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Former Miss Teen USA contender says she considered suicide after pageant stumble went viral

Caite Upton badly botched a question during a televised beauty pageant a few years ago, and the Internet made her pay for it.
/ Source: TODAY

A former teen beauty queen has opened up about how crushing humiliation nearly led her to suicide after a video of her stumbling to answer a question during a pageant went viral.

In 2007, Caite Upton bumbled an answer on the telecast of the Miss Teen USA pageant. The harsh blowback, stereotyping her as the ultimate dumb blonde, ruined her life for a time, she told New York Magazine.

"I had some very dark moments where I thought about committing suicide," said Upton, who was Miss South Carolina Teen USA. "The fact that I have such an amazing family and friends, it really, really helped."

Criticism largely came from online sources, but in the interview with New York, the now 26-year-old model recounted some scary real-life events that led her down a dark path.

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Upton recalled being at a party at the University of South Carolina where members of the school's baseball team started harassing her.

FLASHBACK: Miss South Carolina Teen USA explains herself

"[They] surrounded me and bashed me with the harshest, meanest comments I had ever heard," she said.

People she'd been close with abandoned her, "People I'd been friends with since I was 10, people I grew up playing soccer with," she said.

The cruelty even hit close to home. Someone put a letter in her parents' mailbox saying she would die in a fire, adding "GO DIE FOR YOUR STUPIDITY."

"That's the kind of stuff people would say to me for years," she said.

Caite Upton in 2007, left, and earlier this year. She said she gets recognized less after changing her hair color.YouTube, Getty Images

The source of the tumult came from Upton's reply to a softball question about why a fifth of Americans couldn't find the U.S. on a world map.

In her botched response, Upton randomly referenced South Africa and "the Iraq" and referred to "U.S. Americans."

A clip of the moment was watched by over 63 million people on YouTube.

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Upton later appeared on TODAY and said she felt overwhelmed up on the stage.

Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Hollywood, and has appeared on "The Amazing Race," "Ridiculousness" and in commercials, New York reported.

These days, she's recognized less often because she changed her hair color, and has mostly moved past the embarrassment.

"The past few years, going brunette, I have not had any recognition for the Miss Teen USA Pageant at all," said Upton.

"But I also get recognized for having a similar name to Kate Upton. So I’ll go into my auditions and be like, 'Yes, yes, I know — I’m the other one.'"

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