Entertainment behind the scenes
Miss California pageant targeted by gay, anti-gay forces
In a sign of how controversial Miss California’s campaign against gay marriage has become, the organizers of the Miss California pageant say they have been targeted from both gay rights advocates and foes of same-sex unions, with the former slamming them for not denouncing their tiara-holder Carrie Prejean more forcefully and the latter targeting them for distancing themselves from the comments at all.
“We’ve gotten it from both sides,” the openly gay Keith Lewis, co-executive director of the Miss California pageant, told Reuters.
Organizers of the Miss California pageant are likely to have their phone ringing even more now, after Lewis went on CBS program “The Early Show” on Friday and said that before the Miss USA pageant, in which Prejean finished second, his group helped her get breast implants in an attempt to propel her to the Miss USA crown, as had been reported earlier this week.
“The Early Show” co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez asked Lewis, “Can you settle this once and for all? Did you pay for or help pay for Miss California’s breast implants?”
Lewis had previously told Reuters that his group only supported Prejean’s decision to have the surgery, and he would not say who paid for it.
Regardless of who paid, the fact that Lewis and model Shanna Moakler, co-executive director of Miss California, have talked about Prejean’s surgery on TV points to how much of a rift has emerged between them and Miss California, after she said in response to a question during the Miss USA pageant that she did not agree with gay marriage. The Miss California pageant organizers have also criticized Prejean’s comments in media statements, but they have stopped short of saying they would strip her of her Miss California crown.
Still, the rebuke that the 21-year-old Prejean has received from the pageant backers pales in comparison to what gay celebrity blogger Perez Hilton said about her. It was Hilton, who as a judge at the Miss USA pageant, asked Prejean the question about gay marriage that has made her a hero to many conservatives, and the scorn of gay rights advocates. Afterward, he said in a video blog that if Prejean had been named Miss USA, he would have leapt on stage and ripped the tiara from her head. Those comments even prompted a Miami drag queen to denounce Hilton.
“She’ll probably cash in on this and charge a lot of money to go on the lecture circuit, might possibly write a book and may possibly use that money to get even bigger breast implants than the ones she already has,” Hilton told Reuters.
Prejean announced this week that she will star in a TV ad campaign from the National Organization for Marriage, aimed at convincing voters in states where gay marriage could soon become legal that they should speak out against it. The ads will air in New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and elsewhere.
So in light of the flare-up over Prejean’s comments, it’s worth finding out who she is.
Raised about 10 miles from the coast in the largely conservative town of Vista, California, Prejean is a student at San Diego Christian College, an evangelical school, where she is studying special education, her spokeswoman Melany Ethridge said. For now, her plans are to continue with college, Ethridge said.
Ethridge said that Prejean was not available for an interview.
Last weekend, Prejean received a hero’s welcome when she returned to her mega-church, The Rock.
Lewis told Reuters that he has always known Prejean to be friendly to gays like himself, and that he believes she has more liberal views about gays apart from the gay marriage issue, which he disagrees with her about.
“I would be excited when people really start to flesh out how she feels about civil unions and about civil rights and about a lot of the other issues,” Lewis said.
Some good has come out of the controversy for Lewis. He said that more women than ever before are applying to try out for Miss California this year, with some wanting to promote gay marriage and others wanting to denounce it.
Given that beauty pageants often feature nothing but platitudes, maybe it’s a good thing that this year’s Miss USA has sparked a debate, instead of more empty calls for “world peace.”