By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"Well folks," one anonymous writer posted, "that is the end of a 20-year legacy, thanks to Monica and Steve Rich there will no longer be a Miss Arizona Pageant." Tempers flared to the point that one Rich supporter even called a critic a "stupid cunt." The chatter was so overwhelming that people from other states begged Arizonans to post somewhere else -- a plea usually reserved for pageant-crazy North Carolinians.
Miss Arizona CEO Steve Rich, at least, seems to be feeling the heat. Instead of accepting Forever Living's offer to continue its $2,000 scholarship, Rich responded by letter and told the company to forget it, sources say. All traces of the company and its scholarship were removed from the Miss Arizona Web site within a day.
Board member Nanci Wudel says Rich's rejection of the money was not meant to be an insult. The scholarship, she said, was tied to a state platform that required contestants to study Arizona's culture and history. That proved to be too onerous a requirement, she says, and to attract more contestants, the state leadership decided to drop it.
"It's good for them to be wanting to give that $2,000," she says. "It's sad we can't take it."
But when the pageant's whole purpose is ostensibly to give out scholarships, flatly rejecting the company's offer is hardly good PR. "Parents are going to think, 'They just turned down $2,000?'" says Trudy Hill, whose daughter, Corrie, was Miss Arizona in 2003. "Why would you do that? Well, you'd do it because you're mad . . . cutting your nose off to spite your face."
Wudel says the organization has lined up a new sponsor, though she won't name it publicly and isn't sure when it will be named. She still supports Monica and Steve Rich, even offering an explanation for their refusal to televise the pageant: The national Miss America organization doesn't want them to do so. (Miss America spokeswoman Jenni Glen says that isn't true.) Still, Wudel admits, Forever Living's departure is "definitely a loss."
On that point, if nothing else, Kapri Rose Roberts agrees. "Forever Living welcomed us into their place. They really made us feel special. To say, 'We don't want your money' and to throw it back in their face -- I feel embarrassed."