As you probably are aware, Perez Hilton took credit for Miss Prejean only finishing as first runner-up to winner Miss North Carolina, stating that Prejean was a "dumb bitch." He later upped the profane ante.
Here's Alicia Jacobs' initial take, which she later unsuccessfully tried to flush down the memory hole (thanks, Google!).
NOTE: I have re-inserted Jacobs' allegation that Keith Lewis was "benefactor" of breast implants for Prejean at the point where L. A. Times blogger Richard Abowitz quoted its location.
TUESDAY, APRIL 21, 2009
I had planned that this blog entry would have been my first hand account of judging the 2009 MISS USA PAGEANT. I will write that story, but not today. Today, I want to briefly discuss what is now known as "THE MISS CALIFORNIA USA DEBACLE!"
Since Sunday night's pageant, I have been inundated with people wanting to know how Miss California's answer to Perez Hilton's question affected my final judging. I can tell you that it GREATLY affected me & the final score I gave Carrie Prejean. I can reveal that throughout the live telecast, I LIKED Miss California, but I certainly was not overly impressed by her. Throughout the competition, I gave her very good scores. (truth be known, I was probably most impressed by MISS TENNESSEE, but unfortunatly,she did not make it past the top 10...oh well, to each his own.)
For the final round of scoring (which is, of course, the most important) the judges are asked to assign a ranking to each young woman. As each finalist is brought to the foot of the stage, we judges then punch a number into our scoring computers. We assign a ranking of 1 thru 5. Assigning the #1, means she is our choice for MISS USA, #2, first runner-up.... and #5, means she is my choice for fourth runner-up. In our 7:30 am judges briefing, it was made VERY clear that the "final ranking" should be decided by everything we had seen throughout the entire pageant. Ironically, I asked how heavily we should weigh the girl's performance on the "final question." Miss Universe president, Paula Shugart said, that yes, it's important to articulate & answer intelligently, (remember MISS SOUTH CAROLINA TEEN USA a few years ago, "such as, U.S. Americans, such as, such as...well, Paula told us she had been winning the pageant until that fateful moment) Paula & Executive producer, Phil Gurin added that yes, the response to the question is important, but make the final ranking your overall impression of the young woman. Made sense to me.
Interestingly, of the 5 judges who asked questions, Perez was the only one who had written his own question...& when I asked him what his question was, he would not reveal it, telling me he wanted to keep it secret, but that it had been approved by Paula Shugart & the producers. So of course, when Miss California selected Perez, I couldn't wait to hear the question. HOOOOOOLLY COOOOOW!
Most of us former "pageant girls" can't help but play along, so my first thought upon hearing the "gay marriage question" was ,"what a great question!"...& in my head, I answered it, & of course, I was instantly crowned Miss USA 2009!
Ok, back to reality, to be fair, the beginning of Prejean's answer was ok...but, she made the mistake of not knowing when to shut her mouth. As she continued to speak, I saw the crown move further & further away from her. When she finished, she looked strangely proud for a moment. Personally, I was STUNNED on several levels. First, how could this young woman NOT know her audience and judges? Let's not forget that the person asking the question is an openly gay man, at least 2 people on the judges panel are openly gay. Another judge has a sister in a gay marriage. Her very own state pageant director, KEITH LEWIS is an openly gay man who has been a very generous benefactor of hers...in many ways. (2 ways in particular....if you get my drift??) Did I mention I was STUNNED? I was also personally insulted & hurt. Prejean's words hit very close to home for me. Some of the most important people in my life, happen to be gay. A few months ago, on November 1, 2008, I was maid of honor at the wedding of my very dear friends, Robert Aganza & Jorge' Rodriguez. I flashed back to that beautiful wedding ceremony, where everyone in the room was crying tears of joy & love. How can she be saying this, is all I could think in that moment. Remembering that we were on live television, I actually recall having to close my wide-opened mouth, I then looked over to Perez, who was seated right next to me, he was just shaking his head, he actually seemed a bit hurt? Then came the very loud booing in the theatre, followed by "a word from our sponsors."
During the commercial break, fellow judges, Perez, Shandi Finessey (Miss USA 2004) & I spoke, we were all shocked by what we had just heard. (I tweeted as much too ) we came back from the commercial, & now, it was the moment of truth. This was the moment where we had to assign that all-important final ranking...1 thru 5. Yes, I struggled, prior to her final question, Miss California was not my pick for Miss USA, but I would have chosen her as 1st runner-up. My final ranking for Miss California was 4th runner-up...& if I could have made her 51st runner-up, I would have.
Please understand, that as a journalist, I am passionate about freedom of speech, however, I am also passionate about the importance of compassion & humanity, & that we should ALL have the right to love & share our lives with WHOMEVER we chose. If Carrie Prejean is against gay marriage, she certainly has that right, but, if it was her intention to be MISS USA (and I think it was) why not answer that question with diplomacy & heart? Sometimes, (pageants & politics, to name a few) we have to be mindful of using a platform in a hurtful way, like international television (The Miss USA PAGEANT was seen by over 7 million viewers in the U.S. alone, & in at least 121 different countries) Yes, Miss USA should be beautiful, be physically fit, & look great in a swimsuit, she also has to be able to think on her feet & answer any question thrown at her in an articulate & non-offensive manner. Outwardly, Miss California was wonderfully prepared, & in many ways, she looked the part of Miss USA. It has occurred to me that the all-knowing power of the Universe took over the final 15 minutes of the Miss USA telecast. What were the odds that Perez Hilton, an openly gay man, who insisted on writing his own question, would have his name randomly selected by Miss California? Thank goodness, or thank the universe for this occurrence...how horrible if Miss California USA's lack of good judgement had not been disclosed until it was too late? Maybe it's true, & maybe everything really does happen for a reason. It is my opinion that MISS USA must have social grace...Miss California USA does not.
Tune in to my STAGE 3 segment tomorrow at 4:00 & 11:00 for more exclusive, first- hand scoop...including my interview with Keith Lewis, Executive Director of THE MISS CALIFORNIA USA PAGEANT, & I'll tell you about my dinner with Keith & his business partner, former Miss USA, actress, SHANNA MOAKLER. I'll also tell you exactly where Miss California & Miss North Carolina stood in the scoring BEFORE Perez' question...VERY VERY JUICY!!!!!
Posted by Alicia at 2:11 PM