Friday, August 31, 2007

Miss Teen USA hopeful's answer on Americans' bad grasp of geography becomes joke on Net

30 Aug 2007, New Paper

BY her own admission, Miss Lauren Caitlin Upton (left) joined beauty pageants to improve her personal communication skills.

But if her performance at last Friday's Miss Teen USA competition is anything to go by, she's going to need a lot more practice.

During the question and answer segment, Miss Upton, who represented South Carolina, tripped up spectacularly when she offered a meandering, ungrammatical and incoherent answer that turned her into a national joke.


The 18-year-old was put on the spot by pageant judge Aimee Teergarden, who asked her: 'Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the United States on a world map. Why do you think this is?'

Miss Upton replied: 'I personally believe that US Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some 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 and I believe that they should, our education over here in the US should help the US, er, 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.'

Still, Miss Upton ended coming in fourth in the competition, which was won by Miss Teen Colorado Hilary Carol Cruz.

And although the pageant has ended, her ordeal continues.

The video of her humiliating moment has since been posted on video-sharing site YouTube, and has attracted more than three million viewers.

The video also drew scathing comments from viewers, such as 'sharp as a beachball, this one', and 'she'll probably make millions as America's stupidest blonde'.

Pageant host Mario Lopez later told People Magazine that he wanted to help Miss Upton, but had strict instructions not to talk to the contestants while they were answering.

'You don't know what the question is until you get up there. And I believe that she misunderstood it.'

To be sure, the Lexington High School graduate is no dummy.

She was an honours student who graduated with a 3.5 grade-point average, and was also a varsity athlete and student leader.

As for her meltdown, she said: 'I seriously think I only heard about one or two words of the actual question.'

But she redeemed herself on the show when Today interviewer Matt Lauer offered her another go.

'My friends and I, we know exactly where the United States is on our map. I don't know anyone else who doesn't. And if the statistics are correct, I believe there should be more emphasis on geography.'

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