Just a year after Carrie Prejean rocked the pageant world with topless photos that surfaced on the Internet, the Miss USA pageant is raising eyebrows once again with a series of new racy pictures of the 51 contestants vying for the crown.
The photos in question – titled “Waking Up in Vegas,” where the pageant is taking place this year – features the ladies in various states of undress wearing lingerie and looking seductively into the camera. Fashion photographer Fadil Berisha took the black and white photos.
On Monday, pageant owner Donald Trump stopped by Ryan Seacrest’s KIIS FM radio show to defend the photos.
“Whether we like it out not, beautiful women will always attract ratings,” Trump said. “I think they’ve maybe gone a little over the top this year, I have some great people running it, but these pictures are a little wild. [But,] the girls are incredible.”
Ryan asked if the racy photos were any indication of what’s to come at this year’s pageant.
“They go as far as you can go on network television, which is pretty far,” Trump added.
On Tuesday, pageant president Paula Shugart told NBC’s “Today” show co-host Matt Lauer that the photos are good practice for many of the contestant’s future careers.
“We’ve always been the cutting-edge pageant. We are owned by Donald Trump,” Shugart said. " “It pushed their envelope, but they all enjoyed doing this…their dream is to be in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.”
Pageant spokeswoman Lark-Marie Anton also weighed in on the controversy, telling NBC News, “We are in the business of beauty and the contestants who compete for the title of Miss USA are not afraid to be sexy. These ladies are the full packages – smart, accomplished, relevant and sexy. That said, I think these photos definitely break the stereotype of what a ‘pageant girl’ looks like.”
The Miss USA pageant will air on May 16 on NBC at 7 PM.