Growing up in Japan, "everyone thought I was a germ. Like, if they touched me they would be touching something bad," says Priyanka Yoshikawa. It's an experience she wants no one else to endure. The half-Indian, half-Japanese English teacher crowned Miss World Japan on Monday has promised to "change perceptions" about haafu, or people with one non-Japanese parent, in a country where they're sometimes associated with a "lack of purity," per the BBC. "It's like we're saying a pure Japanese face can't be a winner," a Twitter user commented after Yoshikawa's win. Others called her "dirty," per BuzzFeed. As Yoshikawa puts it, "We have problems, we've been struggling and it hurts."
"Yes, my dad is Indian and I'm proud of it," she adds. "But that doesn't mean I'm not Japanese." Yoshikawa—who will vie for the Miss World title in December—says she was inspired by Miss Universe Japan 2015 Ariana Miyamoto, whose mother is Japanese and father is African-American, per USA Today. "Before Ariana, haafu girls couldn't represent Japan," says Yoshikawa, but she wants to push perceptions further. "When I'm abroad, people never ask me what mix I am," says the beauty queen, who was born in Tokyo but spent years of her childhood in India and the US. "As Miss Japan, hopefully I can help change perceptions so that it can be the same here, too." (Read more Miss World stories.)