in contact with the traitors, and offered to employ the franchises, platforms and spaces supposedly used to promote ‘innocent’ beauty pageants, in a conspiracy orchestrated to convert the contests into traps and political ambushes financed by foreign agents,” the police said in the statement.

Celebertti has yet to be arrested, and is believed to be outside Nicaragua.