See the Teen Pageant Queen Who Gave the Most Embarrassing Answer Ever Now
The pageant beauty has opened up about how one flub on live TV changed her life.
If you only know of one contestant from the Miss Teen USA pageant franchise, you most likely remember Caite Upton of South Carolina, who went viral in 2007 for her bungled Q&A response. In a moment that would live on in internet infamy, actress Aimee Teegarden asked Caite why so many Americans were unable to identify our nation on a map. In response, the blonde beauty served up a big, heaping bowl of word salad.
"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," she began. From there, her cringeworthy response devolved into incoherent sentence fragments which famously veered from South Africa to "the Iraq," and beyond.
Fourteen years after that fateful moment, Caite has gotten candid about what was going through her head as she answered—and how her life changed once she stepped off the stage. Read on for Caite's reflections on her ill-gotten fame and to see the ex pageant girl all grown up!
In a recent follow-up interview with Mario Lopez, who hosted the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant, Caite explained how she came to give such a half-baked answer to the final question of the evening. As she tells it, she was unaware that there would be any additional questions, and believed the judges were already deliberating. She says that she was "completely caught off guard" as she realized the pageant wasn't over.
"Beautiful Aimee asked me this question, and I'm just like 'Oh my god, like another celebrity is talking to me… this is really cool! Wait, what did she just say? Do I have to answer this right now?'"
She described the moment as an "out of body experience" in which she couldn't process the question, and admits that she panicked on live TV. "I tried to put together a couple of words, and things kind of went from there," she explained to Lopez.
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The video of her answer catapulted Caite into internet fame, racking up over 71 million views on YouTube to date. Comedians and internet commenters seized the opportunity to lambaste the 17-year-old for her gaffe.
In interviews since then, Caite has shared just how unrelenting and humiliating the bullying was from her perspective. "What I went through wasn't OK, the way I was being treated wasn't OK. I was being cyber-bullied, in college I would be bullied…It was just an everyday thing," she said.
When New York Magazine asked for a representative snapshot of her life after internet fame, Caite recounted this story: "One group of girls took me to this party at the University of South Carolina, and I walk in, and the entire USC baseball team surrounded me and bashed me with the harshest, meanest comments I had ever heard." She added that her family was harassed, and even received death threats for her in their home mailbox.
Today, Caite is able to laugh at certain aspects of her embarrassing moment in the limelight, but she's also gotten candid about how deeply it has affected her over the years.
"I'm not gonna lie, It was very hard. And there was a time period where I kept a lot of what I felt inside of me. I did go to a dark place, and I did contemplate suicide…It took me years to be able to get that out," she said in an interview for Life After the Crown. "It took a lot of strength to realize what I was going through within myself. To be able to get back to a lighter, happier place," she added.
"This entire time….I've always had this little bit of burden in me that I've always held onto because I didn't know how to let go, because I didn't love myself anymore, because of the way I was treated," Caite said. She added that her friend group became "smaller" as a result of the ordeal.
Not long after the incident, Caite had the bravery to do what few people who had just been humiliated on national television would: she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in TV hosting. She landed a regular segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, was a guest on Tosh.0, and competed on The Amazing Race 16. She also became a fashion and fitness model, and posed for MAXIM. "All I wanted to do was prove people wrong and show that pageant doesn't define me, that question doesn't define me," she has said of her work in entertainment.
Since then, Caite has moved back to South Carolina, and now lives a quieter life with her boyfriend and two sons. While she's no longer living in the limelight, she's been candid on social media about her life's ups and downs, including a difficult divorce in 2019, falling in love with her current partner, and becoming a mother of two sons.
Nearly 15 years after her brush with fame—and with many challenges since—it seems the pageant queen may have finally found healing and happiness.