Beauty queens gone bad

By A. James Memmott

January 11, 2008 at 10:17am

The world of a beauty queen can’t be easy. All those parades, all those ribbon cuttings, all those speeches.

But, as the recent case of Kumari Fulbright shows, it gets even harder if you fall off the pedestal.

“Arizona Beauty Queen Charged With Kidnapping, Torturing Ex-Boyfriend,” announced, in a story about Fulbright, who was Miss Pima County 2005 and Miss Desert Sun 2006.

Other news outlets echoed Fox, sometimes spicing up the headline even more by noting that Fulbright was also a law school student.

Beyond that, Fulbright, 25, had clerked for a federal judge. In the wake of her arrest, the University of Arizona has barred her from campus, but her lawyer is trying to get her reinstated.

“Law school is the most important thing to her, and she would not do anything to jeopardize that,” he said.

Fulbright was indicted on Dec. 18 of last year along with three men. Allegedly, they tied up Fulbright’s former boyfriend, threatened him with a gun and a knife and robbed him. Fulbright also bit the former boyfriend, police said.

Allegedly, the boyfriend had stolen jewelry from Fulbright. He escaped after a struggle.

It may not help Fulbright’s case that stories about her sometimes include a picture of her clad in a bikini and holding a machine gun. She was photographed before her arrest for a 2008 calendar featuring women with guns.

Fulbright is now free on $50,000 bail. “If she’s guilty of anything, it’s making poor choices in men,” Fulbright’s lawyer said.

Given the circumstances of her case, Fulbright has moved quickly to the top of the list of beauty queens who have gotten in trouble, a list that highlights what many see as a double standard for beauty contest winners:

They have to be seen as beautiful, but they can’t be seen as sexual. Nude photos, undisclosed children and bad boyfriends are best kept hidden away.

The list often starts with Leona Gage, who held the title of Miss USA 1957 for a day before her mother-in-law revealed that she wasn’t really a miss. Married, Gage was also the mother of two children.

Marjorie Wallace lost her Miss World 1973 title for having too many dates with high-profile men, including Tom Jones. She went on to host Good Morning America.

Vanessa Williams’s time as Miss America 1984 ended early after some nude photos of her taken in 1982 surfaced. Nonetheless, she has had a successful career as a singer and an actor.

Revealing photos have ended the reigns of other beauty queens, including Rebecca Revels, Miss North Carolina 2002; Danielle Lloyd, Miss Great Britain 2006; and Katie Rees, Miss Nevada USA 2007.

Oxana Federova of Russia, Miss Universe 2002, lost her crown for a less sensational reason: She neglected the duties of her office.

Perhaps understandably, Federova stopped fulfilling those duties after being booked on The Howard Stern Show. Federova, who has a Ph.D. in civil law, is now a police officer.

Once in a while, beauty queens keep their titles, despite problems.

Donald Trump, the owner of the Miss Universe Organization, which owns the Miss USA pageant, chose not to dethrone Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006, despite allegations that she had abused drugs and alcohol. “I’ve always been a believer in second chances,” said Trump, who later didn’t give a second chance to Rees, the 2007 Nevada winner.

Katie Blair, Miss Teen USA 2006, another of Trump’s pageants, survived despite allegations that she had been publicly intoxicated, used cocaine and kissed Conner. And now Blair and Conner star in MTV’s Pageant Palace, a reality TV show produced by Trump.

The examples of Wallace, Williams, Conner and Blair show that losing a crown or almost losing a crown is not the end of the world; indeed, it may move a career along.

And there are other women who had peaceful reigns and gone on to celebrity, including actress Halle Berry, Miss Teen America; newscaster Diane Sawyer, America’s Junior Miss; and television’s Oprah Winfrey, Miss Black Tennessee.

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