opinion

"Dear Jennifer Hawkins: it's time to reconsider your loyalty to Donald Trump."

Former Miss Universe winner Jennifer Hawkins has ignored calls for her to publicly distance herself from sexist statements which were made by her friend Donald Trump, shortly after she commenced her year-long reign as the 2004 Miss Universe.

The comments, recorded in 2005, capture Trump boasting of how he exploits his power and fame to sexually encroach upon women:

“I just start kissing them, I don’t even wait. When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything,” he can be heard saying.

At the time of these remarks, Ms Hawkins was closely affiliated with Trump and moved within his orbit of influence, having been crowned Miss Universe some months earlier. (The other man who can be heard in the video – Billy Bush – is also known to Hawkins, as he had been one of the two presenters who hosted the 2004 Miss Universe competition where Hawkins took home the top gong).

Donald Trump and Jennifer Hawkins in July 2004. (Image: Getty)

While other Miss Universe winners have used their popularity and platform to speak out against Trump’s bid for presidency, Hawkins has publicly described him as “charming”, “passionate” and an “inspiration”.

As late as August this year, Ms Hawkins stated the Presidential hopeful was an “amazing, brilliant businessman” and an “inspiration”.

When asked, “Do you think if anyone could do this, it’s Donald Trump?” she replied, “Yes”.

To add insult to injury, these comments were made shortly after another former Miss Universe winner, Alicia Machado, revealed that Trump had attacked her Latina heritage and called her ‘Miss Housekeeping’ and ‘Miss Piggy’ after she gained weight.

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"He'd yell at me all the time. He'd tell me, 'You look ugly' or, 'You look fat'” she said.

Trump hit back, calling Machado “disgusting” and claiming she has a “sex tape”.

Can't get enough of the US election? Nor can Mia Freedman. Hear her talk about it below. (Post continues...)

Again, our former Miss Universe said nothing — giggling awkwardly on air and dodging difficult questions — before stating confidently that Trump is a “brilliant businessman” and that he continues to be “inspiring”.

So much for the sisterhood.

Given her considerable public profile, Hawkins' comments in August were widely republished, including in the USA. These comments have not been amended or retracted.

Now, as other friends of Trump begin to publicly withdraw their support — including members of his own Republican party — Ms Hawkins again remains loyally silent on the subject of his latest indiscretion. (Ms Hawkins was approached for comment for this article. Her media manager has advised that she is “unavailable for comment”.)

While I have no doubt Hawkins must feel somewhat indebted to Trump, the fact is she is now a successful businesswoman in her own right, and it may do far more harm to her brand to stay loyal to him than if she were to distance herself from his statements.

Her multi-million dollar fashion empire is, after all, dependent on the female dollar.

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And, with the possible exception of Pauline Hanson, women are not having a bar of Trump. After his grotesque statement about grabbing women by the “pussy” thousands of women took to Twitter to express their disgust and share, by way of  protest, their first experience of sexual assault.

In a tweet that was viewed more than 10 million times, writer Kelly Oxford unleashed a storm. It read: “Tweet me your first assaults. They aren’t just stats. I’ll go first: Old man on city bus grabs my 'pussy' and smiles at me. I’m 12”.

Women began disclosing in droves.

At one point Oxford says she was receiving more than two sexual assault disclosures per second — clear evidence, if you ever needed it, that rape and sexual violence is still a critical issue in America and around the world.

Men also got on board, tweeting all the things they actually say in the locker room, as a way of countering Trump’s claim and justification that he was merely engaging in “locker room banter”.

So why, when Trump’s own Republican Party supporters are turning on him, does Hawkins still stay silently loyal? Why won’t she cut the apron strings, given it’s more than 10 years since she won Miss Universe and she is now well established in her own right?

Perhaps it’s because of the mutual back-slapping loyalty she and Trump share. In 2011, Trump stated, “I think that Jennifer is the most beautiful Miss universe that I've seen in many, many years. She was not only beautiful outside but she was also equally beautiful inside.”

“I don't say that about many ... Believe me, we've had our problems with some of them and she was really great,” he said, making veiled reference to Miss Universes such as Machado.

But perhaps it’s time Hawkins reconsidered where her loyalties lie. Given her own business interests are completely tied to the female dollar, she may want to think about how she uses her platform and her voice.

After all, we are the ones who are making her now, not Trump. And it might be wise to remember it.

Nina Funnell is a freelance writer and author.

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