Final Judgment: Miss USA

By Ross von Metzke

Originally published on Advocate.com April 21 2009 11:00 PM ET

When Miss California
(Carrie Prejean) made the flub heard 'round the world with
regard to blogger and Miss USA judge Perez Hilton's now-famous
marriage-equality question, websites and blogs lit up with
commentary, questions, and inevitable follow-up interviews.
Alicia Jacobs, the Las Vegas on-air entertainment reporter for
the city's NBC affiliate and former Miss Nevada USA who sat
at the judges' table with Hilton that evening, ran home and
took to her blog. She was fired up -- frustrated by Prejean's
lack of compassion, eager to shed some light on the issue of
marriage equality, and hoping people reading her words at home
would understand why a Miss USA contestant should have
avoided such a polarizing response to such a topical
question.

Within 24 hours
Jacobs's in-box was flooded with hate mail -- including a
few death threats.

Jacobs reached out to
Advocate.com to talk about the overwhelming response to her
blog post, where she thinks Miss California went wrong, and
what really went down in that auditorium after the
"awkward" applause died down.

Advocate.com:This has been quite a week for you.
Alicia Jacobs:

Oh, my gosh. Has it ever. I thought I was going to go in and
judge a beauty pageant, which I was delighted and honored to
do, and it's just taken on a life of its own.

When you heard Miss California's response to the
question about marriage equality, did you know instantly it was
going to cause a stir?

I couldn't have imagined that three days later we would still
be talking about it. The girl who actually became Miss USA
[Miss North Carolina, Kristen Dalton] has been put on the back
burner, which is unfortunate because she deserves the limelight
right now, and nobody's talking about her. We're talking about
Miss California, whose answer was definitely polarizing, and
that's not what this pageant was all about.

Alicia Jacobs Video x300 (grab) | advocate.com

Perez was the only judge to write his own questions, and
some people have questioned whether or not it was an
appropriate question to ask.

I think it was a completely relevant question to ask. All of
the judges' questions were meant to be topical, and, my
gosh, certainly gay marriage is topical. It's an important
issue and one that most states are talking about as we speak. I
mean, my home state of Nevada -- right now there's legislation
going on.

What was the mood in the theater like after Miss
California's response? From what I've heard, what we saw on
TV was not necessarily how it went down.

It was interesting. There was applause, but it almost seemed
like a slightly delayed nervous applause. She had a very large
cheering section there, because California is very close to
Nevada and that's what you'd expect. Look, she's a very
beautiful girl and she competed well, in some people's opinion,
up until that point. But the applause was followed by a great
deal of booing, which didn't surprise me.

ALICIA JACOBS 02 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

You took to your blog after the Miss USA event to talk about
your feelings on marriage equality and about how the entire
situation was handled. Why was it important for you to speak
out?

Well, it's a very important issue to me. First of all, I will
tell you, that I am a hard-core, registered Republican -- and
proud to be one -- but gay marriage and gay rights are
paramount to me. I have so many important people in my life who
are gay. I've lived some of their heartache and I've lived some
of their victories and I'm passionate about it. I feel like
it's appropriate for me now to speak out about it because
there's a message there.

That blog has since been taken down. How did that all go
down?

I got a death threat -- maybe more than one -- and it was a
very uncomfortable thing for me. It was the first time in my
life that I've had to deal with something like that, so I
thought, for the time being, I would take it down. I will put
it back up. It may be in a different form -- I'm getting advice
on that right now from my station management, who, by the way,
they've been unbelievably supportive of this entire thing.

Oprah actually told Ellen DeGeneres that she'd never
received more hate mail than she did when she guest-starred on
Ellen's coming-out episode. This is one of those
topics people seem to get so fired up about. Why do you think
that is? Why do you think someone would care enough to threaten
your life?

I've been asking myself that question for the past several
hours. Maybe I live in a bubble. I'm beginning to think perhaps
I have been. Some of the most significant people in my life are
gay. I think,
My God. It's gotta be the hardest thing in the world to be
gay.

I can't believe the anger and the hatred that obviously my
friends are dealing with on a daily basis -- and, to their
credit, they rise above it every day and live amazing,
successful lives. I had respect for them before, but it has now
risen to a level I can't articulate. I'm not sure I could live
my life and be successful in my occupation if I had to deal
with that every day. It would be almost paralyzing to me.

Other contestants have now come out with their feelings on
marriage equality -- some supporting it, some saying it should
be left up to politicians. Do you think there is a way Miss
California could have answered that question where she could
have saved herself? Or the minute she went there, for you, was
it over?

I don't think that question lost the pageant for her, because
she was never my winner to begin with. Going into the top five,
I believe, she was third in entertainment and second in evening
gown. Of course, nobody knows what would have happened at the
end, but I don't think she was destined to win. Could she have
answered that question better? Absolutely. My big thing was not
the content of her answer, it was how she approached it. First
of all, she didn't even answer the question -- she took it upon
herself to raise her personal beliefs, which she didn't
necessarily need to do to answer the question correctly. Miss
USA is a spokesperson and she has to represent all people. She
has to be a spokesperson for breast cancer, for ovarian cancer.
Most importantly, she has to have social grace and, in that
moment, she did not.

I had a chance to read the blog before it was taken down,
thanks to Mr. Perez Hilton. Have you been following his
response to this, and what do you think?

I saw excerpts from his personal blog that he wrote right after
the telecast. It was a bit harsh, and I wish that he hadn't
used some of the language that he had. But look, he was upset.
I was sitting right next to him, and we both drove back to the
hotel together. He was visibly upset and really put off by it.
He had a right to be. He's a gay man, he asked the
question, I don't think it was the answer he wanted to hear. I
think when he did that blog, that's what was fueling it and he
was caught up in the moment. When he went on
Larry King,

I thought he was outstanding.
Access Hollywood,

I think he did a really good job.

Some people have said that if Miss California had answered
the question the way same-sex marriage supporters had wanted
her to, we'd have missed out on this important discussion. Do
you think some good has inevitably come of this?

I would love to believe that some good has come out of this,
and I would love to believe from darkness there is light.
Coming out of this whole experience, if I could have two
wishes, they would be that people will feel more compassion
toward gay issues and gay marriage and maybe have somewhat more
of an open mind [toward] what the majority of gay Americans are
having to deal with on a daily basis. I can't imagine someone
telling me I don't have the right to spend my life with the
person that I love -- I would be incensed. And, at the end of
the day, I hope that this poor woman who won Miss USA -- I hope
that she finally gets to have the recognition she so
deserves.

There is, of course, the possibility that as runner-up Miss
California could become Miss USA. What would you need to see
from her -- an apology? What needs to happen now?

If that were to happen, I would hope that this had opened her
eyes and she sees that her words were hurtful to some people.
If she were to become Miss USA, [I hope she] would do
everything she could to try and bring people together. She
doesn't have to love the idea, but maybe have an understanding
that people who love each other just want to be together.