Another day, another beauty pageant scandal. This time, it’s newly crowned Miss Teen USA Karlie Hay at the heart of the controversy. On Saturday, shortly after she was crowned in Las Vegas, the Twittersphere unearthed a string of past tweets from the 18-year-old’s account laced with racial slurs, according to the Daily Mail.
One of the first people to identify and call attention to the Southern belle’s string of hateful missives from 2013 and 2014 was Xavier Burgin, a Los Angeles-based writer and director who posted a screenshot of the tweets — in which she repeatedly uses the N word — from his own account:
Some users defended Hay and blatantly came down on Burgin for calling out the racist tweets. “…she’s hardly using the word in a malicious manner is she? You don’t dictate what people can say,” tweeted @ChrisPLarks. “Do you think people who are racist, misogynist, homophobic, and transphobic to you don’t deserve any good opportunity in life?” asked @chi_city2.
Yesterday, the teen owned up to the vile tweets, chalking it up to “personal struggles” in an explanation (not quite an apology) issued on Twitter.
She continued to say that she is “a better person” since those tweets were sent out two years ago, and that “I am honored to hold this title and I will use this platform to promote the values of The Miss Universe Organization, and my own, that recognize the confidence, beauty and perseverance of all women.”
She repeated the sentiments on her official Instagram account.
Not all social media users were so forgiving, though. In fact, most were outraged, with many Instagram users branding her “racist” and “trash.”
“Only because you’ve been called out and advised to post an apology. Very transparent,” tweeted @michellekoiizumi. “And what was behind you using the n word multiple times on your tweeter feed ?? Didn’t think people would find that did u??” asked @laineyga.
And there was plenty more public indignation aimed at both Hay and the Miss Teen USA organization — and people calling for her crown to be confiscated:
In 1984, actress Vanessa Williams became the poster child for pageant scandal when she was famously stripped of her Miss America crown after nude photos of the then-beauty queen surfaced in Penthouse magazine. Williams proved there’s life after controversy by enjoying a successful, decades-long career as a singer and actress post-pageant — perhaps becoming one of the most successful pageant winners of all.
In 2006, nude photos of Katie Rees, then Miss Nevada, emerged on the Internet, and the blond beauty was forced to give up her crown. That same year, Danielle Lloyd lost her Miss Great Britain title after it came to light that she’d been involved with one of the pageant judges and was scheduled to appear topless on the cover of Playboy. And who can forget Carrie Prejean, who, though she didn’t win the Miss USA pageant, emerged as its most notorious contestant after making anti-gay marriage statements during the pageant, then losing her Miss California title a few months later when her sex tape surfaced?
But it’s not just posing in the buff that gets a woman stripped of her pageant duties. Sometimes, the reasons are much less damning than racism or even nudity. Just last week, 24-year-old Génesis Dávila had her Miss Florida title revoked less than a week after receiving it, when she sealed her own fate by Instagramming evidence that she violated pageant rules by using the services of a makeup artist unaffiliated with the organization. Lindsey Evans lost her Miss Teen Louisiana crown in 2008 after ditching a $48 restaurant bill and leaving behind a bag of marijuana.
In light of all of this, it’s really hard to see how Miss Teen USA can justify Hay holding onto her title despite blatant racism — especially when some beauty queens have been decrowned and disqualified in what can only be described as discrimination. Take Jenna Talackova, who was disqualified from the Miss Universe pageant for being transgender. Or Miss Delaware Amanda Longacre, who was decrowned for being too old (she would turn an “elderly” 25 during her tenure). Or former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who was warned that if she didn’t slim down her 160-pound, 5’9” frame (she was 118 pounds when she won), she would be stripped of her title.
In Hay’s case, despite vocal outcry, Miss Teen USA pageant officials have remained curiously silent on the scandal, and Hay is still featured as the 2016 winner on the organization’s website. There, she is praised for her support and advocacy of the children and families of alcoholics. “Were her fondest wish to be granted, every child would grow up in a stable and loving home,” the site boasts. Miss Teen USA’s official Instagram proudly proclaims Hay “Our teen, your queen.”
And on the organization’s official Facebook page, the latest post reads, “Yaaaaas queen! Congratulations to Karlie Hay, #MissTeenUSA 2016.” The post is flooded with comments both condemning and congratulating Hay. For now, it appears pageant officials are hoping the scandal will just blow over.