Miss Universe Contestant Claims "Sabotage" Led to Her Loss
As anyone who's seen "Toddlers and Tiaras" can tell you, the hyper-competitive world of beauty pageants has seen its fair share of adversarial sabotage. But when a contestant claims her evening gown was laced with sharp-edged pins or pepper spray or lipstick stains, the alleged girl-on-girl crime makes headlines around the world.
The latest heir-to-the-beauty-crown to make such a claim is Miss Australia Jesinta Campbell, who says one of her 82 rivals at this year's Miss Universe pageant tampered with her festive national dress just before she took the stage in Las Vegas last month.
"There was a bit of sabotage backstage," she told Australia's Nova 91.9 radio station of her experience with the "national dress" she donned for the event. "When I went to put it on I found about six pins all pinned in the back of it, so when I put it on I scratched all the back of my back. I was like 'Ooh! What's that?'."
Good natured as ever (she did win the "Miss Congeniality" title, after all), Campbell didn't point any fingers at any specific competitors.
"I don't know who it was," she said in the radio interview when asked who she thought the pin-wielding perpetrator might be. "All of that stuff is backstage, so it could've been anyone."
[Photos: See All Contestants From the Pageant]
Campbell placed third at the televised event, held in Las Vegas last month; the winner was Jimena Navarrete of Mexico, and Yendi Phillips of Jamaica came in second. Campbell's be-pinned dress -- intended to represent the land Down Under with an aboriginal-print swimsuit, ruffled flamenco skirt and Ugg boots -- was ridiculed as too costume-y and over-the-top; little did anyone know the pain the 18-year-old Aussie beauty queen felt underneath.
[Photos: Pageant's controversial body paint shoot]
So, whodunit? No one has copped to the prank, but from the large pool of international competitor-suspects, Campbell singles out those from Mexico, the Phillipines, and Central and South America.
"Winning is so important for those girls because they become queens in their country and are worshipped if they win -- and it changes everything forever for them," she told the Herald Sun. "But there were 82 other girls there and I can't narrow it down, so it's a mystery to me."
She added: "But I know who didn't do it -- my best friends were the girls from Ireland, Belgium, Great Britain, and Guam and I know they wouldn't have done that to me."
Miss Universe representative Meagan McCutcheon did not immediately respond to Yahoo's requests for comment.
Campbell is not alone in her pageant problems. In recent years, other pageant frontrunners have been targeted by alleged saboteurs using equally dirty methods: instead of pins, Miss Puerto Rico 2007 claimed her dress and makeup were splattered with pepper spray in an act of chemical warfare. Backstage, winner Ingrid Marie Rivera had to tear off her clothes and rub ice on her face and body; on top of that, she claimed her clothes and credit cards were stolen.
Not surprisingly, Rivera's accusations fanned a media firestorm. After an investigation, police found no traces of pepper spray anywhere; still, Rivera clung to her belief that she'd been sabotaged by jealous and vengeful rivals. In Puerto Rico, she was the metaphorical Nancy Kerrigan with no Tonya Harding to pin the blame on.
That's the thing about beauty-pageant sabotage: perpetrators can go undetected. Even on a far smaller scale. At the Miss South Florida State Fair in 2008, Jessica Wittenbrink snagged the crown despite the lipstick smeared on her evening dress. They never caught the prankster.
"I was bound and determined that I was going to bring my best the night of the pageant," Wittenbrink told an ABC News affiliate, reflecting on her horror. "So no matter what happened, I wasn't going to let anyone take me away from that. As far as the event goes, I try to put it past me, move on, look at the horizon and see what's next for me."
While these acts of anti-congeniality result in trauma for contestants, the added attention from the media and support from fans must help in getting through the ordeals -- and raising their public profiles in the process.
Thanks to her disturbing experience, Campbell -- who's just begun a stint as an entertainment reporter for TV station in her native Australia -- is a now a boldfaced name in entertainment-news circles, and arguably more famous than she might have been had she won the crown. By By Erin Carlson