Miss South Africa has defended herself after being called racist on Twitter for wearing latex gloves while feeding black children in Soweto.
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters shared pictures of herself helping at the Maslow Hotel's winter soup drive from her own account and the official Miss SA Twitter account.
— Demi-LeighNel-Peters (@DemiLeighNP) July 5, 2017
It wasn't long before people on Twitter noticed the gloves and questioned why she was wearing them.
Why is Miss SA wearing surgical gloves though??? https://t.co/rBviVhSyLP— Flo Letoaba (@floletoaba) July 5, 2017
Miss SA eating with gloves on ?must be a lab experiment... pic.twitter.com/tOShwUXGxP— Modern Black Youth (@SasTheScientist) July 5, 2017
Some concluded that her wearing gloves while working with black children was a sign of racism.
Iv concluded that Miss SA is racist.— Chwayita (@ChwayMadikane) July 6, 2017
I really can't believe "our" Miss SA is wearing latex so that she can touch these kids!! What, is she scared their Blackness will rub off? 😬 pic.twitter.com/rhzhzELIiW— MrsMbatha (@qinisohlabisa) July 6, 2017
Nel-Peters then posted the video below to explain herself. In the video she said:
"All the volunteers on site wore gloves today because we honestly thought that it's the right thing to do while working with food and while handing out food to young kids," Nel-Peters said.
She said it was to be as hygienic as possible while working with children and she apologised to those who were offended.
To everyone asking about the gloves, I truly hope that you'll hear my heart and understand that it came from a place of wanting to do good. pic.twitter.com/Pl5amM2gEM— Demi-LeighNel-Peters (@DemiLeighNP) July 5, 2017
Sun International also released a statement saying: "It is standard hygiene practice that ready-to-eat food be prepared and served without bare hand contact."
Carol Dyantyi, the programme director at Ikageng, the community centre Nel-Peters went to, said it was unfortunate that the gloves became the focal point of interest in the soup drive.
"It was such a successful day and I am sorry that the focus is now on the gloves rather than the positive impact it had. The story behind one of the pictures is fantastic. An eight-year-old deaf girl wanted to teach Demi-Leigh how to say 'thank you' in sign language while Demi was still involved in food preparation. Demi was only too happy to pose for a picture. For us who were there, it was such a moving moment," Dyantyi said.
Some people have come to Miss SA's defence, saying the whole thing was blown out of proportion and showing other pictures of her without gloves on.
Miss SA is not racist. pic.twitter.com/ZMNskCBpoz— TweetGuru (@JustKholii_) July 6, 2017
This user posted a picture of a former Miss SA handling food with plastic gloves on.
Former Miss SA also used gloves to prepare food. Y'all blacks are the ones who are starting to be racist and wanting to dethrone Miss SA pic.twitter.com/r9l9PbPrAU— Inno (@Innomatijane) July 6, 2017
But others weren't buying her hygiene story.
Miss SA might not be racist, but that 'hygienic' statement does not make sense. She was touching everything with those gloves 😷— Dikazi likaVangomfaz (@ziyandas) July 6, 2017
Radio 702 host Flo Letoaba questioned why the gloves didn't come off after Miss SA had handled the food and why she didn't have a hairnet on if hygiene was a major concern.
After handling food they couldn't come off? https://t.co/PTAmFJhe7Z— Flo Letoaba (@floletoaba) July 5, 2017
Hair net? https://t.co/Ino87CcSPF— Flo Letoaba (@floletoaba) July 5, 2017
Mbali ka Macingwane said it would be more hygienic not to use those gloves.
Its safer to wash your hands and sanitize them, than wear gloves "for handling food"!!!! This is A Grade Hot 💩 being served to us here.— Mbali ka Macingwane (@mamchunu) July 5, 2017
Other users even found pictures of her handling food on a different occasion, where she didn't wear gloves.
In this article by the New York Times, it says latex can cause allergic reactions in the people eating the prepared food. Even vinyl gloves are not recommended because they contain a chemical that "can cause testicular damage in infants and young men".
Gloves have however become popular in food handling because people generally do not wash their hands often enough.
This story has been updated with the statement by Sun International.