It has been an interesting few days in the world of beauty queen scandals. Miss England Rachel Christie was stripped of her title after getting into a nightclub fight with another pageant contestant. And then there was the case of Carrie Prejean, the Miss California who was stripped of her title and sued the pageant, only to be countersued in an attempt to recoup the money the pageant had loaned Prejean to get breast implants.
Prejean and the pageant suddenly settled their suits last week with terms undisclosed. The reason for the hasty agreement became known the following day, when TMZ reported that Prejean had been confronted with the existence of a sex tape in which she had the starring role. Prejean had already survived some semi-nude photos that were unearthed while she was still Miss California, but one can imagine that this latest scandal might impact her new career as a spokeswoman for social conservatism.
As we muse over what might now become of Prejean, and await the undoubtedly inevitable release of the tape, let's look back on some of the other great moments in pageant scandal annals:
Vanessa Williams: 25 years later, this remains the biggie. When Williams was a young model in upstate New York, she posed nude for a local photographer. After she became the first black Miss America in 1984, the photographer saw the chance for a big payday and sold the photos to Penthouse. Williams was fired by the pageant with only a few months remaining in her tenure. The moral of the story, though, is that any scandal which is essentially victimless can be overcome if you have talent. Despite the way her reign ended, Williams is one of the few Miss Americas to have a noteworthy post-pageant public career, scoring as a recording artist and as an actress, most recently on Ugly Betty.
Tara Conner: The case of Conner is unusual because there wasn't one single dramatic moment that led to her nearly being fired as the 2006 Miss USA. Rather, it was tabloid reports of her carousing in New York clubs, followed by allegations of cocaine use, promiscuity, and even the charge that she was trying to corrupt the reigning Miss Teen USA. After leaving her on the hook for a few days as the charges against her grew more lurid, Donald Trump, the owner of the pageant, announced that Conner would be allowed to keep her title, although she ended up attending rehab and hit the public confessional trail after being released.
Danielle Lloyd: Lloyd worked her way through the British pageant circuit and was crowned Miss Great Britain in 2006 despite, or perhaps because of, an unbelievable brainlessness (she once referred to Winston Churchill as the first black president of the United States). This dopiness is perhaps what made Lloyd think she could keep her crown despite posing for Playboy late in 2006. She also had to deal with credible rumors that she had been secretly dating one of the pageant judges before her victory. Since losing her title, Lloyd has embarked upon one of those celebrity "careers" that is so common in Britain, comprised mostly of dating soccer players and being photographed in bikinis.
Katie Rees: Rees, who won the Miss Nevada USA title in 2006, was in some respects the victim of bad timing. Only days after the Conner scandal broke, photographs surfaced of Rees performing what looked like an entire Girls Gone Wild routine in a nightclub. The photos showing her drunkenly baring her breasts and kissing other women predated her tenure as Miss Nevada, but with the media already on the alert for pageant scandal news, and since there were no similar pictures of Conner's indiscretions, the story blew up. Trump immediately fired Rees, who has since gone on to fulfilling the next step in her destiny, as she was arrested in 2008 for assaulting a cop after a Las Vegas traffic stop.
Lindsey Evans: Nothing like getting an early start on your career as a tabloid fixture. Nearing the end of her reign as the 2008 Miss Teen USA Louisiana, Evans and several friends were arrested near Shreveport for skipping a restaurant tab. Showing why she was a pageant girl and not a National Merit semifinalist, Evans was nabbed when she returned to the restaurant to pick up the purse she had left behind. As if things weren't already bad enough, police found marijuana in the purse. Evans lost her crown, but while she was too hot for Baton Rouge, she was just right for Hugh Hefner, and served as Playboy's centerfold last month. She's still only nineteen.
Ashley Harder: Most people aren't so naive these days as to believe that pageant contestants are literally virginal -- it's enough that they simply not do anything publicly to ruin the image. However, that image becomes impossible to keep up once you become pregnant, which is what happened to Harder, the 2007 Miss New Jersey USA. Pageant rules disqualify mothers or anyone who is pregnant, and thus Harder resigned in January 2007, three months after winning the title. True, this isn't a scandal in the strict sense of the word, unless one really does think beauty queens are here to set a moral example.
Kari Ann Peniche: Peniche has lingered on the fringes of tabloid fame for several years, to the point where one wonders how she ever got into anything as conventional as beauty pageants to begin with. After competing in the Miss Teen USA pageant, she won the less prestigious title of Miss United States Teen in 2003. She was fired after word leaked that she had posed for Playboy. Since then, Peniche has 1) met, became engaged to, and then broken off an engagement with the then teenage Aaron Carter, all within the space of two weeks; 2) appeared on an as yet unaired season of Celebrity Rehab; and 3) been seen nude this past summer in the widely distributed tape that co-starred the married and also nude Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart. Clearly, she is at the start of a promising career.