Unconventional Miss Germany fights back against wave of online hate

As an Iranian-born mother who is almost 40 years old, new Miss Germany Apame Schoenauer stood out at the beauty pageant.

However, these traits also exposed her to a wave of online abuse.

“I knew it would be a bit of a shock, but not as bad as this one,” Schoenauer, 39, told AFP.

She said many of the hateful messages directed at her after her coronation in February over her appearance and ethnicity were “superficial”.

But it was also her unconventional profile that inspired her to enter the contest.

“I participated in Miss Germany because I wanted to make a difference,” said Ms. Schoenauer, an architect and mother of a toddler who moved to Germany at the age of six.

After the birth of her daughter, Schoenauer decided she wanted to do something that would serve as a “role model” for young girls.

Schoenauer’s own roots were a source of inspiration.

After Martha Amini’s death in 2022, Schoenauer said the sight of “a strong Iranian woman in the streets fighting for freedom every day” motivated her to do something.

Iran has sparked a wave of protests after the in-custody death of a 22-year-old boy who was arrested by morality police on suspicion of violating a strict dress code for women.

In addition to being an architect, Schoenauer is also the founder of the Shirzan Network (Persian for “Lion Woman”), which advocates for women’s rights.

She said most Iranians were “proud” of her being crowned Miss Germany.

“They take hope from the fact that, as Iranian women, they can make a difference in another country where they grew up and have lived for more than 30 years.”

~“Asserting yourself”~

Since being overhauled in 2019, the Miss Germany pageant has shifted from focusing on waist measurements and appearance to focusing on contestants’ personalities and achievements.

The latest edition of the pageant, which is not affiliated with the Miss Universe pageant, also removed the upper age limit, allowing older women to participate.

The angry online reaction to Schoenauer’s coronation showed that her campaign “has never been more important than it is now.”

Schoenauer said it was “very sad” that people were attacking her because of her looks and background.

“If they have the courage, they should sit down at the table and have a constructive conversation with me,” she said.

“But when someone hides behind a screen, behind an anonymous name…I don’t waste energy on that.”

Schoenauer said she was shocked when she entered the male-dominated world of architecture after earning her degree.

“I learned what it means to advocate for myself, to be a woman in a man’s job, and what it means to be an Iranian woman and an immigrant.”

Schönauer said her mission as Miss Germany is to “inspire young women to be their best selves,” no matter their story.

“You can never forget your origins, but now you need to look to your future and do your best,” she said.


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