Monday, March 31, 2008

Facebook Drama

Thursday I blogged about pageant message board gossip surrounding Facebook photos of local and state titleholders and said I'd share my opinion after Miss Hamilton...

A couple days later someone anonymously reported on Ohio’s message board that one of the women with questionable pictures, Miss Open City Zephylia Khooblall, had finally relinquished her title. This claim is as of yet unsubstantiated. It is rumored that her First Runner-up Samantha Eggers would be unavailable to take the title; Second Runner-up Heather Wells is now Miss Maple City and Third Runner-up Laura Pennington addressed the issue on her blog, saying she knows nothing about the issue and has not been contacted by the E.D.

In case you hadn’t heard, Zephylia had photos on Facebook in which she was drinking underage. The photos were upsetting to many because of their captions which suggested drunk driving and seductive interaction with another female. Someone copied the entire Facebook page, not just the photos, to an online photo album and shared the link on the state and national message board. Many pageant fans have been extremely frustrating that no action was taken against her by local or state officials.

The message boards seem to be down today, so I don’t know what the latest is.

When this first became an issue, I didn’t address it but whether you’re a pageant contestant or not, it’s an issue no one can ignore anymore. Job and college recruiters are utilizing sites like Facebook and MySpace to evaluate their candidates.

Indeed, a pageant title is a job and it’s not just your boss that you have to impress, but the community and ideals of the crown which you represent. Having seen Zephylia’s photos, I have to agree with many that the most respectable thing she could do is step down. Having said that though, I do see both sides of the overall issue.

What do I mean? Well, a photo is a split second of someone’s life; it can be misinterpreted and even if the negative interpretation is correct, no one’s perfect and there are certain experiences everyone should be allowed to have…

First, photos can easily be taken way out of context! A harmless moment with friends or family can later lead to the judgmental line “A role model shouldn’t do that.” What does that even mean? That a role model can never have a personality? I think people doubt or forget about the ability to know what’s right and wrong in a given situation. IE: I’ve flipped off a friend and in the privacy of a home, but I would never do that in public when I was a titleholder, or when everyone knew me as the Face of FOX Toledo. Similarly, I have the mouth of a sailor, but can turn it off in professional situations or around certain family members. Does that make me a bad person? No, I don’t think so.

The trouble is, with technology today any photo or video of a pageant woman, politician or any public figure can be used against them. It doesn’t matter if the images are recent, or even true; perception becomes reality. I saw a great show the other day on MTV or VH1 in which celebrities are “setting-up” the paparazzi. Eva Longoria and Mario Lopez went to lunch and he gave her a gift… within hours it was all over the tabloids that they were a new item. Again, there’s no better way to say it than perception is reality.

It’s frustrating. I understand how convenient Facebook is for sharing pictures with friends, but even if you know it was an innocent moment, be careful! Ask yourself what it might look like to an outside observer.

Second, I understand college is a time of exploration for many. It is my personal belief that you learn more outside of the classroom than in… Therefore, there are a lot of things I don’t have a problem with, because college is the logical time to try them out. I am adamantly against high school sex and substance abuse and the years after college are typically filled with achieving career goals and starting families… So if you want to experience the effects of certain substances or explore your sexuality, do it in college. I may have just lost the respect of some of you, but that’s an opinion I stand by, even for pageant women.

Here’s a news flash: your favorite titleholder probably isn’t the virginal, jesus loving, non-drinking, non-cursing, straight A, always smiling princess you may want her to be! Frankly, I don’t find the woman who fits that description relatable to me or society in general. I feel that it is entirely possible to be in some ways a “normal college kid” and also be a wonderful titleholder. This is where things get grey and fuzzy.

Before I tackle that matter, let me finish the photo issue by stating the obvious: DON’T BE PHOTOGRAPHED WITH ALCOHOL OR OTHER SUBSTANCES IN HAND! I understand that you may want to capture certain memories; okay, but don’t put it on the internet, especially if it’s underage drinking, which is illegal. It should also be common sense to a pageant woman that one sacrifice she does have to make is not being a “normal college kid” anywhere/ anytime. You might not always have control of who has a camera, but you can choose not to drink in public and not to get all crazy in front of people you don’t know or trust.

Back to the broad issue- some of you may disagree with my candor and opinions. Again, this is where things get grey and I may start to sound like a hypocrite, but hear me out… I believe that Miss America should be held to slightly higher standards but that a titleholder should be who she is, as opposed to leading two separate lives, thus enforcing the fake stereotype. It is impossible to define these “higher standards,” or “no moral turpitude” as the contract states.

Time and time again the issue of being a “normal college student” is brought up; some pageant fans don’t mind when pageant women act this way, others argue that contestants should be better than that. To me, being a normal college student means that you probably will drink underage, you’ll attend parties, you’ll take Amy Polombo-esq goofy pictures with your friends and you might even have relations with someone of the same sex, for your own curiosity or merely to tease the opposite sex. Can you do these things and still make it to class, and even get good grades? Absolutely. I am horribly jealous of a friend of a friend who has a great job, a master degree and was a 4.0 student who still acts like an immature 18 year old every weekend! Can you do these “typical” things and still work tirelessly with your favorite philanthropy? Absolutely. Just don’t advocate against something that you do in your free time!

Here’s the thing- I think some people feel a “typical’ student is getting drunk and high all the flipping time. I disagree. To me, that’s someone with a problem. There is a way to be responsible and still experience the nonacademic side of college life. If you are falling down drunk nearly every single weekend, I think there’s a problem. If it becomes public that you’ve been arrested, you’re going to be in trouble in pageant land. If you’re simultaneously involved in pageants and post questionable pictures and Facebook “status reports” about partying, I think you’re just stupid. If the life you lead contradicts what your platform preaches, I have no respect for you.

To me, the bottom line is being smart, whether you’re in pageants or not! Pageant women today aren’t acting any differently or worse than past women, it’s just that now everything has the potential of being public. Lead your life with intelligence. It’s possible to have fun with out becoming an alcoholic or putting it on the internet and potentially destroying your career.


  1. As usual, I love your mix of intelligence with realistic facts; you can truly be a "college girl" but be completely classy. How hard is it to think before certain pictures or acts "How would I feel if this was published on the internet after I won Miss America?" Just don't do it if there is ANY doubt!

    When we met for the Miss GC competition this summer, Sylvia and Gloria talked to us for a few minutes during orientation about facebook and myspace- at that point I thought they were preaching to the choir.
    Whatever personal feelings we have about the situation, I wish people would just wait until it is public- IF it's even true! Here I am trying to get ready for Miss Commonwealth this weekend and then I start getting emails about whether I am Miss Open City or not.
    As I said on my blog, many Ohio pageant girls know that Sylvia is extremely dedicated to this system, a very classy woman, and very good at communicating leading up to her pageant and afterward. Certainly I would have said something if I was going to Miss Ohio!

    Thanks again for your clear perspective on a sticky issue.

  2. Well said Abby!!


  3. Abby,
    It is official. All of the contestants and EDs received an email from the Miss Ohio Board that she has resigned and Samantha has indeed taken the title.

    Thanks for the great post!

  4. I agree totally- and after reading the state/national board's reactions to this whole situation, it's been a truly interesting couple of weeks on the internet.

  5. I love reading your blogs...

    This does not fit with the topic, but I clicked on the link for Miss USA girls in their evening gowns and happened to notice Miss Georgia is Amanda Kozack, a favorite from Miss America a few years back. Are there any other girls who were state title holders in MAO?

  6. Love this post. I agree with everything you've stated. I wish non-competitors would come off their high horses and realize that contestants are still regular women but also the women competing need to hold themselves to a little higher standard so we're not having all these photo issues.
    Great post!!

  7. The Miss Ohio website now shows Samantha as Miss Open City, so I belive it is official.

  8. Thank you all for your comments. I love when my blog becomes more interactive!

    Emily- yes there are several cross-overs this year. I've compiled a list, but haven't posted it yet.


  9. I agree with you all to a point but do we want "average" contestants? I would certainly hope not. I look for exceptional contestants; wise,classy leaders, not ones who are "sheep" following a "bad shepherd" but ones who rise above the crowd. No, not perfect, as no one is, but the "cream of the crop".


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