Kathy Zhu is the University of Michigan student who says she was stripped of her title and a chance to compete at the Miss World America pageant over her conservative political views.
On July 18, Zhu, 20, posted screenshots of emails and text messages that she had received from Michigan’s Miss World America state chair Laurie Dejack. In one email, Dejack told Zhu, “It has been brought to the attention of Miss World America ‘MWA’ that your social media accounts contain offensive, insensitive and inappropriate content.” Some on social media have accused Zhu of being racist.
In the wake of the scandal, Zhu told the Detroit Free Press, “I have seen this happen before. It is just not okay to be prejudiced against people who just have a different political view as you.” Zhu has said that she will not be taking any further legal action against Miss World America.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. One of the Incidents Responsible for Zhu’s Stripping Was Her Refusal to Wear a Hijab in 2018
In February 2018, Zhu said that she declined to wear a hijab at the University of Central Florida on World Hijab Day. Zhu tweeted at the time, “There’s a “try a hijab on” booth at my college campus. So you’re telling me that it’s now just a fashion accessory and not a religious thing? Or are you just trying to get women used to being oppressed under Islam.”
The incident was covered by the Orlando Sentinel at the time. That article refers to Zhu has being a freshman at UCF. Despite calls for Zhu’s expulsion, the university maintained that no further action would be taken over the incident.
Speaking about the incident to the Detroit Free Press in 2019, Zhu said, “I said that it was (getting women used to) being oppressed because there are so many women in Middle Eastern countries that are being punished and stoned for refusing to wear a hijab. Nobody is talking about that in the West because all they see is everyone being at peace, but that is the beauty of America.” Zhu has also joked that her critics are part of the “tolerant left.”
The other incident was in 2017 when Zhu tweeted that the “majority of black deaths are caused by other blacks… Fix problems within your own community first before blaming others.” That tweet was accompanied by statistics. Zhu has said that she does not regard herself as a racist. In 2019, Zhu tweeted about that message, “When the left calls you racist for using statistics to back up your claim, you know you’re on the right side of history.”
2. Zhu Was Born in China but Grew Up in Kissimmee, Florida
Zhu was born in Qingdao, Shandong, in China but grew up in Kissimmee, Florida. Zhu told Next Shark in November 2016, in an article titled, “Meet the Chinese-American Teen Who’s Donald Trump’s Biggest Fan,” that she emigrated legally to the United States with her parents when she was 8 years old. Zhu said her parents are small business owners.
Zhu originally studied political science at the University of Central Florida.
Zhu transferred from UCF to the University of Michigan in 2018 and expects to graduate soon, according to CBS Detroit.
In November 2018, Zhu wrote on Facebook that she was accepted as a transfer student to the University of Michigan. That post included various statistics about the university’s rankings.
3. Zhu Describes Herself as a Supporter of Donald Trump & a Moderate
On her Twitter bio, Zhu describes herself as an “Independent Thinker” and a “Political Commentator.” Zhu adds, “Let’s fight for freedom of thought.” Zhu told the Detroit News that she considers herself to be a fan of Donald Trump but is a right-leaning moderate. In the past, Zhu posted a meme to her Instagram page that in addition to advocating for many conservative causes, advocated for gay marriage and marijuana smokers.
Zhu said in July 2016 tweet that she had met far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos who told her, “When I met Milo, he called me hot and then said, “Hot people don’t need feminism”. #antifeminist #FeminismIsCancer.”
Zhu told Next Shark that she had been a supporter of President Barack Obama before switching her allegience from Democrat to Republican. Zhu also said that her parents had been supporters of Hillary Clinton until she changed their minds. Zhu said of those who supported Hillary Clinton, “It’s a bandwagon trend. They hear something from one person and they’ll just automatically believe it because a large number of people believe in the same thing. I noticed I was being fed into that too.”
Zhu is the vice president of the College Republicans at the University of Michigan. The group has said they are standing behind Zhu in the wake of the scandal. On her Facebook page, Zhu says she has been the vice president of the group since April 2019. Between July 2016 and 2017, Zhu was a neighborhood team leader for the Republican Party of Florida. Zhu has also been a violin and piano teacher and was in ROTC while in high school. As her favorite quote on Facebook, Zhu writes, “People will broadcast your failure and whisper your success.”
4. Zhu Performs Cover Versions of Popular Songs on Her YouTube Channel
Zhu has YouTube channel that she regularly updates with popular songs. On a Patreon page for her singing career, Zhu refers to herself as a “political commentator, YouTube singer, and lifestyle content creator.”
On that profile, Zhu says that she is an “independent thinker because I think critiquing both sides of the political spectrum is the only way to stay true to your own beliefs.” Zhu adds that although she does “lean right but I do have some liberal views.” Zhu then says that her story has been covered by “CBC, NBC, Fusion, RT, Infowars, etc.”
5. Zhu’s Case Has Become a Rallying Cry for the Right on Social Media
Zhu’s case has become a rallying cry for conservatives and right-wing pundits on Twitter. While Zhu said of the scandal in an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle, “They’re not letting people that represent another side of the story represent them. They only want someone to say things that people want to hear. And there’s a lot of things in this world that it’s hard to hear, but it’ the truth. It’s not even about a crown or a pageant. It’s about the fact that people really do discriminate against people with conservative views.”
Here are some of the most impassioned responses: