The 18-year-old beauty contestant who mesmerized the nation with her verbal “brilliance” at the Miss Teen USA pageant over the weekend originally entered the realm of beauty pageants to improve her personal communication skills, WND can reveal.
Lauren Caitlin Upton of Lexington, S.C., shown in this undated modeling photo. The 18-year-old has become a national sensation after her grammatically challenged response to a question at the Miss Teen USA pageant in Pasadena, Calif., Aug. 24, 2007 (photo courtesy Locke Management)
“I was never much of a pageant girl,” Lauren Caitlin Upton said in an interview published just hours before Friday’s competition. “When I first started pageants, I wanted to build up my communication skills for interviews for college and for jobs. I was determined to prove I was able to accomplish anything I put my mind to.”
The ironic comments were recorded in her local paper, the State of Columbia, S.C., which she told for today’s edition that she “completely misunderstood” the geography question posed to her.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t expecting [the question]. I lost my train of thought.”
Miss South Carolina Teen USA says she graduated with a 3.5 grade-point average from Lexington High School in June, and was a varsity athlete and student leader.
“Things happen for a reason,” she said. “That’s the way life goes.”
“I just want people to know that I’m an average teenage girl, living life to the fullest, learning from my mistakes and living life in a positive way, and that is all I can ask for.”
When asked about the reason why some Americans could not locate the U.S. on a world map, Upton provided an answer that some call moronic and hilarious, while others say was painful to watch.
As part of the competition, Upton was asked what host Mario Lopez called a “thought-provoking final question” selected at random.
Upton selected judge Aimee Teegarden 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 South Carolina Teen USA Lauren Caitlin Upton fumbles through an answer during Miss Teen USA Pageant on NBC Aug. 24, 2007
The South Carolina beauty gave this incoherent, grammarless response:
I personally believe that U.S. 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 U.S. should help the U.S., 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.
Lopez told People Magazine he wanted to help Upton, but was instructed not to talk to the contestants while they were answering.
“It was a very intense moment. It’s live TV. You don’t know what the question is until you get up there. And I believe that she misunderstood it. She went down the wrong road and couldn’t figure out how to get back to the right one,” he said. “I felt really badly for her.”
While millions have seen her clip on the Internet and television, Upton said she’s not interested in taking a gander.
“I don’t really want to hear myself,” she laughingly told the State.
Upton was asked in her pre-pageant Q&A session with the paper: “What is the first thing you will do when you get home?”
“Eat me some hamburgers,” she responded. “I haven’t eaten hamburgers, French fries or hot dogs in three years, and I just want to see what it tastes like.”
In the wake of WND’s coverage of Upton, “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno played the video clip during his program this evening, and joked, “People in South Carolina [are] filing out now.”
Andrew Levy, the ombudsman for the Fox News Channel’s overnight show “Red Eye” sarcastically noted, “Whitney Houston says she no longer believes the children are our future.”
Upton has been represented by Greensboro, N.C.-based Locke Management, a professional modeling agency, where she has numerous glamour shots of herself posted online.
According to her profile, the 5-foot-9 model “enjoys all sports but loves soccer, jet skiing, the beach, hiking in the mountains and country music.”
Pete Garbacki said “the only intelligent thing she did was to specify ‘U.S. Americans.’ Canadians and Mexicans are also ‘Americans’ technically. We are of the United States. That is actually an intelligent thing that many of your readers are too dense to understand.”
Upton will get another chance at answering questions in the morning as she’s slated to appear on NBC’s “Today Show.”
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