Top 10 Beauty Pageant Scandals

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PostSubject: Top 10 Beauty Pageant Scandals   Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:24 am

From Tara Connor's alleged drug use to Lauren Upton's question bumbling, beauty contests are no stranger to controversy. As Miss America 2012 is crowned, let's take a look at the most noteworthy scandals in pageant history.

Rima Fakih's Miss USA 2010 title — for which she wore a string bikini in the swimsuit competition — was put under a microscope after photos surfaced of the beauty queen pole dancing, fully clothed, during a 2007 Detroit radio show contest. The idea that a beauty pageant contestant might have once relied on her physical appearance in other contests doesn't strike us as odd. Oh, and by the way, Miss USA released official lingerie shots of the Rakih and other girls earlier this month. So what's the difference?

When Vanessa Williams became the first African American to capture the Miss America crown, in 1983, fans hailed her triumph as a blow to the pageant's racial barriers. But within months, her reign was marred by scandal. On July 23, 1984, nude photographs of Williams — snapped the previous year during her stint as a photographer's assistant — surfaced in the pages of Penthouse. Amid mounting pressure from pageant officials and sponsors, Williams resigned her crown. Though the tawdry episode became a pop-culture punch line — The Simpsons alluded to it twice — Williams rebounded smoothly, recording a slew of hits during a successful singing career and racking up acting credits punctuated by her current star turn on the sitcom Ugly Betty.

Former Miss California Carrie Prejean does not tolerate second place. Or same-sex marriage. When gossip blogger and pageant judge Perez Hilton asked Prejean during the 2009 Miss U.S.A. competition about her views on the controversial issue, Prejean replied by saying that she supported only "opposite marriage" — an answer she later claimed cost her the crown. Hilton, who is openly gay, responded by posting an online rant that called her a "dumb bitch," among other things.

The scandal took an unexpected twist in May, after nude photos of Prejean surfaced online. On the defensive once again, Prejean said the photos were taken when she was "young and naive." Pageant co-owner Donald Trump agreed, saying of the stills, "Some were beautiful, some were risqué, but, again, we're in the 21st century." A month later, though, organizers revoked her Miss California crown, citing breach-of-contract issues. "To me, she was the sweetest thing," Trump told regarding the dismissal. "Everyone else — she treated like s____."

Just two months after being crowned Miss Hispanic America, 23-year-old Laura Zuniga was detained — along with her boyfriend and six others — for racketeering, drug trafficking, weapons violations and money laundering after police caught the group carrying several 9-mm pistols, a couple of semiautomatic rifles and $53,000 in cash. A tabloid dubbed her Miss Narco for her apparent connection to the violent and vengeful underworld of Mexico's drug trade, though Zuniga insisted to police that she and her entourage were simply on their way to Bolivia and Colombia to do some "shopping." Authorities are now investigating just how she came to be Miss Hispanic America in the first place. "Everything indicates she won her crown through the intervention of her boyfriend, a drug lord," a prominent Mexican columnist wrote after Zuniga's arrest.

Ingrid Marie Rivera claimed that someone had sabotaged her clothes and makeup with pepper spray, causing harsh reactions to her face & body, two days after being crowned Miss Puerto Rico Universe 2008. The island's Forensic Science Institute determined after thorough investigations that someone had indeed doused Rivera's garments with pepper spray. She did not make it to the semi-finals at Miss Universe that year. Ingrid also represented Puerto Rico in 2005 at Miss World where she placed third.

Beauty pageants haven't exactly been agents of change. Until 1970, some of the most recognized contests — such as Miss America and Miss U.S.A. — refused to allow women of color to participate. The Miss America pageant even went so far as to codify its bigotry with its notorious "Rule number seven," which stated that all contestants must be "of good health and of the white race." So when Christina Silva's Miss California title was taken away from her in November 2007 after judges said the votes had been miscounted, Silva countered with a $500,000 lawsuit, claiming racial bias was the real reason behind the organizers' flip-flop.

The pageant's director, Keith Lewis, dismissed Silva's claims, saying, "I've had three winners since I've been a director. Two have been African American ... And the current Miss California U.S.A. is 25% Filipino. I think my record speaks for itself." Less than a year later, Silva had her own change of heart and dropped the suit.

Rumor circulated by a French language website claimed that 20-year-old Élodie Gossuin was actually a transvestite days after winning the Miss France 2001 contest. The rumor went on for months until a few days before the Miss Universe contest when the editor of the website that published the original article, stated publicly that the story was completely a fabrication. Gossuin went on to become one of the top 10 semi-finalists at the Miss Universe pageant that year. She also represented France at the Miss Europe contest that same year in Beirut, Lebanon where she became the 6th Miss France to win the title.

Tara Conner celebrated her 2006 Miss U.S.A. triumph by relocating to New York City and bingeing on the Big Apple's nightlife. The Kentucky native became a staple of the city's gossip pages and was soon fielding allegations of promiscuity and drug use unbecoming of her crown. Connor was summoned to pageant co-owner Donald Trump's office amid rumors that she would be stripped of her crown. The Donald surprised Connor — and himself — by sparing her his famous Apprentice catchphrase. "After speaking to her, I saw not only a beautiful woman but a beautiful heart," he said.

Conner spent a stint in a rehab facility and, after her discharge, copped to alcoholism and cocaine use. Though she swore off booze and rebuilt her life, the incident was far from over for Trump. Talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell blasted the tycoon's declaration that Connor deserved a second chance, noting that his own prior indiscretions made him an unlikely "moral compass for 20-year-olds in America." Trump shot back, dismissing Rosie as "fat" and a "real loser." And thusly a juicy feud was born.

Bert Parks, the longtime M.C. of the Miss America pageant, offered a simple explanation when asked about his appeal: "I'm utterly charming." Audiences agreed, and Parks, who sang the event's signature theme ("There She Is"), presided over the pageant for a quarter-century, from 1955 — its second televised year — until 1979. By that time, pageant organizers fretted that Parks was no longer a suitable public face for an event eager to attract younger viewers. The aging host was jettisoned. After his years of service, the unceremonious dismissal — Parks learned of it through a newspaper — spurred television host Johnny Carson to organize a letter-writing campaign pressing for his reinstatement. The pageant's organizers were unmoved, and though Parks returned to the program for a cameo in 1990, it was his last appearance on the show he helped popularize

Just how bad is the state of public education in America? Simply watch South Carolina teen Lauren Upton attempt to explain during last year's Miss Teen U.S.A. pageant why one-fifth of Americans are unable to locate the U.S. on a map. Her mangled, incomprehensible response — which includes mention of Iraq, "Asian countries" and the notion that "some people out there in our nation don't have maps" — became the stuff of viral legend; one YouTube clip of it has been viewed more than 50 million times. The next day during an appearance on NBC's Today show, Upton defended herself, saying, "I was overwhelmed, and I made a mistake. Everybody makes a mistake. I'm human."

Special thanks to: TIME Magazine & Veestarz
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