March 23, 2015 07:00 PM

Japan’s newest Miss Universe contestant is breaking barriers – but not everybody is happy about it.

Ariana Miyamoto, 20, is the daughter of a Japanese woman and black man, and though she was raised in Japan, she’s found herself having to defend her ethnicity.

Miyamoto said in an interview with Japanese press that “while she doesn’t ‘look Japanese’ on the outside, on the inside, there are many Japanese things about her,” according to the blog Kotaku.

The Nagasaki native – whom Japanese refer to as a haafu, meaning someone who is half-Japanese – has been widely criticized on social media.

“Beauty contest. Miss Universe Japan is .wha? What kind of person? She s .not ..Japanese right?,” Tweeted @nao71860624, while another Tweeter chimed in with, “Is it ok to choose a haafu to represent Japan? Sometimes the criteria which they use to select Miss Universe is a bit of a mystery,” according to translations by The Washington Post.

“Sometimes, due to their alluring features, haafu are not always treated the same, or even as Japanese, as their native peers,” reports Japan’s Rocket News 24. “Miss Nagasaki faced her fair share of race-related challenges too and although some people are against her acting as a representative for Japan due to her mixed heritage, she is also receiving a lot of support.”

According to the news site, Miyamoto spent her high school years in the U.S. before she returned to Japan to become a model. She is a master of Japanese calligraphy and lists her hobbies as cooking and touring – she also has a motorcycle license.

As she gets ready to face the Miss Universe competition next January, Miyamoto seems to be focusing on the positive.

“The world competition is going to be tough, but I ll believe in myself and continue doing my best!” she told Rocket News 24.

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