Alternate Miss California named as Prejean awaits fate

LOS ANGELES Mon May 11, 2009 10:49pm BST

1 of 3. Miss California Carrie Prejean (L) responds to a question about gay marriage with Billy Bush (C) and Nadine Velazquez during the Miss USA Pageant at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada April 19, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Steve Marcus

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Frustrated pageant officials on Monday appointed an alternate Miss California USA to fill-in for Carrie Prejean -- the Christian beauty queen who risks losing her title after setting off a firestorm with her candid opposition to gay marriage and a topless photo shoot.

With the fate of Prejean, 21, in the hands of Miss USA pageant owner Donald Trump, the executive directors of Miss California USA said they felt "hijacked" by the furor over Prejean and needed someone else to represent the Golden State.

Trump has called a news conference in New York on Tuesday to announce whether Prejean can keep her title after three weeks of controversy over the topless pictures, her partly pageant-financed breast implants and her emergence as spokeswoman for an anti-gay marriage group.

"We do not know what he (Trump) is going to decide. I have no idea," Keith Lewis, co-executive director of the Miss California USA pageant told a news conference.

But Lewis said that regardless of what Trump does, Miss California USA runner-up Tami Farrell would fill-in for Prejean if she was "unavailable or it would be unwise to put her into a specific appearance."

Farrell would automatically inherit the Miss California USA crown if Trump decides to strip Prejean of the title.

College student Prejean made national headlines last month at the Miss USA pageant when she made known her viewpoint against gay marriage when answering a question from gay celebrity blogger and judge Perez Hilton. She claimed her answer cost her the Miss USA crown.

Prejean has since appeared on numerous TV shows affirming her opposition to gay marriage and made a TV ad for the National Organization for Marriage.

Her views, and the strident reaction to them, came in the midst of heated nationwide debates over same-sex weddings which have recently been legalized in five U.S. states but banned in a California referendum in November.

Lewis said Prejean had violated her contract, not for her same-sex marriage views, but for operating independently of pageant organizers. She had also failed to disclose a topless photo shoot before being crowned Miss California.

Lewis said pageant officials had been unable to contact Prejean for several days because of the new "handlers" and attorneys now surrounding her. She also missed several scheduled appearances as Miss California.

He said the last straw came "when she decided she wanted to move forward with media interviews despite the fact that her message was dividing us rather than bringing us back together."

"We don't want to take away a girl's beliefs or her voice...But when you wear the title that says, I represent everyone, you can't then polarize the people you represent," Lewis said.

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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