Busted Online: Elyse Umemoto

Another Pageant Scandal

"I was with close friends, celebrating, still in my crown," Elyse remembers. "There were really just a few of us. It wasn't unlike any other weekend. I felt like I was in a safe place. I wasn't out in public. I didn't feel like I was in a compromising situation. In my wildest dreams, it never crossed my mind that those pictures of me in my crown would make it out onto the Internet."

Just days before she ended her reign as Miss Washington, someone posted the photos online, and she found herself in the middle of a scandal.

[AD]"After I found out about the pictures being released, I broke down into tears," Elyse says. "I was crumpling into a pile on the floor, and I kept apologizing over, and over and over again. People were saying that I should have my crown taken away, that my title should be revoked. I don't want to be remembered as the Miss Washington that was part of that scandal. I felt very violated."

The Miss Washington organization called a press conference, and Elyse made a statement trying to clear her name: "I am deeply hurt by such an act of betrayal. The photographs do not represent my true essence in any way. This is me genuinely apologizing. This is me genuinely admitting that I am only human."

Elyse tells Dr. Phil how it all came to be. "The pictures belonged to me. They existed only on my own camera, my own computer, so they were literally stolen from me by someone who was, at one time, very close to me but is not now, and we've obviously since gone our separate ways. But this was an attempt to hurt me."

"Do these pictures properly represent who you are?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Absolutely not," she says.

"That's what I want to get said because the truth is, you can take some of these things out of context, put them all together in one place, and it paints you as a very different picture than how you live your life every day, right?" he asks.

"Yeah," Elyse says.

Dr. Phil brings up the specific photo of Elyse wearing her crown and making a rude gesture at the camera. "That seems kind of inconsistent," he says.

"It's not my place to say I'm a role model," Elyse says. "It's not my place to say people should look up to me. I've never represented something I'm not, or as better than anybody or above anything. And in that same line of thought, how many of us have unflattering pictures of us caught in candid moments that you wouldn't want shared?"

[AD]"Someone betrayed you and put these out there. What's the backlash been for you?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Well, fortunately, the support I received from the organization, and from my friends and my family was so overwhelming," she says. "Yes, absolutely, some of those photos were definitely inappropriate, but they know that the intention was not to be lewd or obscene. It was me being candid. It was me with a ridiculous sense of humor in what I thought was a safe setting."

Dorothea is a mother of four sons. She says that she wouldn't let any of them date Miss Washington after seeing her pictures. "It's just the language, the flipping off, the drinking and carrying on, the party-girl attitude," she tells Dr. Phil.

"But you don't even know her," Dr. Phil says.

"Doesn't matter," she says.

Dr. Phil asks Elyse, "What do you say to that when you hear something like that?"

[AD]"Well, I think it's an unfair expectation for young people, for me, to wear a scarlet letter because these are some isolated incidences captured on film of private moments," she says.

Dr. Phil notes, "You really don't regret taking the pictures, and you really don't think that it's inconsistent with the role you were in at the time."

"I don't think I should have to, or anybody should have to, live in fear, or, I don't know, just change the way they behave in general when nobody's being hurt," Elyse says.

Michael Fertick is the CEO of ReputationDefenders.com, a comprehensive online reputation management and privacy company. Their job is to help defend your good name on the Web.

"What would it take to clean this up on the Internet?" Dr. Phil asks Michael.

[AD]"In Elyse's case, it's too late. My company could do it, but it'd cost hundreds of thousands of dollars," Michael says. "In the average case, the good news is that it's not too late. The thing to do is to nip the problem in the bud. If there's a picture you see on your kid's MySpace page " and you should be aware that kids have more than one MySpace page, or more than one Facebook page, so if you've seen one, they might have another with a different user name. So if you see a problem, nip it in the bud, take it away right away. That's the major solution."

"And at this point, you're moving on with your life," Dr. Phil says to Elyse. "I wish you the absolute best with that."