The language a country speaks is, without a doubt, a part of its people’s identity. The new Miss Dominican Republic Universe, Mariana Downing, is at the center of a debate because she doesn’t speak Spanish.

The controversy kicked off when the 27-year-old model, representing the Sanchez Ramirez Province, answered the last question in English during the competition on Sunday, September 3.

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However, Downing didn’t stay silent in the face of negative comments about her not speaking the language, plus she’s gearing up to learn Spanish.

“I am speaking in Spanish. Look in one, no, my Spanish will be perfect in two months. It’s that I speak English,” she said. “It’s not my fault that I was born in the U.S.”

In addition, when someone asked her what nationality she identified with, she replied: “Dominican!”

Downing is half-British, half-Dominican and aims to bring the Miss Universe crown to the Dominican Republic

True to her promise of learning Spanish, the model has been taking classes for weeks. A video circulating social media shows her practicing pronunciation with a children’s book designed for early readers.

The model’s father hails from England and her mother is Dominican. She was born in Los Angeles and lived in Miami, where she began her modeling career and signed with the Wilhelmina agency, according to reports from the local newspapers on Listin Diario and Diario Libre.

The 67th Miss Universe Dominican Republic winner is a philosophy student and actress. She will represent the Caribbean country in the international competition set to take place in El Salvador on November 17.

The internet has mixed feelings about her lack of Spanish skills, with some adding she is “not Dominican”

Amid the controversy, social media users have brought forth intriguing perspectives regarding the experiences of children of Dominicans living abroad and those who identify with the culture despite not speaking Spanish.

Magali Febles, the director of the competition, used her Instagram account to emphasize times have changed and to support Downing.


Respuesta a @JoseAngel Mariana Downing Peralta responde prenguntas completamente en español para la prensa y dice que se siente muy orgullosa de ser dominicana😍@Mariana downing #missrepublicadominicanauniverso2023 #marianadowning #republicadominicana🇩🇴🇩🇴 #soydominicana #missuniverse #porlacorona #andreinamartinez #top3 #antoniaporxild

♬ sonido original – somosRD

“Those who demand the crown for our new Miss RDU could also demand Felix Sanchez’s Olympic Gold. He was born and raised in New York, Zoe Saldana‘s nominations, Romeo Santos’s Soberano Award, or maybe Cardi B‘s Grammy,” she wrote. “Felix Sanchez, Manny [Pérez], and Carl are examples of how being Dominican is not determined by expressing it in one’s mother tongue. Still, by feeling it deeply rooted in the heart.”

Some argue that the model does not accurately portray the essence of Dominican women.

“When you compete, you can speak in English, but you should also speak Spanish. Can you imagine if the representative of Mexico was born in China and didn’t speak Spanish?” commented another user.

Another added: “Well, it is not Dominican, you are a descendant of Dominicans. To be Dominican, you must be born in the Dominican Republic.”

Many others applaud her focus on learning the language.

“You are beautiful, Mariana. Your dedication and perseverance lead you along the paths that you propose. God bless you, guide you, put good people on your path, and protect you in this new goal,” an Instagram user commented.


Replying to @Kathy Rosario Mariana Downing gana miss República Dominicana y va para miss universo 2023!! Pero critican que mariana Downing no habla espanol.. Que piensan ustedes? #misstepublicadominicana #missuniverso2023 #marianadowning #marianadowningg #kingkongfabuloso #marianadowningmissrepublicadominicana #kingkongfabulo @King Kong 2

♬ original sound – King Kong

Meanwhile, some people point fingers at the parents for not teaching their kids.

“She has every right to be part of the pageant and learn Spanish since she never lived in the country, and probably her parents did not encourage her to speak the language,” another said.