Pop Culture

Captions, not photos, trouble Miss New Jersey

It’s not so much the photos that trouble Miss New Jersey; it’s the words that someone put with them.

Miss New Jersey, 22-year-old Amy Polumbo, announced Thursday that someone was trying to blackmail her with old photographs and a demand that she give up her crown by Friday. Her refusal to give in and speculation about the photos made her a star of the moment — at least in the world of tabloid newspapers and Internet gossip blogs.

But by Friday Polumbo’s lawyer, Anthony Caruso, said it was actually captions on the photographs that troubled the beauty queen, not racy images.

“They’re just disgusting captions,” Caruso said. “They’re clearly meant to have one view these photos in an entirely different light.”

Caruso also thinks his client may have been defamed by the photo phrases and said he was meeting with officials from the state attorney general’s office to try to determine whether any laws were broken.

Lee Moore, a spokesman for the attorney general, said his office would not confirm whether any matters were under investigation.

Caruso won’t say what the photos show, except to say it’s nothing especially revealing — certainly nothing more revealing than the bikini Polumbo wore during the Miss New Jersey competition. He also declined to reveal what the captions said.

And her lawyer said Polumbo wouldn’t comment because she was being kept “under wraps” on Friday as the deadline for her resignation passed.

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Meanwhile, the Wagner College student didn’t step down. And the photos — and captions — that caused all the commotion didn’t appear to have been made public.

Polumbo is not the first pageant winner to have problems stemming from old photographs.

In 2002, Miss North Carolina Rebekah Revels, gave up her crown after an ex-boyfriend told pageant executives he had topless photos of her (though the photos never surfaced). Miss America 1984, Vanessa Williams, was forced to resign when Penthouse published nude photos of her.

Both of those women rebounded. Revels later became Miss United States in the Miss World competition. Williams, of course, has found enduring fame as a pop singer and actress.

The photo problem isn’t confined to young women known as “Miss” something. “American Idol” contestant Antonella Barba found some infamy earlier this year over salacious images.

Though the alleged blackmail images of Polumbo haven’t surfaced, Miss New Jersey 2007 does have something in common with the women in those other risque pictures: Their scandals made them more famous than they otherwise would have been.

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