Tara Connor, Miss Kentucky USA, is named Miss USA 2006. Later, at the Miss Universe Pageant, she places as fourth runner-up to Miss Puerto Rico, Zuleyka Rivera Mendoza, who is named Miss Universe 2006. Prior to being becoming Miss USA, Connor had competed as Miss Kentucky in the 2002 Miss Teen USA Pageant where she placed as second runner-up.
With such an impressive pageant pedigree, the blonde beauty seems to be the consummate beauty queen … but behind the crown a scandal is brewing. Eight months into her reign as Miss USA, Connor nearly loses her crown after media reports surface of her excessive partying at bars and nightclubs, underage drinking (in New York, the legal drinking age is 21), other unspecified “misbehavior”.
As his Miss USA is engulfed in a media frenzy, Donald Trump, owner of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, sends his queen packing back to Kentucky and announces that, after reviewing the facts, he will announce his decision as to whether Connor will be fired.
In a public statement, pageant organizers note that Conner “will keep her crown for now”, but they will “be evaluating her behavioral and personal issues to see what we can do to work with her, and what we will do about her reign going forward.”
On December 15th, in a media packed press conference in New York, Trump surprises onlookers by announcing that he has decided to give the titleholder “a second chance”. Explaining why he will not fire her, Trump states, “She got caught up in the whirlwind of New York. It’s a story that has happened many times before to many women and to many men who came to the Big Apple.” With Connor seated at his side in tears, Trump adds, “I’ve always been a believer in second chances. Tara is going to be given a second chance.” He explains that Conner will enter rehabilitation and will resume her duties at the appropriate time. “She knows that if she even makes the slightest mistake from here on she will be immediately replaced.
As Connor walks to the podium, she turns to Trump and profusely thanks him for his “heart of gold” in allowing her to retain her title. “In no way did I think it would be possible for a second chance to be given to me,” she sobs. “You’ll never know what this means to me…and I swear I will not let you down.
The plucky Kentuckian attends rehab to conquer her addictions, completes her reign (with some dignity, we might add), and does some limited television work, appearing on Pageant Place, a reality TV show following the lives of Miss USA, Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA as they share a suite in New York. In 2010 she appears on the NBC Today Show and the Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss her issues with and recovery from drug use and alcoholism.