It was "sponsorship, not charity," said Miss Universe-Canada Nova Stevens of her organization's feud with Filipino designer Michael Cinco. It's a business partnership paid for in cash or kind that's common practice in the influencer era where dresses, gadgets and food fight for space on busy social media feeds.
Stevens said her team's agreement with Cinco was for the Dubai-based impressario to "lend a gown to a public figure in return for PR, publicity and safe return of the gown."
Cinco, in a rare display of outrage on Instagram, lashed out at Stevens' team for calling her finals gown, which he designed, ill-fitting and for accusing him of sabotaging the black, statuesque beauty in favor of the Philippines.
Stevens didn't get to model the M5 frock on stage because she missed the semifinals cut.
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"As you all know, even in the best intentioned deals, things can and did go wrong. In my case, the preliminary gown did not end up fitting perfectly," Stevens said.
"Unfortunately my team who had worked so hard was upset that Michael did not deliver his end and they did make a comment. This was WRONG on my team’s part. As part of my team, I fully apologize," she said.
Most sponsorship agreements are clear cut. A piece of tech, for example, is loaned out for a specified period of time in exchange for a review or a feature article. When it's an advertorial, money is involved and the sponsor has a say on the content. When it's not, the article merely mentions the products and some other information like the date and time of launch.
It's tricky when there are no formal agreements and it's a conversation between friends. Cinco has dressed past Miss Universe-Canada winners. He has also dressed former queens in the farewell walks -- The Philippines' Pia Wurtzbach in 2016 and France's Iris Mittenaere in 2017.
Cinco drew the line when Stevens and her handlers said his gown was an ill fit. He said he even paid for professional photographers to shoot Stevens in his couture gowns in the desert, weeks before the finals.
Stevens said he had been targeted by racist trolls since the fued broke on social media.
"This is a disagreement that should have been handled in private and with maturity. However, it has devolved into an ego clash on social media, and dragged me into the middle of it," she said.