Beauty queens are the epitome of polished perfection. Not only do they spend a vast quantity of time preening themselves physically for pageant contests, they spend an even greater amount of time learning, studying and preparing themselves for the vigorous question rounds. Winning that crown is no walk in the park – holding on to that crown is another matter altogether.
Since the start of the Miss America contest in 1921, the contest has had its fair share of controversies. The contestants are expected to adhere to strict rules in order to maintain the ‘public image’ of the organization. They must constantly watch what they say, what they do and even what they eat. If they step out of line or do something to tarnish their sparkly tiara, then they risk losing it all.
If you think it can’t be that hard, think again. Imagine every little thing you do under the scrutiny of the public – even things you said prior to the pageant even taking place. If it’s there, they’ll find it and it will come back to haunt you. It’s an enormous amount of pressure for any young woman to be under, so is it any wonder that some crack under the weight of it all?
Let’s take a look at 15 Shocking Beauty Pageant Scandals.
15. KATIE REES AND THE FALL OF MISS NEVADA
Ten years ago, 22-year-old Katie Rees was on top of the pageant world, having just swiped the crown for Miss Nevada. Things were going swimmingly for the Florida native as she planned to partake in the Miss USA 2007 pageant…then some rather sexy images surfaced. Unfortunately for Rees, her college days came back to haunt her as pictures of a drunken night out three years prior surfaced. In the photos, Rees kissed other females and simulated various sexual acts. This didn’t impress the Miss Universe Organization and subsequently poor Katie was stripped of her title. In the years that followed, the former pageant queen was arrested several times for possession of drugs, including methamphetamine.
14. MISS WORLD ZIMBABWE AND THE NAKED PHOTO SCANDAL
Emily Kachote kept pretty hush about the nude photo leak that saw her dethroned in 2015. What we do know is that the series of photographs not only shamed Kachote, but her behaviour was dubbed ‘immoral’ by the Miss Zimbabwe Trust. In a statement released by them, they said, ‘The Miss Zimbabe executive board would like to inform the nation that it has decided to dethrone Miss Emily Kachote as Miss World Zimbabwe 2015. Being in a relationship, sexual advances to anyone and any behaviour categorized as immoral by the Miss Zimbabwe Trust is grounds for instant disqualification and dethronement.”
13. MISS LEBANON AND MISS ISRAEL
Miss Israel, Doron Matalon and Lebanese Miss Universe contestant Saly Greige created quite the stir when they dared to be photographed together a couple of years ago. You’d be forgiven for not understanding the big deal here, so let me spell it out for you. Lebanon and Israel have been at war since 2006. It was Miss Lebanon that bore the brunt of the controversy, with angry followers tweeting her abuse such as – ‘If you sell your honor it’s easy to sell your country.’ Miss Israel made a statement via her Facebook page detailing her disappointment at the situation, ‘It doesn’t surprise me, but it still makes me sad. Too bad you cannot put the hostility out of the game, only for three weeks of an experience of a lifetime that we can meet girls from around the world and also from the neighbouring country.’
12. CARRIE PREJEAN AND GAY MARRIAGE
Back in 2009, Carrie Prejean just missed out on the Miss USA crown, coming first runner-up. In a shocking twist, during her question and answer segment Prejean admitted her anti-gay marriage views. Pageant judge and gossip queen Perez Hilton asked Prejean if she thought that all states should legalize same sex marriage. ‘Well I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other,’ answered the Miss California title holder. ‘We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family, I think I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman.’ Hilton later said it was her answer to this question that cost her the Miss USA crown. Prejean was also stripped of her Miss California title due to a ‘breach in contract.’
11. MISS TEEN OREGON-WORLD AND HEROIN POSSESSION
Jamie Lynn France was every inch the beauty queen when she worked her butt off to earn the title of Miss Teen Oregon-World in 2009. Although it might have seemed like the teen was on the right track, things turned sour for France as she entered her 20’s. In 2016, she was arrested for the possession of a variety of drugs, including methamphetamine, heroin and buprenorphine. That wasn’t France’s first arrest of the year either. In January 2016, she received a DUI for being involved in a head-on collision with another intoxicated driver. It just goes to show how quickly things can unravel.
10. MISS DELAWARE WAS TOO OLD TO COMPETE
Miss Delaware 2014, Amanda Longacre had a rough time with the pageant world. After winning her title and prepping to compete in Miss America 2015, things went sour when she was stripped of her title and blocked from competing because she would turn 25 in October. Miss America rules require contestants to still be 24 on December 31st. Understandably, Longacre was devastated and filed a $3-million-dollar lawsuit against the organization to cover her financial losses. The organization blamed state pageant officials for the error who they said – ‘missed the age discrepancy in Longacre’s submitted paperwork.’ What a lesson in how to turn a beautiful thing ugly.
9. MISS USA AND FAKE RESIDENCY QUESTIONS
Miss USA winner 2014 Nia Sanchez has a lot of questions surrounding her tactics, even a couple of years on. Supposedly, after failing to clinch the Miss California title three years in a row, Sanchez created a paper trail to make herself eligible to compete in the Miss Nevada USA competition instead. The rules state that you must be a resident in the state for six months to be able to compete. Despite the questions surrounding her residency and the truth of it, nothing was ever brought against her and she maintains her crown – however, there were a lot of extremely annoyed beauty queens as well as die-hard fans.
8. MISS FLORIDA (ALMOST)
There is nothing worse than being told you’re the winner…just to have it taken away days later through no fault of your own. Sadly, Elizabeth Fetchel learned this the hard way when she had to hand back her Miss Florida crown in 2014, just five days after receiving it. A tabulation error saw Fetchel take the title, when it should have gone to first runner up Victoria Cowen. ‘Initially, it was completely devastating,’ Fetchel told People at the time. ‘It took a good 24 hours for me to process what this would mean for my future. I had already planned out what the next year was going to be like, and now things had changed.’
7. MISS UNIVERSE AND WEIGHT GAIN CONTROVERSY
Over the past few years we have a seen a resurgence in feminism and body positivity – and rightly so. Back in 1996, Alicia Machado kicked some serious butt to beat worthy rivals for the title of Miss Universe. Everything was going well…until officials threatened to replace her unless she lost weight. Reports differ as to the actual amount of weight Machado put on, with CNN reporting it at the time as 60 pounds and the beauty queen herself stating it was closer to 15. Whatever the actuality, it was a travesty that shocked pageant contestants and the public alike. Do you think it would happen in 2017? Not without a riot.
6. STEVE HARVEY ANNOUNCING THE WRONG WINNER
The stage is set. The two final two contestants are in the spotlight. The atmosphere is tense as comedian and actor Steve Harvey prepares to read out the result… ‘Miss Universe 2015 is…Columbia!’ Tears are shed. Flowers are handed out, and a sash is adorned. It’s a moment that will go down as one of the most memorable wins in pageant history…for all the wrong reasons. After the crown is placed on the head of Miss Colombia, things get really, really awkward. An embarrassed Harvey makes his way back to the stage and utters, ‘Okay, folks. I have to apologize. The first runner up is Colombia. Miss Universe 2015 is Philippines.’ It was the gaff that shocked the world and was replayed a million times on the news, devastating Miss Colombia.
5. MISS PUERTO RICO AND HER ANTI-MUSLIM TWITTER RANT
The beauty pageant landscape has always been a celebration of racial diversity and equality – appreciating culture is one of the best things about the Miss World and Miss Universe contests. So, with that in mind, it isn’t surprising that Destiny Velez was taken to task by the Miss America Organization after writing these seriously ill advised tweets in December 2015 – ‘There’s no comparison between Jews, Christians & Muslims. Jews nor Christians have terrorizing agendas in their sacred books’ and ‘Islamic God is not the same God as Christians and Jews’. What’s more, these were tweeted from the official Miss Puerto Rico account. As a result of her uneducated and abusive remarks, Velez was suspended indefinitely from her role.
4. MISS CAROLINA TEEN AND FORGERY
One things for sure, Madison Cox takes a very pretty mugshot. Good job too, as she was arrested for forgery when she was just 17. After taking a notepad from her local chiropractic clinic, Cox proceeded to write herself a bunch of notes to explain the classes she had missed at school. It may sound like a clever idea, but once an investigation started it soon became apparent that the former title holder was up to no good. A good ol’ twitter rant ensued where Madison showed her age and maturity – ‘It’s sad that I’m the only entertainment in y’alls lives.’ She went on to be charged with counterfeiting/forgery.
3. MISS TEEN USA AND THE N-WORD
Karlie Hay was on top of the world when she picked up the crown for Miss Teen USA 2016, representing the state of Texas. It wasn’t long before someone went trawling through Hay’s social media accounts and found some incriminating tweets from a couple of years prior. ‘Watching taken with out my n**** @maryguinn1 because she chooses @Willis_Trace over me. Feel special bitch’ and ‘I know I’m a comedian n*****’. Clearly entirely unaware of cultural appropriation or appropriation in general, Hay was only 15 years old at the time of posting. She issued a public apology and vowed to use her title to educate.
2. VANESSA WILLIAMS AND PENTHOUSE
In 1984 Vanessa Williams made history as the first ever black Miss America. Better known these days for her supreme acting talent and roles in shows like Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives, Williams started out as a beauty queen – and she was damn good at it. Just a few short weeks before the end of her reign, Penthouse acquired unauthorized nude photographs of Williams and published them. Despite being a victim, Williams was pressured to relinquish her hard earned title, bearing the brunt of the backlash. In September 2015, she returned to the contest as head judge, and received a public apology for the events in 1984. Too little too late, or a nice gesture? What do you think?
1. ZARA HOLLAND HAD NAUGHTY “FUN” ON LIVE TV
Let’s skip across the pond for this last one. In 2016 Miss Great Britain title holder Zara Holland participated in reality TV series Love Island. A host of gorgeous singletons are placed in a villa in Spain and left to their own devices, with the aim of finding love. The show is notorious for the after dark antics of participants. Holland shocked the nation and her fans when she was one of the first cast mates to have sex on that season of the show, with co-star Alex Bowen. Although nothing too explicit was seen, it was enough for officials to inform Holland that she had been stripped of her title while she was still on the show. Ouch. Understandably, Holland was devastated and left the show of her own accord a few days later. It sparked new controversy over the rules surrounding the contest and the rights of the title holders.
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