Beauty pageants have undergone a lot of scrutiny over the years, with many criticizing the fact that women are judged on their looks. Things like the swimsuit competition and the stereotype surrounding the perfect beauty pageant contestant have created a certain stigma surrounding the organizations as well as the person wearing the crown.
Things have evolved over the years, since many pageants didn’t even allow women of color to compete through the organizations during the early years of pageantry. Nowadays, beauty pageants encompass women of all different nationalities, with the Miss Universe pageant helping to give focus to countries all over the world. While the swimsuit round is still a huge part of the competition, the question and answer portion is also equally as important. Contestants should be well-rounded women that have an educational background, the ability to be articulate and knowledgeable, as well as being beautiful. Even after obtaining her crown, the winner usually goes on to fight for a particular charitable cause and inspire other women through speaking engagements and appearances.
The high standards put on the contestants and the seedy underbelly of the organizations have brought some scandals out into the public eye over the years, with each one more indecent than the next. From nude photographs to murders, the beauty pageant world can be just as salacious as anything else in the celebrity world. Check out our list of the 10 biggest scandals in beauty pageants, and see how the world of pageantry isn’t always as glamorous as you might think.
10. Pageant Queens Gone Wild
While the public would like to believe that pageant contestants all get along and different pageant queens have mentorships with the younger generation, the 2006 Miss Teen USA and Miss USA took a bit too far. Tara Conner and Katie Blair were out partying when they were photographed allegedly binge drinking and snorting cocaine. Photos surfaced of the two in a make-out session, which led to public outrage over their actions. Katie Blair was a spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the scandal led to her termination with the organization. Tara Conner is no stranger to controversy since she went through a number of rumored allegations throughout her reign, outside of the Blair incident.
9. Steve Harvey Messes Up The Crowning Ceremony
Oftentimes award shows and pageants look to well-known comedians to host or judge, since it creates more buzz and helps to keep the event entertaining. Steve Harvey seemed to be a great choice to host the 2015 Miss Universe pageant since he has extensive experience hosting because of his success from Family Feud. Yet, everyone makes mistakes, and his just happened to be on TV for all to see. When announcing the winner, Harvey mistakenly said the winner was Miss Colombia, and then tried to fix the mistake afterwards. The ceremony became extremely awkward and painful to watch, with Miss Colombia looking devastated and Miss Philippines struggling to act appropriately in such an uncomfortable situation.
8. Vanessa Williams Loses Miss America Crown
In 1983, Vanessa Williams made history when she became the first African American woman to ever win the title of Miss America. Yet, her moment was short-lived, since after 10 months, she resigned. During her reign, Penthouse magazine published some nude photos that were taken before her time as a Miss America contestant. Although her crown wasn’t formally stripped from her, the organization admits that the situation was handled poorly and she may have been pressured to resign. At the Miss America 2016 pageant, the Miss America CEO called Williams onstage and said, “I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be.”
7. Miss California Stripped Of Crown
Just as athletes have to adhere to the moral clauses in their contracts, beauty pageant contestants often have to adhere to specific clauses stipulated in their contracts while competing. This contract is also implemented throughout their reign of whatever title they hold. This stipulation came into effect in 2009 when Carrie Prejean was stripped of her Miss California title after nude photos and videos were leaked online. Thirty photos and eight videos were leaked to the public, so she was terminated due to breach of contract. Although the videos didn’t depict anyone else, it was still super embarrassing for Prejean and the organization of beauty pageantry.
6. Miss Great Britain Slept With A Judge
Generally there is an extensive background check when it comes to beauty pageant contestants, but when Danielle Lloyd was crowned Miss Great Britain in 2006, someone definitely dropped the ball. Not only had she previously posed for Playboy, but she had ties with one of the judges involved in the pageant. Judge Teddy Sheringham helped get Lloyd the Miss Great Britain crown by voting for her in the finale. Yet, it was discovered the two were involved in a romantic relationship. Lloyd maintains that the two didn’t start their relationship until after she was crowned, but that didn’t stop the organization from stripping her of her title.
5. Miss Sinaloa Arrested For Drug Trafficking
Laura Zuniga was the 23-year-old reigning Miss Sinaloa that had recently won the title of Miss Hispanic America. Her arrest for drug trafficking came as a shock, since she was with a group that was found with numerous guns and cartridges. One of them was her alleged boyfriend, who was a person being investigated for known ties to the drug cartel. The beauty pageant organization instantly started to distance themselves from Zuniga, since some reports began questioning the money laundering aspect of the case. One of the pageant organizations released a statement after she was stripped of her titles and said, “this organization separates itself from any activities, situations or personal relations that Laura Zuniga had outside of her participation in Miss Sinaloa.”
4. Miss Honduras And Her Sister Murdered
In 2014, María José Alvarado was the reigning Miss Honduras and slated to compete in the Miss World competition. Both she and her 23-year-old sister were reported missing, and their bodies were found in a field not too far where they were last seen in Santa Barbara. Two men were arrested, including Plutarco Ruiz who confessed to murdering both girls and disposing of their bodies. Julia Morley, Chairman of the Miss World Organization, released a statement saying, “We are devastated by this terrible loss of two young women, who were so full of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of María José Alvarado & Sofía Trinidad at this time of grief.”
3. Miss Venezuela Shot And Killed On Vacation With Family
Mónica Spear Mootz was an accomplished actress and model who won Miss Venezuela in 2004. She competed in Miss Universe 2005 and completed it as the 4th runner-up. She had married British businessman Thomas Berry and the couple had a daughter together before ultimately splitting. The couple was traveling with their daughter in 2014, when they were shot and killed during a robbery attempt. Their five-year-old daughter was also shot, but she survived. Seven people were arrested in connection with the crime, including a woman that was ultimately given a 10-year sentence.
2. Mama June Stands Behind Child Molester
As the breakout star to TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson was a child beauty pageant contestant that won over the public’s heart. From her over-the-top personality to her humble family life, the network decided to give them their own show so people could see more about what her life is like at home. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo became an instant success, with even celebrities boasting they enjoyed watching the show. Yet the series was canceled due to some troubling details that emerged involving sexual exploitation. It turned out that Mama June was continuing a relationship with sex offender, Mark McDaniel, and the father of two of her other children also served time for sexual exploitation of minors which didn’t sit well with the public.
1. JonBenét Ramsey Murder
Long before Toddler’s and Tiaras, many people didn’t know about the billion dollar business of child beauty pageantry. From putting makeup on a six-year-old to the over-the-top costume pieces that parents spend thousands of dollars on, the first time it was really introduced to the general public was after the murder of JonBenét Ramsey. People were shocked by the murder of a child, the mystery surrounding the case, and the secret world of child pageantry. This 1996 murder was never definitively solved, despite being pursued by each successive district attorney to inherit the case. Although many believed the family was involved, new DNA technology helped to exonerate the family in recent years (which shows physical evidence of an unknown person) in key aspects of the crime scene.