Beauty pageants have long been a celebration of female dignity and…okay fine, they have mostly been a celebration of hot ladies in bikinis, but still, that makes them about as integral to the fabric of American society as apple pie, pro wrestling and monster truck shows. Naturally, this means that there are certain expectations people have for beauty queens, who much like the aforementioned pro wrestlers are expected to be role models for America’s youth. Of course, this means that roughly 968% of them get busted making out with each other over a pile of cocaine, but that’s just what the kids are into these days. But there are some beauty queens who push the boundaries a little too far and get all the church ladies and Donald Trump in an uproar, and it is these intrepid pioneers of the human spirit we honor here today, for they are responsible for eight of the biggest beauty queen scandals ever.
8. Melissa King
Melissa King, the 2013 Miss Delaware Teen USA, was forced to relinquish her crown for behaving too much like one of her subjects. Pageant organizers apparently do things ass-backwards, as they probably should have done a background check before the pageant instead of after. If they did, they would have found that King had been paid $1,500 to do a porn shoot. The porn’s producers said she approached them about the shoot, and wanted to do even more, but they declined since she was “too frigid.” Ouch. I guess the only refuge for a failed porn star is beauty pageants, but even if she hadn’t been pimped out on camera, her two outstanding warrants in the state of Maryland probably would have finished her off. I bet her college admissions essay was more interesting than yours though.
7. Mary Leona Gage
Mary Leona Gage won the 1957 Miss USA pageant, but was stripped of the title for being a big ol’ liar. It turns out that she was only 18 instead of 21 like she claimed, and already had two kids because, well, she got married when she was 14. Her husband was 25. Shockingly, she represented Maryland and not Appalachia in the Miss USA pageant. If Jerry Lee Lewis was a judge, he would have immediately crowned her Miss Universe and then run-off with her in the trunk of his car. Gage was found unconscious thanks to a suicide attempt at age 26, after which she wrote her autobiography, titled – and I swear I’m not making this up – My Name is Leona Gage, Will Somebody Please Help Me? So at least this had a happy ending.
6. Elizabeth Ward
The 1982 winner of the Miss America pageant, Ward was a native of Arkansas while Bill Clinton was the governor. Cue ominous music. She managed to get through her reign scandal free, got married, became Elizabeth Ward Gracen, and started a successful acting career. You may know her from her role in the TV show version of The Highlander. But in 1992, a certain former governor ran for President, and rumors began to swirl that Ward had an affair with Clinton, because, well, who didn’t? She denied it, but in 1998 she admitted they had a one-night stand, which was followed by Kenneth Starr (remember him?) trying to subpoena her for his giant Penthouse letter he was composing for Congress. Eventually, Clinton was impeached, metaphorically told Congress to suck it, and the former Miss Arkansas received a commemorative cigar in the mail. That last part may just be speculation on my part, but you’ll never convince me it’s not true.
5. Jenna Talackova
Jenna Talackova was selected to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada Pageant, which quickly became controversial once it was discovered that Talackova was, well, was born a dude. The pageant organizers flipped out, especially Donald Trump, which is pretty hypocritical when you consider his hair was born a marmot. Talackova had previously competed in the 2010 Miss International Queen for transgendered and transsexual women in Thailand (where else?), which made Trump the 176,648,798th rich dude to be fooled by a transsexual from Thailand. Talackova, though, wasn’t about to put up with Trump’s weak bullshit, sued, and managed to keep her spot in the pageant. She didn’t win, but did well, and even won the pageant’s Miss Congeniality award. Donald Trump, meanwhile, remains a flaming asshole.
4. Tracy Lippard
Tracy Lippard was a contestant in the Miss Virginia pageant, and after failing to win, she did the natural thing by packing up a gun, and hunting down her boyfriend who missed the show. That’s when things really got out of hand. Lippard’s boyfriend told her that he was actually engaged to another woman, and that he had knocked up a third woman in West Virginia. Lippard then showed up at the pregnant lady’s parent’s house, hit her daddy on the head with a hammer a couple of times, and then was subdued by the old man since he was a former secret service agent and she was a beauty pageant contestant. Lippard was eventually convicted of two counts of second degree attempted murder in a trial in which a lawyer described her as a “psycho Barbie doll gone bad.” Her boyfriend, meanwhile, was just lucky that she didn’t make him look like a human Ken Doll.
3. Laura Zuniga
Laura Zuniga was a successful Mexican beauty queen who was selected to compete in the 2009 Miss International Pageant, but in 2008 she was arrested along with a handful of dudes, allegedly carrying $53,000 in cash, two AR-15 rifles, three handguns, 633 rounds of ammunition, and 16 cellphones. Zuniga told police that she and her boyfriend were going to “go shopping in Colombia and Bolivia.” Even Lionel Hutz could close this case. Naturally, she was stripped of her crown. Shockingly, though, Zuniga managed to slide when she audaciously claimed that her boyfriend was a high-ranking member of the Juarez, Mexico drug cartel and the brother of an imprisoned drug lord, that he had kidnapped her, and that she didn’t know what in the hell was even happening. A judge decided he didn’t want to have anything to do with this crazy bullshit and let her go because I guess Mexico is just chill like that.
2. Kumari Fulbright
Kumari Fulbright, a former Miss Arizona contestant and law student, was busted in 2007 after her ex-boyfriend went to the law and told them that Fulbright had kidnapped him, robbed him, and tortured him before he managed to escape. Well, okay then. It turns out that Fulbright had fallen in with a shady dude who looked like he had spent some time shopping at the Walter White pharmacy, and that this dude led her down the path to ruin and torture. Look, say what you will about the other ladies on this list, but at least none of them ever listed “torture” as one of their hobbies during their pageants. I’m guessing she didn’t win Miss Congeniality. She did win two years in prison, though, where her beauty queen status probably went over really well with the other fine ladies serving time.
1. Vanessa Williams
In 1984, Vanessa Williams was the first African-American to be crowned Miss America. Just before the end of her one year reign, Williams was pressured to resign after nude photos of her getting friendly with another lady appeared in Penthouse. Williams claims that the photos, which were taken in 1982, were supposed to be artful and tasteful, and that all nudity would be obscured as the models were just supposed to be silhouettes. Hugh Hefner claimed that he turned down the photos, because he’s a goddamn gentleman, but Bob Guccioni had no such qualms, and bought and published the photos because he’s Bob Guccioni. I’m guessing Larry Flynt was too busy giving wheelchair rides to midget strippers to even notice what in the hell was going on. Williams would go on to be a big pop star and then an actress, and is probably the most famous Miss America ever. For that reason alone, her scandal has to be the biggest of them all.