Ridiculed and dismissed. Former Miss South Carolina Teen USA Caitlin Upton did not receive a warm welcome back home following her infamous 2007 pageant flub.
Upton, now 26, became an Internet sensation when she rambled a bizarre answer during the interview portion of the Miss Teen USA pageant. The question, which was asked by Friday Night Lights actress Aimee Teegarden, was why she thought a fifth of Americans couldn’t locate the U.S. on a world map.
“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh, people out there in our nation don’t have maps and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as,” Upton replied at the time. “I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future [for our children].”
Upton’s mishap still haunts her eight years later. She opened up about the embarrassing moment in a new feature with New York magazine, which catches up with her and nine other viral celebrities. She revealed that the backlash was so severe that she even contemplated suicide at one time.
“I definitely went through a period where I was very, very depressed. But I never let anybody see that stuff, except for people I could trust. I had some very dark moments where I thought about committing suicide. The fact that I have such an amazing family and friends, it really, really helped,” Upton said. “This is the first time I’ve actually been able to talk about it. It was awful, and it was every single day for a good two years. I’ve only spoken to my fiancé about how I felt in those moments truthfully, and my best friend. And, recently, my mom. But, like, my dad doesn’t even know yet.”
Some of Upton’s peers, however, weren’t as supportive. “I lost a lot of close friends over it — people I’d been friends with since I was 10, people I grew up playing soccer with,” the fashion model continued. “One group of girls took me to this party at the University of South Carolina, and I walk in, and the entire USC baseball team surrounded me and bashed me with the harshest, meanest comments I had ever heard.”
It didn’t stop there. Upton’s parents were also contacted by brutal critics. “Somebody once put a letter in my parents’ mailbox about how my body was going to be eaten alive by ants and burned in a freak fire,” Upton revealed. “And then it said, in all caps, GO DIE CAITE UPTON, GO DIE FOR YOUR STUPIDITY. That’s the kind of stuff people would say to me for two years.”
Looking back at the blunder is emotional for Upton. (She teared up during the interview.) But thanks to some hair dye and another model with the same name, she goes unnoticed sometimes.
“The past few years, going brunette, I have not had any recognition for the Miss Teen USA Pageant at all,” she said. “But I also get recognized for having a similar name to Kate Upton. So I’ll go into my auditions and be like, ‘Yes, yes, I know — I’m the other one.'”
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