Miss Puerto Rico's Gown Pepper-Sprayed

Ingrid Rivera won the pageant despite her gown being laced with pepper spray.

ByABC News via logo
February 19, 2009, 8:15 AM

Nov. 27, 2007 -- Miss Puerto Rico Ingrid Marie Rivera smiled through her first modeling appearance since she won the coveted crown and she kept her poise as she shrugged off the attempt to sabotage her shot at the title.

That steely poise was on display when she won the contest Friday, smiling winningly at the judges despite the fact that her gown and even her makeup had been laced with pepper spray.

After leaving the stage, Rivera tore off her clothes and applied ice bags to her face and body, which were covered with hives.

"Good Morning America" spoke with Rivera last night in the Dominican Republic in her first modeling appearance since "the incident."

"I've just been elected Friday night, Friday night as Miss Universe Puerto Rico so this is my first runway show as Miss Universe so it's very pleasing and I'm very happy for it."

Rivera still bears the effects from the attack and had to apply makeup to cover lingering blemishes.

She's determined to stay positive though. "I've been honored as Miss Universe Puerto Rico. I know it's going to be a great honor for me and for my country for me to be crowned as the new Miss Universe."

Police are now investigating, but people involved with the pageant believe Rivera's rivals were jealous of her extensive prior pageant experience.

The jealous rage came as no surprise to fellow contestant Bianca Morales, who confirmed that the girls resented Rivera's winning record.

"We more or less know the girls who were very mad about the situation. But definitely I'm not going to say any names. I think I'm going to leave it to the investigation and sooner or later we'll know. Everybody's going to know," Morales said.

Winning the title puts Rivera in line to compete in the Miss Universe Pageant. The island has had five Miss Universe winners and the local media covers the competitions as if they were contact sports.

Miss America 1993 Leanza Cornett is familiar with pageant dirty tricks, but was stunned by the choice of pepper spray. "I know these people exist… [but] this kind of sabotage is, I would say, is absolutely unusual at this level of competition."

It's not the first beauty pageant to turn ugly.

Miss New Jersey 2007 Amy Palumbo is still embroiled in various legal battles after she announced that someone threatened to make public embarrassing photos of her unless she gave up her crown. "I'm presently the victim of blackmail and possible extortion," she said.

Miss Nevada 2007 lost her crown after racy photos of her mysteriously surfaced online.

And last year's Miss USA Tara Conner almost lost her crown because of her hard partying ways. In the end pageant president Donald Trump pardoned Conner on condition that she go to rehab.

The most famous case of competitive jealousy among women was the bat attack on Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan by her rival Tonya Harding in 1994.

But by all accounts this caper takes the crown.

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