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Pageant flub wins S.C. teen wide audience

COLUMBIA -- Hometown girl Lauren Caitlin Upton didn't win the Miss Teen USA crown Friday. But she might have won something bigger: a worldwide audience, thanks to the video sharing site YouTube.

Video clips of Upton mangling an answer to a question during the pageant competition Friday blanketed the Internet over the weekend.

It's not the kind of fame the 18-year-old Lexington High School grad imagined for herself.

"Things happen for a reason," said Upton, Miss South Carolina Teen USA. "That's the way life goes."

One YouTube clip of the question-and-answer session logged more than 2.6 million hits and 11,000 comments in just three days. It's already spawned YouTube parodies and got Upton on CNN and an appearance on the "Today" show this morning.

During the pageant, airing live on NBC on Friday evening from Pasadena, Calif., Upton was asked why one-fifth of Americans are unable to locate the United States on a map.

Upton's confused reply included disjointed words and phrases such as "some people out there in our nation don't have maps ..." and references to "U.S. Americans," South Africa and "the Iraq." And the ramble was punctuated with "such as."

Most comments posted online are scathing ("sharp as a beachball, this one"); occasionally, there's a sympathetic post suggesting nerves were the culprit ("That's sad, sometimes the best go blank ...")

Upton said from her parents' home in Lexington on Monday that she was aware of the frenzy created by her answer, but she misunderstood the question.

"I didn't do anything wrong. I wasn't expecting (the question). I lost my train of thought."

Upton isn't watching the clip.

of herself.

"I don't really want to hear myself," she said, laughing.

The two-hour "Miss Teen USA," which aired on NBC, averaged just a 3.1 household rating, according to Nielsen overnights. If that number holds when final ratings come out, it would become the lowest-rated telecast in the event's history.

Today, Upton will have a second chance to answer questions when she appears on "Today."

"I just want people to know that I'm an average teenage girl, living life to the fullest, learning from my mistakes and living life in a positive way, and that is all I can ask for."

The gaffe didn't entirely sink her chances: she came in third runner-up.

Who won, anyway?

Reach Nalepa at (803) 771-8507.

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