10 of the biggest beauty pageant scandals of all time

  • Beauty pageants have been around for years and throughout these years, they have had a few scandals.
  • Steve Harvey announced the wrong Miss Universe winner in 2015.
  • Vanessa Williams had to give up her crown after nude photos of her surfaced in Penthouse magazine.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Love them or hate them, beauty pageants have been a part of American culture for years– in fact, the first Miss America pageant took place in 1921.

And over the past century, there have definitely been a few scandals here and there, involving the contestants and the pageants themselves.

These are some of the biggest scandals involving beauty pageants that have happened over the years.

Miss America CEO Sam Haskell’s emails were exposed and they were filled with misogynistic language.

Getty/Donald KravitzHe resigned.

In December 2017, HuffPost published emails written by Miss America CEO Sam Haskell to others employed by the organisation, using misogynistic language to describe women who compete in the pageant.

Many of the emails spoke about certain contestants by name and referred to them as “snakes” and “c—-.”

Haskell ended up resigning two days after the emails became public, and board chair, Lynn Weidner, also resigned.

Former Miss Nevada Katie Rees was arrested for possessing and selling meth.

Getty/Ethan MillerThis wasn’t even why she was stripped of her title.

Katie Rees was stripped of her title as Miss Nevada after photos of her partially nude in a nightclub had surfaced in 2005. She apologised at the time and appealed to then co-owner of the Miss Universe Organisation, Donald Trump.

“These photographs were from an isolated incident during my teenage years,” Rees said during a press conference, according to Fox News. “This incident does not reflect who I am, or who I plan to be. I have no intention of further disgracing the state of Nevada, the Miss Universe organisation, or Mr. Donald Trump.”

Per TMZ, Rees was later arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer in 2008. She was later charged with felony drug charges in two different drug busts in 2015.

In 2015, Steve Harvey announced the wrong Miss Universe winner.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)By the time he apologised, the damage was already done.

In 2015, Steve Harvey, who was hosting the pageant, announced that Miss Colombia (Ariadna Gutierrez) had scored the title of Miss Universe when really, the true winner was Miss Philippines (Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach).

Harvey later took to Twitter to apologise, but the damage was done.

In 1984, Vanessa Williams had to give up her crown.

Vanessa Williams may have gone on to have a hugely successful career, but in the ’80s, she was at the center of a pageant scandal of her own.

After becoming the first African-American woman to be named Miss America, nude photos of Williams surfaced in Penthouse magazine. The photos had been taken while she worked as a photographer’s assistant. This led to her being forced to give up her title, which she later described as one of the lowest points of her life.

The organisation later apologised to Williams 32 years later onstage at the 2016 pageant.

“I have been a close friend to this beautiful and talented lady for 32 years,” then-CEO Sam Haskell told Williams, according to CNN. “You have lived your life in grace and dignity, and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned.

“Though none of us currently in the organisation were involved then, on behalf of today’s organisation, I want to apologise to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams,” Haskell said. “I want to apologise 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.”

In 1968, many women protested the Miss America pageant.

According to Time, back in 1968, more than 400 women protested the Miss America pageant when it was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. During the protest, the women crowned an actual sheep and threw bras, makeup, aprons, and cleaning products into a “Freedom Trash Can.”

Miss Teen USA 2016 used racial slurs on Twitter.

Miss Teen USA Karlie Hay made headlines shortly after she scored her win in 2016. As People reported at the time, Hay’s previous tweets surfaced, showing that she’d used the N-word multiple times three years earlier.

Hay was allowed to keep her title and she shared an apology in an Instagram post.

“Several years ago, I had many personal struggles and found myself in a place that is not representative of who I am as a person,” she wrote. “I admit that I have used language publicly in the past which I am not proud of and that there is no excuse for.”

Mary Leona Gage was stripped of her title after pageant officials learned she lied about some major things.

Beauty pageant scandals aren’t limited to recent years. In 1957, Mary Leona Gage was crowned Miss USA, but it didn’t take long before officials found out she had been lying about a few key things.

They found out not only was she married, but she also had two children – both of which were against pageant rules. They also found out that she was 18, not 21 like she’d told them.

She was stripped of her title and her prizes but the story turned out to be a little more complicated than initially thought. She had gotten married at 14 and sought out modelling and pageants to escape the “oppression” of her marriage, she later told The Baltimore Sun.

What followed after very public de-crowning was, according to her, multiple suicide attempts, drug addiction, accusations of child abuse, and the loss of custody of her children. She only spoke out publicly about the scandal years later in 2005 to The Sun and how it affected the rest of her life.

She died in 2010.

In 2014, the Miss Florida pageant named the wrong winner.

In 2014, Elizabeth Fechtel was named the winner of Miss Florida, but her title didn’t stick. Less than a week later, it became apparent that there had been a scoring error and her runner-up, Victoria Cowen, was actually the true winner.

That meant that Fechtel’s crown was taken away from her and Cowen competed in Miss America instead.

Genesis Davila was accused of cheating.

Genesis Davila was crowned Miss Florida USA 2017 in 2016 but had her crown taken away a week later after the pageant director accused her of having her makeup done professionally, which is against the rules.

She later sued the organisation for defamation and denied their claims. The lawsuit was later dismissed. Regardless, she was crowned Miss Florida 2018.

In 2015, Miss Amazon had her crown snatched from her head.

YouTube/MISS MEXICO PAGEANTS OFFICIALHayalla is an actress now.

In 2015, during a Brazilian beauty pageant, one of the contestants, Sheislane Hayalla, literally snatched the crown off the head of the winner of Miss Amazon, Carol Toledo, before angrily storming off stage.

Some of the other ladies looked on in horror, while others were clapping and nodding their heads. Later, Hayalla told local news outlet Globo, “Money talks in Manaus and I wanted to show the Amazon people money doesn’t talk here. She didn’t deserve the title.”

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