Battlin' Beauties Accept Decision

Miss North Carolina pageant winners Misty Clymer (left) and Rebekah Revels CBS

A court ruling brought down the curtain on the stranger-than-fiction saga of battling beauty queens, allegations of topless photos and a federal judge intent on protecting "a significant part of Americana."

Challenger Rebekah Revels and replacement Misty Clymer appeared together on the CBS News Early show Friday morning, all smiles.

"I feel very sad for Rebekah that she's not going to get the opportunity to complete a lifelong dream of being in the Miss America Pageant, but I am excited, so I think it's really been a bittersweet moment for me," Clymer told anchor Harry Smith.

"I'm very glad that it's over. I feel very peaceful," added Revels.

U.S. District Judge James Fox on Thursday balked at Revels' bid to force the Miss America Organization to let both Revels, the original Miss North Carolina 2002, and Clymer, the runner-up who replaced her, compete in the Miss America Pageant.

Immediately after the judge's decision, acting pageant CEO George Bauer declared Revels out, clearing the runway for Clymer to compete as North Carolina's entry. Preliminary competition begins Tuesday.

Revels said there was no animosity between the two.

"We're both Southern ladies and we can deal with this," Revels said.

The judge said Miss America — the icon — helped guide his decision.

"The Miss America pageant over the years, by virtue largely of its contestants, has become a significant part of Americana," said Fox, of Wilmington, N.C., who heard nearly a week of legal arguments and testimony. "In a very real sense, Miss America represents America.

"There is a public interest in seeing that that image is not tarnished because if it is tarnished there will be fewer contestants, there will be fewer scholarships, there will be fewer ideals to uphold. I don't think that's silly. We are a country that admires bravery, courage and integrity. We instill it in our youth."

The double entry would have presented an awkward prospect at the Sept. 21 pageant, and would have been unprecedented for the 81-year-old contest.

Revels, a 24-year-old English teacher, won the North Carolina pageant June 22, but later resigned after ex-boyfriend Tosh Welch told Miss America Organization officials in an anonymous e-mail that he had topless photos of her taken in 1998.

No photos ever surfaced, and she would not confirm or deny on The Early Show whether the photos actually existed, nor would she speculate on Welch's motives in making the claim.

Revels contended she was given a quit-or-be-fired ultimatum by pageant officials. Pageant officials contended that once she resigned, the title belonged to Clymer, the first runner-up.

"There are no winners in a situation like this," Bauer said. "What the ruling does is help us continue our efforts to have an equal playing field."

Clymer hopes the controversy won't hurt her bid to be Miss America.

"I think these judges are going to give me a fair shot and I can only hope that they will judge me on what they say in (the) interview and talent and swimsuit and evening gown," she said Friday. "I'm just going to do the very best that I can."

Although Clymer is the Miss North Carolina recognized by Miss America, a state judge's order last week means Revels also has that title, at least until her lawsuit against the state pageant is heard. She and Clymer said they had not discussed how they would divide their duties usually performed by the pageant winner.

Revels has been invited by the Miss America pageant to stay on as a guest, although she isn't sure exactly what that involves.

While Clymer won a spot on the runway, Revels seemed to have captured public sentiment.

"What guy doesn't take a photo every once in a while?" said gambler Nick Russo, 64, of Gloversville, N.Y., who was walking the Boardwalk with his wife. "You're supposed to keep that at home, aren't you?"

"She should have been allowed to compete, because of the way the boyfriend reported it, and his motives," said Billy Allen, 63, of Collingsville, Miss., as he stood at a Miss America souvenir stand on the Boardwalk.

On the boyfriend issue, the judge agreed.

"The individual involved is below despicable," Fox said of Welch.
  • Lloyd Vries

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