Alicia Machado has largely been the focus of campaign news this week. But did she actually breach her Miss Universe contract? (Photo: Getty Images)
Though the stories are from two decades ago, the country just can’t seem to shake its fascination with 1996 Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado and her alleged mistreatment at the hands of then-pageant-owner Donald Trump.
It all started when Hillary Clinton invoked Machado’s name at Monday’s presidential debate — highlighting Machado’s accusations that Trump had called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.” Much of the focus has been on the 1997 press conference at which Trump and personal trainer Edward Jackowski discussed, right in front of Machado, the specifics of her weight gain and workout plan and how she was “somebody who likes to eat.” Rumors had surfaced back then that Machado might lose her crown because of her weight gain, and, as Trump vaguely noted at the press conference, “We had a choice of termination or do this. We wanted to do this.”
But was the threat of “termination” actually the case? And if so, why?
Now people (including Trump himself) have come to Trump’s defense over his handling of the situation, with some noting that perhaps Machado was in breach of her Miss Universe contract. “Whatever her contract — I mean, people in lives have contracts for all sorts of things. You’re supposed to do what the contract is,” political commentator Jeffrey Lord said on CNN on Tuesday. “If she were in violation of her contract by putting on weight — I don’t know if that’s the case — but if that is the case, then that’s a contract violation.”
Then came word from Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson, who said on The Kelly File on Tuesday: “We are talking about beauty pageants. These individuals who participate in these contests have a weight clause in their contract.”
But according to various pageant experts — and the state pageant contract for 2009 Miss Universe Carrie Prejean — there is no such weight clause.
“[The contracts] do not say that,” Shanna Moakler, Miss USA 1994 and current executive director of Miss Nevada USA, tells Yahoo Beauty. (Miss USA is part of the Miss Universe pageant system.)
Moakler believes that Trump “was completely inappropriate” in his behavior and that Machado “was not upholding her image.” Nevertheless, she says, the contracts did and do not address issues of body size.
“They are all pretty much the same,” she says. “There is a morality clause to uphold a proper image (nudity, drinking, drugs) but nothing about weight gain.”
Pageant coach Valerie Hayes concurs, telling Yahoo Beauty, “No, pageants do not typically include any type of clause about maintaining their ‘winning’ look. They can cut their hair — [Miss America 2016] Betty Cantrell cut her hair after her win, went through most of her year with a chin-length bob, and got hair extensions to crown her successor — change their hair color, gain/lose weight, or even get a tattoo. There are no known clauses prohibiting changing their ‘look.’”
A Miss Universe spokesperson did not respond to a request from Yahoo Beauty — nor did the Trump campaign — regarding the specifics of the pageant contracts.
But Prejean’s 11-page Miss California contract (again, part of the Miss Universe pageant system), which appears in PDF format on the Fox News website with a 2008 signature, makes not a single mention of weight.
The contract does include agreeing “to conduct my activities and life in accordance with the highest ethical and moral standards,” to not engage in “any activity that might bring myself, you, Miss Universe, the State Pageant, the Miss USA Pageant, the Miss USA Pageant system, Trump, NBC, or any of their respective subsidiaries, affiliated or related companies, officers, directors, partners, shareholders or employees into public disrepute, ridicule, contempt or scandal or might otherwise reflect unfavorably upon any of the foregoing individuals or entities or might shock, insult or offend the community or any class or group thereof.” Specifics include agreeing not to appear in public or be photographed “in a state of partial or total nudity or in a lewd, compromising or sexually suggestive manner,” and to not be arrested or charged with a crime “including, without limitation, reckless or drunk driving or minor in possession of alcohol.”
Still, Pierson not only stuck to her contention that the pageant had a weight clause but also claimed that other pageants enforced them as well. “This was not something that Mr. Trump just did. This is organization-wide,” she said on The Kelly File. “We can look at 2011, when Miss San Antonio was told she had to lose weight in order to compete for Miss Texas.”
That, however, was an odd example to raise: The pageant winner Pierson referred to was Domonique Ramirez, who was 17 when she was allegedly told by Miss San Antonio pageant officials (part of the Miss America system) to “get off the tacos” after gaining weight; she sued the pageant when she was stripped of her crown — and won, with a jury finding that the pageant, and not Ramirez, was in breach of contract. As her attorney told the Associated Press at the time, “She won 100 percent.”