Friday, July 6, 2007

Pageant Press: Miss New Jersey Blackmailed for Private Photos

CLICK HERE for news articles.

Okay, let me start by explaining how this may have happened, as I know many of my readers are parents and EDs who probably don’t have Facebook or MySpace accounts…

First, you can not fault this girl for having such an account because everybody, and I do mean 99.9999% of high school and college-age students belong to a networking site. Such sites can be extremely useful. I don’t know as much about MySpace, but I am an avid Facebook user.

How It Works

Basically on either site anyone can create a free user profile, which can include as much or as little information about yourself as you choose. It can be all true, or a fake name with made-up information. Once you set up an account you begin getting “friends;” sometimes they’re people you know in “real life,” sometime they’re only acquaintances and other times you have no idea who a person is or why they’ve even requested to be your “friend!” It’s up to you to confirm or decline a friend request.

Your friends can view your information, photos, videos and whatever else you include in your profile. That’s how I get a lot of great pageant photos; I am friends with lots of contestants who I have never actually met, but because we’re friends on Facebook I can see and save the photos they post.

I will admit, I include photos on Facebook that would not be appropriate to include on this blog, such as fun, funny or more personal photos. I have seen photos of my fellow pageant contestants that I was surprised by, including things like sexy Halloween costumes, or drinking.

It is important to note, you can upload a photo of yourself to your account, or if someone else uploads a photo they may “tag” you. That means you are digitally identified in the photo; when you are “tagged” Facebook sends you a message. You can always untag yourself so the photo isn’t linked to your profile, but you can’t necessarily get someone to take a photo down. Furthermore, there could also be photos that you don’t know about out there on the internet that someone took.

Thus, it is hugely important for pageant women today to be careful. Even if you are of-age it is never a good idea to have a photo taken with alcohol in your hand. Photos can be taken completely out of context; what may have been an innocent joke among friends could look like scandalous and inappropriate behavior to someone outside of the situation.

My Take

If I had to guess, the Miss New Jersey photos in question probably include alcohol. I have never seen topless or total nudity or other drug use in Facebook photo albums.

Some pageant fans discussing this issue on the Miss America message board are wondering if it’s a publicity stunt. I highly doubt that, the pay-off in this case will not be worth it. For the most part though, fans are being very supportive.

What’s disappointing to me is that Miss New Jersey’s platform is Internet Safety! Amy Polumbo no longer has a profile on Facebook, so the question becomes, how long has she been competing, had that platform and when did she terminate her Facebook account? If she was competing with that platform while questionable photos were on her Facebook account, then her credibility as a Miss State is ruined. On the other hand, I suppose it is entirely possible that someone saved these photos prior to her deleting them and competing. It’s also entirely possible that these photos are no-big-deal. Some pageant fans are also suggesting she should just show the pictures and beat the blackmailers to the punch.

The verdict is still out on whether she’s a hypocrite when it comes to her platform; what is impressive is that she seems to be maturely and courageously handling this. Awhile back my mom received a phone call from someone claiming to have photos of me “taken at a station party.” They were not directly threatening, but rather assured my mom that they were not putting the pictures on the internet, thus alluding that they were somehow harmful . They gave my mom a phone number, but when we tried to call it back, it was disconnected. I knew with absolute certainty that negative FOX Toledo pictures do not exist, rather they were trying to scare my family.

It is an extremely frightening situation given today’s technology; photoshop can make the innocent guilty. I spoke with another Miss Ohio contestant who said she and a couple other Miss Ohio contestants had received similar phone calls and it is being documented and looked into. Since I've aged-out I had not expected the call was pageant related; while it was a relief to know the origin and that I was not the only one, it is appalling that someone is targeting women whose reputation and behavior needs to be kept extremely clean. Miss New Jersey is maintaining that the photos are "not that bad" and they probably aren't.

There has been a long-running debate about the moral conduct of pageant women in comparison to their peers and the internet has made it even more difficult for pageant contestants. One moment of being a "normal college student" could ruin your dreams of being Miss America. What we can learn from the current Miss New Jersey scandal is that first, it’s important to speak up as soon as a threat is made and second, pageant women need to be extremely conscious of what they put on the internet.


  1. Abby,
    I've been following this story, and I was surprised to see that Miss NJ's platform is Internet Safety. It is kind of ironic. I hope this helps open people's eyes to how careful you have to be with these sites.
    I can't believe that Miss NJ says the pictures aren't that bad. Well, they're bad enough for someone to try to blackmail her for it so obviously there's something questionable in them.
    One picture could possibly change your whole life. I don't understand how people who are actually thinking would post them to such a public place.

  2. While I agree with Amy IF they ARE true pics of her and not photoshopped, I have to wonder if they are like those of former Miss NC, Rebekkah Revels. I really felt bad for Rebekkah, as her pics were said to be taken by an ex-boyfriend as she got out of the shower. I really felt that if this was the case with Rebekkah, that she should not have been smeared like she was, nor have her crown taken away. If they were *surprise* candids, it is not like she was posing for them. Goodness, I am pretty conservative but anyone can be subject to those sort of things.


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