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Inside the dark world of the Miss America pageant from mystery disappearances and fat-shaming emails to suicide attempts

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THE Miss America pageant may be known for glitz and glamour, but dark secrets and scandals lurk underneath the surface.
The first Miss America pageant took place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1921, and the event, as well as other pageants, have gone through several shakeups over the years.
Bette Cooper vanished on the day of her first official appearance as a winner5Bette Cooper vanished on the day of her first official appearance as a winnerCredit: GettyA VANISHING MISS AMERICA
One of the earliest scandals involved the pageant’s 1937 winner, Bette Cooper.
According to Margot Mifflin, who wrote a book about the pageants, Cooper never really wanted to enter the contest — and after she won it, she failed to show up for her first official appearance.
Apparently, she had struck up a romance with her assigned chauffeur for the week and he helped her sneak away to avoid her official pageant duties.
Her disappearance resulted in some odd photos, with the runners-up standing next to an empty Miss America throne.

After Cooper was forced to make an apology, she disappeared again and never had anything more to do with the pageant.
FAT-SHAMING/MISOGYNISTIC EMAILS
In 2017, it was revealed that the pageant’s CEO Sam Haskell had a history of making cruel and often misogynistic comments about contestants in emails.
The shocking emails were published in 2017 by HuffPost.
Miss American 2013, Mallory Hagan, was a frequent target of Haskell’s mockery, with him commenting on her weight and speculating about her sex life.

Sam Haskell stepped down after his emails were leaked5Sam Haskell stepped down after his emails were leakedCredit: GettyMallory Hagan was often a target of the sexist remarks5Mallory Hagan was often a target of the sexist remarksCredit: GettyA WINNER’S DE-CROWING AND LATER SUICIDE ATTEMPT
The winner of the 1957 MISS USA pageant, Mary Leona Gage, had her crown taken after it came to light that she lied about several things, including being married, having kids, and her age, while competing.
She said she was 21 when competing, though officials later found out that she was just 18 years old and had two children, which was against pageant rules.
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun decades later, Gage revealed that she had gotten married at age 14 and had started competing in pageants to deal with the “oppression” of her marriage.
After being stripped of her titles, she told the outlet she attempted suicide multiple times, developed a drug addiction, and later, lost custody of her kids.
Gage passed away in 2010.
VANESSA WILLIAMS’ DE-CROWING
Actress Vanessa Williams was the first black woman to be crowned Miss America in 1984.
However, she had to give back her crown after Penthouse magazine published nude photos of Williams that had been taken years earlier when she worked as a photographer’s assistant.
It took 32 years for the pageant to issue an official apology to Williams, which came in 2016.
DITCHING THE SWIMSUITS
After Haskell left as Miss American CEO, a former winner, Gretchen Carlson – Miss America 1989 – gave the competition a rebrand that involved getting rid of the famous swimsuit competition.
The move led to much infighting in the organization.

Mifflin explained in her book, “[The swimsuit change] really divided people.
“One group wanted to preserve tradition. But some contestants told me how utterly mortifying [wearing a bathing suit on stage] was.”
Gage lost her crown after it was revealed that she lied during the competition5Gage lost her crown after it was revealed that she lied during the competitionCredit: GettyActress Vanessa Williams was once stripped of her Miss America crown5Actress Vanessa Williams was once stripped of her Miss America crownCredit: Getty
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk

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