Just two months after being crowned Miss Hispanic America, 23-year-old Laura Zuniga was detained — along with her boyfriend and six others — for racketeering, drug trafficking, weapons violations and money laundering after police caught the group carrying several 9-mm pistols, a couple of semiautomatic rifles and $53,000 in cash. A tabloid dubbed her Miss Narco for her apparent connection to the violent and vengeful underworld of Mexico’s drug trade, though Zuniga insisted to police that she and her entourage were simply on their way to Bolivia and Colombia to do some “shopping.” Authorities are now investigating just how she came to be Miss Hispanic America in the first place. “Everything indicates she won her crown through the intervention of her boyfriend, a drug lord,” a prominent Mexican columnist wrote after Zuniga’s arrest.
Beauty pageants have never been a hit with the women’s rights crowd — what with all the parading around in bathing suits, touting ambitions to become a “good wife and mother” and doing cartwheels to showcase one’s “talent.” But when 400 women showed up to protest the 1968 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., the pageant’s conservative crowd wasn’t prepared for the scandalous fanfare that followed — chants of “Ain’t she sweet, makin’ profit off her meat,” the crowning of a live sheep on the boardwalk and the mass dumping of aprons, dust mops, cosmetics and bras into a Freedom Trash Can, an act that reportedly inspired the urban legend that feminists in the ’60s liked to burn bras for recreational sport.
“It was the nexus of so many issues — beauty standards, money, women’s freedom, objectification of women, patriotism,” one of the organizers later explained. Eventually, more than 600 spectators came to watch the uprising — most of them men and most of them hostile. For his part, Bert Parks, the pageant’s famed M.C., remained unfazed. When asked what he would do if one of the protesters stormed the stage during his performance of “There She Is,” Parks replied simply, “I’ll grab her by the throat and keep right on singing.”
Beauty pageants haven’t exactly been agents of change. Until 1970, some of the most recognized contests — such as Miss America and Miss U.S.A. — refused to allow women of color to participate. The Miss America pageant even went so far as to codify its bigotry with its notorious “Rule number seven,” which stated that all contestants must be “of good health and of the white race.” So when Christina Silva’s Miss California title was taken away from her in November 2007 after judges said the votes had been miscounted, Silva countered with a $500,000 lawsuit, claiming racial bias was the real reason behind the organizers’ flip-flop.
The pageant’s director, Keith Lewis, dismissed Silva’s claims, saying, “I’ve had three winners since I’ve been a director. Two have been African American … And the current Miss California U.S.A. is 25% Filipino. I think my record speaks for itself.” Less than a year later, Silva had her own change of heart and dropped the suit.
There’s something about seeing a 6-year-old girl made up to look like an overly enthusiastic 18-year-old beauty queen that makes most people feel uncomfortable. So when America got its first glimpse of slain beauty-queen-in-training JonBenet Ramsey on Dec. 26, 1996, the question after the obvious “Whodunit?” was probably “What the hell was going on here?” Those who had no idea that Little Miss Colorado pageants even existed were shocked to learn that such displays of prepubescent glamour occurred across the country, fueling a multimillion dollar industry of hand-sewn gowns, professional cosmetics, consultants and stylists.
Ramsey’s life and death seemed to illustrate all too well the consequences of parental manipulation and child exploitation. In the months that followed Ramsey’s murder, the number of child beauty pageants plummeted. “It was like her being a beauty queen was the reason for her death,” one mother lamented.
Tara Connor celebrated her 2006 Miss U.S.A. triumph by relocating to New York City and bingeing on the Big Apple’s nightlife. The Kentucky native became a staple of the city’s gossip pages and was soon fielding allegations of promiscuity and drug use unbecoming of her crown. Connor was summoned to pageant co-owner Donald Trump’s office amid rumors that she would be stripped of her crown. The Donald surprised Connor — and himself — by sparing her his famousApprentice catchphrase. “After speaking to her, I saw not only a beautiful woman but a beautiful heart,” he said.
Connor spent a stint in a rehab facility and, after her discharge, copped to alcoholism and cocaine use. Though she swore off booze and rebuilt her life, the incident was far from over for Trump. Talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell blasted the tycoon’s declaration that Connor deserved a second chance, noting that his own prior indiscretions made him an unlikely “moral compass for 20-year-olds in America.” Trump shot back, dismissing Rosie as “fat” and a “real loser.” And thusly a juicy feud was born.
Kristy Althaus, runner-up in the Miss Colorado Teen USA 2012 pageant—one of the feeder pageants for Donald Trump’s Miss Universe operation—seems to have lost her status as the second-best Colorado teen of 2012 after a porn video apparently featuring her emerged on the internet last week.
A tipster directed us to a video posted January 24 on the GirlsDoPorn.com website starring a woman who bears a strong resemblance to Althaus, the woman in red in the video above. On Tuesday, a longer clip from the video on imagepost.com identified its star as a “Miss Teen Colorado Runner Up.” Both links are very NSFW; above is a screenshot.
In the video, a man who is off-camera asks the dark-haired star how old she is. “I’m 18,” she replies.
“And this is definitely your first adult video?”
“Yes, it is,” she says.
In that fall 2012 pageant, Althaus was one spot away from traveling to New York as her state’s representative to the Miss Teen USA pageant—and she could vault into the national spotlight if, as the emcee said, the champion “is unable to fulfill her reign.”
Yet the pageant producer spent much of Wednesday purging its website of any reference to Althaus among the winners and runners-up, as these before-and-after screenshots show: