Conflicting accounts are being offered vis-à-vis Donald Trump’s behavior at the 1997 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant; five contestants, some as young as 15 at the time, assert that Trump walked in the dressing room while they were getting dressed while eleven other contestants said they didn’t remember seeing Trump in the dressing room.
Mariah Billado, the former Miss Vermont Teen USA, told BuzzFeed that Trump walked into the dressing room while contestants were changing. She stated, “I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here.’” She remembered Trump saying casually something to the effect of “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.” She was echoed by Victoria Hughes, the former Miss New Mexico Teen USA, who told BuzzFeed:
It was certainly the most inappropriate time to meet us all for the first time. The youngest girl was 15, and I was the eldest at 19 … We actually never once saw him during the two-week period until he came into the dressing room prior to the show. I was the eldest delegate at age 19 and was in the very back of the large dressing room. I recall chaperones saying that we had a visitor and to get covered up. The black curtains opened and in walks Mr. Trump smiling. He wished us all good luck, did not stay very long and left. As teenagers, it no doubt caught us off guard, as the timing of the entrance could’ve been better and less awkward for us all.”
Three other women, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisal, agreed that Trump entered the dressing room while the girls were changing. Two women stated that the girls hurriedly covered their bodies; one referred to the incident as “shocking” and “creepy.” One of the women stated, “At the time, you’re a teenager, you’re intimidated — it’s Donald Trump, he runs the pageant.” She said it felt like Trump thought “it was his given right” to enter the dressing rooms “because he owned the pageant.” She added, “We were all very young, but even at the time, it caught us funny.” Now, “as an adult and as a mother,” she said she finds it “absolutely inappropriate.”
Eleven other contestants contacted by BuzzFeed did not remember Trump in the dressing room.
The revelations from the contestants were prompted by a Facebook discussion among the women in a private Facebook group open only to the 1997 contestants. That discussion ensued after BuzzFeed reported that a contestant in an adult pageant asserted Trump had walked into the changing room when “we were all naked.”
Thirty-four of the 1997 contestants contacted by BuzzFeed either refused to comment or could not be reached.
Trump owned the Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA pageants from 1996 until last year. He has admitted barging into beauty queen dressing rooms; he was taped telling radio host Howard Stern, “I’ll tell you the funniest is that I’ll go backstage before a show and everyone’s getting dressed. No men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in, because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it. … ‘Is everyone OK?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody OK?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that.”
“I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here.”
Crystal Hughes, the former Miss Maine Teen USA, argued, “There was way too much security. If that was something he did, then everybody would have noticed. They’re probably lying because they are voting for Hillary Clinton.”
But Billado stated, “I don’t support either” Trump or Clinton. She concluded, “I remember it shocking me. I barely let anybody except my sister see me getting dressed.” She said Trump’s action “was more of a pompous ‘I own this place’ rather than a perverted thing.” But she added, “I would never let my daughter run for a pageant that he owns.” Billado pointed out that when Ivanka Trump, who functioned in 1997 as the pageant’s co-host of that year’s pageant, was alerted to her father’s actions, she responded, “Yeah, he does that.”