Are the most famous beauty queens also the most infamous?
The Miss USA 2011 competition gets underway this Sunday, airing live from Las Vegas on NBC. Fifty-plus beautiful, ambitious young women from around the country will be vying to nab the crown -- and, hopefully, avoid the kind of scandals that have cost many pageant winners to step down amid major scandal.
Us Weekly looks back at some of the most memorable dethrone pageant queens -- including one who became an A-list star, still going strong today!
Vanessa Williams: Now 48, Williams (Miss New York) became the first African-American woman to be crowned Miss America in September 1983. Ten months later, however, an anonymous caller told Williams that arty nude photos taken of her back in 1982 were about to surface. (Williams claimed she never signed a release authorizing use of the pics.) She stepped down as Miss America amid the scandal in a July 1984 press conference, with the photos appearing in the September 1984 issue of Penthouse. Williams has stayed in the public eye since that controversy as a successful singer and actress with Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award nominations.
Carrie Prejean: Now 24, she first stirred up controversy as Miss California at the Miss USA pageant in April 2009 -- when she spoke against same-sex marriage, butting heads with judge/blogger Perez Hilton and angering many. ("I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there," the conservative Christian said in a pageant Q&A.) She wound up in the first runner-up position -- and later claimed she was "pressured to apologize" for her remarks, and perhaps even lost the crown because of the fracas. By May, however, semi-nude photos of Prejean surfaced online, and her contract from the Miss California pageant was terminated. (Prejean and K2 Productions, which produced the Miss California pageant, settled out of court in November 2009; K2 claimed they lent Prejean thousands of dollars for breast implants.) Prejean published a 2009 memoir. She wed Oakland Raiders player Kyle Boller in July 2010, and gave birth to their first child, Grace, in May 2011.
Dominique Ramirez: The 17-year-old Texan was initially stripped of her Miss San Antonio title in spring 2011 after a pageant official allegedly told her to "drop thirteen pounds" and "lay off the tacos." Ramirez then took pageant organizers to court over the issue; they denied the "taco" incident, claiming other infractions from Ramirez. A judge then reinstated Ramirez' title. She'll be in the running for Miss Texas at the July 1 pageant.
Katie Rees: Now 26, she was crowned Miss Nevada in October 2006. Just two months later, raunchy, semi-nude photos surfaced of Rees simulating sexual acts with other women while letting loose at a Florida nightclub. (Rees was seen partying with Miss USA 2006 Tara Conner, who was caught drinking underage; Conner retained her title after a public apology.) Rees was stripped of her crown in late December 2006, losing the chance to vie in the Miss USA 2007 pageant in March.
Christina Silva: Not her fault! Back in November 2007, an ecstatic Silva was crowned Miss California Just a few days later, pageant officials sheepishly told Silva that, due to an accounting error, she wasn't the winner after all. (Second runner-up Raquel Beazley ended up taking the crown.) Silva was allowed to keep her crown, sash and necklace and was reimbursed the $1,500 entry fee following the error. (Beazley received duplicates of those items.)