The beauty pageant world can be a pretty difunctional place. Behind all the sequins, singing, and swimsuits, there’s a whole slew of scandals just waiting to be uncovered. Keep reading to find out about the rumors and secrets pageant officials tried to push under the rug.
Somebody get Olivia Pope in here, stat. How many of these scandals do you know about?
The Murder Of JonBenét Ramsey
We’re starting this list off with the most infamous beauty pageant scandal of them all. When JonBenét Ramsey’s name was in the news back in the late ’90s, it was the first time many Americans had even heard of child beauty pageants.
JonBenét Ramsey, a beauty pageant contestant, was murdered when she was just six years old. The case is still open. A lot of people think her parents did it, or that her parents are covering up for her older brother. From the bizarre ransom note to the weird fake confessions, nothing about this case makes sense.
Lindsay Evans’ Drug Scandal
Lindsay Evans, AKA Miss Teen Louisiana, dined and dashed in 2008. She left the restaurant so fast that she forgot her purse, her ID, and a bag of a certain green recreational drug. She was stripped of her title and ended up in Playboy the next year.
Later, Lindsay became a model and even appeared in Robin Thicke’s “blurred lines” video.
Steve Harvey Crowns The Wrong Miss Universe
In December 2015, Steve Harvey was ready to change one woman’s life forever and crown her Miss Universe. He read a card and handed the crown to Miss Columbia, Ariadna Gutierrez-Arévalo. Ariadna cried and waved to the crowd, and then Harvey came running back onstage.
Miss Columbia was actually the first runner up; the real first place winner was Pia Alonzo Wurztbach from the Philippines. Talk about an awkward moment.
Bert Parks Was Booted Off The Show
Bert Parks was the longtime emcee of the Miss America pageant and the singer of the event’s signature theme song (“There she is… Miss America…”). He hosted the show from 1955 to 1979. In 1979, pageant officials dropped Parks because they thought he was too old for the job.
Johnny Carson was so upset about this that he organized a letter-writing campaign to try and get Parks back on the show. It was all in vain. Parks never got his job back, and he died two years later.
MySpace Ruined Katie Rees
Katie Rees, AKA Miss Nevada USA 2007, lost her crown after compromising photos of her appeared on MySpace. In 2008, she was arrested after an incident with a cop, and she was suspected of smuggling drugs into Australia.
Maybe Miss America just isn’t made for the digital age.
Lauren Upton’s “Map” Disaster
A video of Lauren Upton answering a pageant question went viral in 2007. She was asked why she thought one-fifth of Americans can’t find the United States on a map. Her response was a jumbled mess of phrases that sounded something like, “some US Americans don’t have maps and the Iraq… south Africa and Asian countries…”
Lauren still placed fourth in the pageant.
Alicia Machado Angered Trump
After Alicia Machado won Miss Universe in 1996, media outlets started to comment about her changing body. Pageant officials threatened to take away her crown unless she went on a diet and slimmed down.
Live on the Howard Stern show, Donald Trump called Machado “an eating machine.” Alicia ended up keeping her title, and went on to work in television and as a Playboy centerfold model.
Vanessa Williams Lost Her Crown
In 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first African American woman to win the Miss America Pageant. That same year, she was stripped of her crown when Penthouse magazine released nude photos of her.
Williams didn’t let this incident get her down, though. She kept working as a singer and an actress, and even starred on a few big TV shows.
Danielle Lloyd Got In Trouble
After pageant officials learned that the former Miss Great Britain 2006 had posed for Playboy, they decided to take away her title. She also dated one of the pageant judges, which is a big no-no. A $200,000 no-no to be exact. The pageant sued her for damaging their reputation.
Eventually, after some time in the limelight, Danielle got her crown back.
The Morgan Elizabeth Woolard Conspiracy
Miss Oklahoma came in second in the Miss USA 2010 pageant, but some spectators thought she lost the crown because of her conservative politics. In the question and answer portion of the pageant, she spoke about supporting stricter immigration laws.
One right-wing blogger wrote, “looks like the Miss USA pageant didn’t want to risk the wrath of the open-borders mob.”
Tara Conner Gets A Second Chance
It looked like Tara Conner, AKA Miss USA 2006, was going to lose her crown. She was seen abusing drugs and alcohol, and pictures came out of her kissing that year’s Miss Teen USA winner. Then Donald Trump came to her rescue.
He called a press conference to announce that he would be giving Tara a second chance. Tara went to rehab and now serves as a public advocacy consultant for Caron Treatment Centers.
Carrie Prejean Angered The LGBT Community
When openly gay Miss USA 2009 judge Perez Hilton asked Carrie Prejean whether same-sex marriage should be legalized or not, Carrie said that she believed in “opposite marriage” between a man and a woman.
Carrie came in second in the pageant, and blamed her loss on prejudice against her religious beliefs. Then topless photos of her came out online, so…
Leona Gage Lied About Having A Family
In 1957, the winner of Miss World, Leona Gage, lost her title after her mother-in-law revealed that she was married with two children. She had also lied about her real age. Leona got married at age 14 and had two kids by the time she was 18.
This whole scandal made her super famous for a while.
Sheena Monnin Went Head To Head With Donald Trump
Sheena Monnin decided to cross Donald Trump, and Donald Trump fought back. Sheena resigned from the Miss USA program and accused Trump or rigging the contest. After she signed a contract saying she wouldn’t defame the contest, she went on Facebook and called it “fraudulent,” “lacking in morals,” “inconsistent,” and “in many ways trashy.”
Basically, she had to pay Trump a lot of money.
Helen Morgan Gave Up Her Crown
In 1974, The Welsh Miss World winner was forced to give up her crown just four days after her victory. Pageant officials discovered that she had an 18-month-old son.
Technically, having a child isn’t against the rules— you just can’t be married. Helen was forced out anyway.
Rima Fakih’s Pole Dancing
Rima Fakih won the Miss USA title in 2010. During that competition, she strutted her stuff in a gorgeous string bikini— as you do in a beauty pageant. Then some photos from a few years earlier came out of her pole dancing, fully clothed.
She was allowed to keep her title, but all of the controversy surrounding this incident seems hypocritical to me.
The Selfie That Almost Caused An International Incident
This selfie nearly caused a whole bunch of problems. In 2015, Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, posted this photo of her and three other contestants, including Miss Lebanon. Lebanon and Israel were in a state of war, and Lebanese citizens can be imprisoned for speaking with Israelis.
Miss Lebanon wrote that she’d been “cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel.”
Miss Protestors, 1968
in 1968, 400 women protested the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, NJ. These women were against the very concept of the pageant. The protesters were chanting, releasing live animals, and throwing bras. Then 600 men started chanting and protesting back at the women.
However you fell about the Miss America pageant, you have to give these women credit for standing up for what they believed in.
Where Is Nia Sanchez From?
Some people think that Nia Sanchez won the Miss USA title because she pretended she was from Nevada. Let me explain… apparently the Miss Nevada competition is easier than some other state competitions, so people think that Sanchez faked her Nevada residency to compete in an easier competition.
Investigations were conducted. Nothing was ever found.
Laura Zuniga Smuggled Weapons
Just months after Laura Zuniga was crowned Miss Hispanic America, she was arrested for drug trafficking, money laundering, and weapons charges. She tried to convince the Mexican police that she was just headed to Colombia to go shopping. Nice try, Laura.
After serving a shortened sentence, she’s slowly getting back into the pageant world.