Beauty queen wearing gloves at orphanage accused of racism

Miss South Africa
A beauty queen wearing gloves at an orphanage has been accused of racism. Photo credit: Twitter/Official_MissSA

Photos of Miss South Africa wearing gloves while visiting children at an orphanage have sparked outrage online, but orphanage staff say any accusations she is racist are "ridiculous".

Thousands of Twitter users ridiculed Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters after photos of her at a soup drive last week circulated on social media.

The beauty queen was accused of wearing latex gloves "because she didn't want to touch black children", and users shared other photos of her hugging dogs and white children gloveless.

But Ms Nel-Peters said she wore the gloves for sanitary reasons and refuted claims there were racist motivations.

"All the volunteers on site wore gloves because we honestly thought that it's the right thing to do while working with food and while handing out food to young kids," she said.

Carol Dyantyi, a spokesperson for the Orlando West Community Centre Ikageng, told BBC the social media reaction was "ridiculous".

"Of course it wasn't because she didn't want to touch black children. We told her, and all other volunteers to wear them while they were handling food around the children."

"It was purely to protect the children from the risk of contaminated food."

Spokesperson for the beauty queen, Claudia Henkel, sent images to BBC Trending of Ms Nel-Peters gloveless and playing with the children after the food had been served.

But this gesture didn't appease critics - and a hashtag #MissSAChallenge began trending as South Africans mocked the "hygiene" reasons Ms Nel-Peters had alleged.

More than 18,000 tweets used the hashtag, and some posted pictures of themselves doing basic, domestic tasks whilst donning gloves.

Ms Henkel said the backlash had "saddened" Ms Nel-Peters, but it would not deter her from doing soup drives in the future.