Drop Dead, Gorgeous

Congratulations, you're Miss Arizona. Better keep your friends close and your enemies closer

Addressed to Corrie, the letter began, "Well you and your family certainly made spectacles of your selves in Atlantic City. What an embarrassment to the state of Arizona."

It only got nastier from there.

"Maybe you should have not been so consumed with implanting silicone into your body and requested implants of common courtesy, respect, integrity, kindness, loyalty and a sense of obligation. But then again as most of saw and heard your fake boobs only go along with the fake person you truly are.

Monica Rich (left), with Kapri Rose, Miss Arizona 2001.
Lynn Ray
Monica Rich (left), with Kapri Rose, Miss Arizona 2001.
Trudy Hill at first found it hard to relate to Miss America's glamour.
Mark Skalny
Trudy Hill at first found it hard to relate to Miss America's glamour.

"And what are your parents thinking to allow you to act and treat others like you do. Is this the type of daughter they raised? Apparently it is because they are right there beside you acting in the same manner. . . .

"The real Corrie showed herself and it's not a pretty sight.

"It's going to be a long year for everyone, but especially for you.

"Sent by an embarrassed, angry and sad supporter of the Miss America and Miss Arizona organizations."

When Kapri Rose first competed for the Miss Arizona title in 2001, she was a complete unknown. Many of her competitors had been in the system for years, honing their talent and learning the tricks that turn a pretty girl into a winner. Rose was just 19, the veteran of exactly one pageant.

She won anyway.

At first she seemed like a breath of fresh air. Jim Eager, then co-producer of the state pageant, remembers seeing Rose in the hallway after her victory. He was struggling with equipment. Still wearing her crown, he says, Rose helped him carry it.

Eager's co-producer, Smith, remembers liking Rose instantly. "She was so down-to-earth," she says. "She totally knew who she was."

Smith tossed off a quick e-mail to Rose soon after the pageant. "It was something about how wonderful and talented she was and how she should stay exactly that -- to not let the Riches or her coaches tell her to do anything that wasn't herself. I didn't want her to get bogged down with pageant politics and lose what had made her so great."

It was already too late. Monica Rich had given Rose a speech about how other people would try to lead her astray. The teenager wondered if Smith's e-mail was a test.

She was only 19. And the speech had made her a little paranoid.

So she forwarded the e-mail to Rich.

Smith knew none of this -- until she got a very angry e-mail from Rich herself. "It was just pages long," Smith says. "Every little thing that Jim or I had said that she didn't like, it was in there. And she'd forwarded this thing to the entire board of directors!"

Smith and Eager were both fired. Rose didn't even learn that until earlier this year, during an interview for this story.

When Rose, now 23, enters a restaurant for a lunch date, heads turn. That's what happens when you're 5'11", blond, and wearing more than one diamond. She's smart, too: A recent summa cum laude Grand Canyon University grad, she's applying to dental school.

Somehow, she's not intimidating. She peppers the waitress with questions about the pasta. It doesn't have any onions, does it? Or parsley? "I'm such a picky eater," she says, embarrassed. "It's terrible. I've always been like this." Her husband is "totally into food" and trying to help her branch out.

The story she tells is eerily similar to Corrie Hill's. First Rich told her who she shouldn't talk to. Then she gave her a new talent: electric fiddle instead of classical piano. They also clashed over her costume -- and when Rose rejected Rich's pick, Rich told Trudy Hill that Rose's choice made her look like a slut.

"She wasn't helping me at all," Rose says. "If anything, she was anti-helping." No one had bothered to suggest that she test her evening gown on stage with lights. Rose was aghast to learn, hours before competition, that her slip glowed whitely through the pink dress.

Her mother frantically phoned Rich's hotel room, but couldn't get an answer. Desperate, she picked out another dress hours before the competition, and asked a security guard to slip it to her daughter.

Rich was livid. After Rose returned from Atlantic City, Rich arrived at her doorstep with another pageant staffer in tow. "How could you wear something without my approval?" she demanded, according to both Rose and her mother, Karli. "You put the entire pageant in jeopardy because you smuggled something into the convention center."

Karli Rose protested that it was her fault. A kindergarten teacher, she knew nothing about pageant rules: "I just did what I had to do as a mother."

Rich would hear none of it. "I could take away your title for this," she told Rose.

"In retrospect," Karli Rose says, "I believe that was the catalytic moment, and from that point on, she had a vendetta against my daughter."

Rich's actions did seem to take on a disturbing vindictiveness. Rose had won a $1,000 scholarship as Miss Gilbert, but since she'd taken a break from college for her Miss Arizona duties, she wanted to save it for later. Rich told her she had to fill out a special form before the Gilbert pageant's one-year anniversary. But though Rose asked repeatedly, she recalls that Rich never provided the form.

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