Former Miss Teen South Carolina almost driven to suicide by bullies

Dec 3, 2015 at 4:22 p.m. ET

Caite Upton, a former Miss Teen USA contestant, became Internet-famous when her nonsensical interview question became a viral sensation — but the fame took a harsh toll.

The former Miss Teen South Carolina became the subject of mockery when her 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant appearance went very, very wrong. Upton was asked why some Americans could not identify the United States on a map, her rambling answer made her look less than intelligent — and bullies couldn't wait to rub her nose in it.

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Now Upton is speaking out about her awful experience in the aftermath of her televised flub, and she said the bullying got so bad that she contemplated suicide.

"I lost a lot of close friends over it — people I'd been friends with since I was 10, people I grew up playing soccer with," she told New York magazine. "One group of girls took me to this party at the University of South Carolina, and I walk in, and the entire USC baseball team surrounded me and bashed me with the harshest, meanest comments I had ever heard. And somebody once put a letter in my parents' mailbox about how my body was going to be eaten alive by ants and burned in a freak fire. And then it said, in all caps, GO DIE CAITE UPTON, GO DIE FOR YOUR STUPIDITY. That's the kind of stuff people would say to me for two years."

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"I definitely went through a period where I was very, very depressed. But I never let anybody see that stuff, except for people I could trust," she explained. "I had some very dark moments where I thought about committing suicide. The fact that I have such an amazing family and friends, it really, really helped. [Begins to tear up] Sorry, it's just really emotional. This is the first time I've actually been able to talk about it. It was awful, and it was every single day for a good two years. I've only spoken to my fiancé about how I felt in those moments truthfully, and my best friend. And, recently, my mom. But, like, my dad doesn't even know yet."

Upton revealed that she has since dyed her hair brown in an attempt to go incognito, and people no longer recognize her as the pageant girl she once was. In fact, because of her name, she is sometimes mistaken for another famous blond.

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

If you suspect someone might be considering suicide, or you have struggled with those thoughts yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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