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An Embarrassing Viral Video Almost Took The Life Of A Miss USA Contestant

From the moment Caitlin Upton started her now-infamous answer at the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant, it was destined to become a viral video.


With host Mario Lopez holding the microphone for her, Upton was asked a seemingly easy question by Friday Night Lights actress Aimee Teegarden: what were her thoughts on the statistic that one in five Americans can't locate their own country on a map? What followed was a rambling, confused answer that mentioned people who don't own maps, Iraq, South Africa, and why America needs to prepare children for the future.

Like other viral videos, Upton's answer was featured on news broadcasts around the world, parodied, shared endlessly, and watched over and over. At the time, it seemed like a bit of harmless fun. But years later, Upton has revealed the harmful impact the video had on her life.

Doing the talk show circuit after her gaffe became a hit on YouTube, Upton said that she was simply overwhelmed by the excitement of the pageant, and didn't understand the question when it was asked. When the Today show gave her a chance to give another response, she did a much better job:

Well personally, my friends and I, we know exactly where the United States is on our map. I don't know anyone else who doesn't. And if the statistics are correct, I believe that there should be more emphasis on geography in our education so people will learn how to read maps better.

But that wasn't enough for some people, and Upton reveals that over the years she's been the target of some vicious bullying, both online and in real life...

At one point, Upton says the negative publicity she received was so bad the model was forced to dye her hair brunette as a disguise.

"I definitely went through a period where I was very, very depressed," she explained in a New York magazine feature, "but I never let anybody see that stuff, except for people I could trust. I had some very dark moments where I thought about committing suicide. The fact that I have such an amazing family and friends, it really, really helped."

Random strangers felt the need to shout at Upton in the street because of her mistake, and one anonymous person even sent hate mail that read "GO DIE CAITE UPTON, GO DIE FOR YOUR STUPIDITY." An article written just after the flub is titled "How to ensure your child doesn't end up like Miss Teen South Carolina." Even Upton's best friends in the pageant scene turned their back on her.

Upton and her then-boyfriend Brent competed on the Amazing Race.CBS

But thankfully Upton's career hasn't suffered. She's now a successful model who was signed to Donald Trump's agency, she competed on The Amazing Race, and she's happily married. It's been a difficult journey since the video was released 10 years ago, but Upton is finally happy.

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I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories.