Miss USA's Steamy Photos: Scandal or Smart Marketing?

For the past few years, the Miss USA competition has been fraught with scandal. Three years ago, Tara Conner, 2006's Miss USA, made a tearful apology for her drinking and drug abuse. Last year, Miss California, Carrie Prejean, lost her crown after topless photos — and a solo sex tape — emerged online. And that was after she slammed gay marriage and fiercely defended her Christian values.

It seems this year, however, the Miss Universe Organization is trying to beat the press to the controversy punch. Yesterday, it released racy photos of all 51 contestants.

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In a black-and-white spreads (check all of them out at MissUniverse.com), the pageant hopefuls are dressed in sexy lingerie and posing provocatively — much like Prejean was in the pics that contributed to her pageant downfall. Whether the organization was trying to orchestrate some scandal-worthy buzz or provide a quick face-lift to the conservative image of the pageant, those in charge could have shelled out a little more cash for wardrobe. Miss Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Rhode Island are all wearing the same pair of diamond-patterned tights. Though, full disclosure: We do think the tights are hot.

Tell Marie Claire: Do you think the pageant went too far with the photos — or is it just a smart marketing strategy?

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