Outer beauty may fade, but Carrie Prejean isn’t disappearing anytime soon.
News that the embattled Miss California is headed for a co-hosting stunt – err, stint – on FOX’s “Fox and Friends” indicates her story has legs – and teeth and other body parts bared in some racy photos that threatened to overshadow even her controversial anti-gay marriage comments.
Prejean’s bid to stick around well past her 15 minutes is another sign we’re living in a pop culture where fame and infamy are identical twins few bother to try to tell apart. While her planned one-hour appearance on the May 27 edition of the FOX show is billed as a one-shot deal, you can be sure that it’s one part ratings ploy, one part audition.
But Prejean isn’t the only one who’s reaped a publicity bonanza from her exploits – pre-pageant, during the pageant and post-pageant. Perez Hilton, the online gossip columnist who asked about her views on gay marriage, became a household name (or, in his case, pseudonym). Both gay marriage supporters and opponents have used the controversy to rally forces.
And, of course, Donald Trump, who knows his net worth resides as much in name recognition as in his real estate holdings, parlayed his decision on whether to boot her over the photos into a national drama that rivaled his recent “Celebrity Apprentice” finale for manufactured suspense.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a former beauty pageant runner-up and die-hard conservative, gained some new Google juice by defending Prejean. Even Miss USA Kristen Dalton, the near-forgotten contest winner, recognizes that in beauty pageant land, all press is good press, even when the news is ugly.
"I really think that it's great for the Miss Universe Organization, because it's given us a lot of publicity," Dalton told E!'s “Daily 10.” "And there's gonna be a lot of people watching this Miss USA pageant next year."
A better question might be will anybody be watching Carrie Prejean next year? Probably – if not on “Fox and Friends,” then maybe on a reality show brimming with other C-list celebs dropped on a remote island or locked in the same house.
But her lasting impact may be giving Perez, Trump, the pageant – and especially the pro- and anti- gay marriage movements – a well-timed burst of publicity that helped boost careers and stoke a crucial national debate.
Talk about a marriage of convenience.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.