On October 29, Human Events Editor Jed Babbin interviewed former Miss California Carrie Prejean about her new book Still Standing: The Untold Story of My Fight Against Gossip, Hate, and Political Attacks.
Here’s a transcript of the interview:
Q: Carrie, the book starts out right at your moment of truth: Miss USA contest, you’re on stage, Perez Hilton asks you an obviously politically loaded question, and you gave your answer, which was:
‘I think it is great that Americans are able to choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised, and that’s how I believe that it should be — between a man and a woman.’
What was going through your mind when he asked you that question?
PREJEAN: I still get emotional even thinking about it, because it’s just like yesterday, being on the stage. I just remember seeing everything fly right past me, you know, all my dreams and ambitions to becoming Miss USA. I’d worked so hard for it, I’d taken a semester off of school. My parents had sacrificed so much for me. I just remember thinking I can’t believe this question is even being asked.
Q: It seemed out of place, didn’t it?
PREJEAN: It was so out of place, and it wasn’t a question I thought would be asked at a beauty pageant. I had prepared for so many questions, but I never thought — I kind of went by gay marriage, but I never thought it would as specific as that. So I just remember feeling like, if I tell the truth, I’m not going to win, or if I cave in, or if I lie, or agree with him, then I could be Miss USA, and that’s something that I had wanted for so long. I just remember beginning to answer, and I said, you know, I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other — acknowledging him, he’s obviously gay, and I learned that at the pageant that night — and I just said, but, I feel as though … and this is the way that I was raised, that a marriage is between a man and a woman, that’s how it should be. And I made sure to say, no offense to anybody. I didn’t want to offend anybody in the audience, or him. I was being very considerate. And all of the sudden, after I answered it, I just heard all of these people in the audience, some cheering, some booing, a lot of conversation going on. And that’s when I felt, oh my gosh, I’m not going to win this thing.
Q: In terms of your life before that, and you have a very good recounting of your childhood in the book, you really weren’t a political person up to that moment, were you?
PREJEAN: No, I mean, I was in tune. When you’re in pageants, you’re in tune with what’s going on in the world around you. So I’ve always been very conservative, my father’s very conservative, so we’d watch Fox News and he’d make sure to say, ‘Hey, Carrie, keep up with what’s going on, keep up with the bailout, keep up with what’s going on with the President, be up-to-date with all the propositions.’ He said, ‘I don’t think they’ll go that in-depth of politics, because they’ve always said that they don’t ask about politics.’ I thought there might be a question, like I said in the book, do you think America’s ready for the first female President? A question that you can take a side but also acknowledge both sides, and not have to choose left or right. It was so black and white.
Q: But not focusing on the pageant, just focusing on you, you weren’t running for class president all through high school.
PREJEAN: No. I was president of my school my junior and senior year. I was very involved with the student body. I was athletic chairperson. So I learned structure, I learned balance, I learned how to get along with people. I learned to be civil. I was never thinking about running for politics. No, I never wanted to be a spokesperson for any group or anything.
Q: So when you went into the pageant, you weren’t thinking, ‘Hey, I can make a political statement?’
PREJEAN: Not at all, not at all. And I tell this to people, I say, if they were to ask me about abortion, if they were to ask me about what I think about anything, very specific, I would give them a specific answer. I wouldn’t just sugarcoat something just to win the pageant. I feel as though some other people in the pageant might have just given sort of the on-the-fence answer just because that’s the way they think they could win the pageant.
Q: All through the book, the theme is there that you’re a religiously devout person, your faith is very important to you, you’ve been involved in church a great deal. Was that part of the reason why you answered the question the way you did: your faith.
PREJEAN: I just remember, it is very clear to me. I remember thinking: Carrie, how were you taught? How were you taught, how were you raised? I had a very good pageant director, Pam Wilson, who loved me, who was my mentor, who said, ‘Carrie, you can answer any question. Just remember two things: Who you are, where you come from.’ Then she also said, ‘You remember the way that your family raised you.’ She said, ‘Don’t ever be intimidated of any question, because you can really answer anything. Just relate it to you, your family, who you are.’ So I just remember thinking, okay, this is about gay marriage, what do I think, what do I feel, what does my family feel about it, and I feel marriage is between a man and a woman.
Q: Getting back to the issue of your faith, you’ve been very active in the church. Tell me some of the things you’ve been involved in. For example, what are JC’s Girls?
PREJEAN: I’m involved with two ministries: JC’s Girls and Luv Em Up. JC’s Girls is a ministry that outreaches to women who are in the adult entertainment ministry. Luv Em Up is a ministry for people with disabilities. So it’s two ministries that are a complete opposite, but they’re both very dear to my heart.
Q: So you spend a lot of time helping these women come out of what’s called the adult entertainment industry.
PREJEAN: Right. And not judging them, but letting them know that they are loved, and helping them get back on their feet.
Q: One of the things that comes through this book is your pastor, who I guess is one of your best pals. Tell me about him. Miles McPherson, former football player, right?
PREJEAN: Right, Miles McPherson played for the San Diego Chargers. I started going to his church when it was very small. It was at San Diego State. And now it is a huge church with over 12,000 people a week. And I just always sat up in the balcony by myself or with my family, and I never got to know him, but when all this was going on, I had a friend call the church and ask for prayer, and he basically said, ‘What do I have to do with Miss America?’ He didn’t even know what was going on. And she said, you know, Carrie just needs prayer, she goes to the church, and he just said, ‘I have to help this girl.’ So he went with me to New York. Actually, he was in New York, and he went with me to all my interviews and really stepped up to the plate and was there when no one else was.
Q: So what is that to you? What does that show about him and about the church?
PREJEAN: It just shows that God is watching you and he will provide if you just trust in Him. I didn’t want to go to New York. I was scared, I was petrified.
Q: This is after the question, when you’re going through all the media?
PREJEAN: Right. And everybody was saying, ‘This is going to be huge, this is going to be a huge controversy, you’re going to go on every show.’ And I’m thinking, I didn’t want any more publicity, I just want to go back home. And I felt that the Lord was telling me, ‘Carrie, just go. Just do this. I will provide for you.’ And so I trusted in Him even when I had doubts. And I went, and Miles was there. Pretty amazing.
Q: Well, let’s talk about the entire thing. You’re all of, what, 22 years old, and you’ve been the target of one of the most vicious media campaigns I’ve ever seen. It seems to me you’ve probably toughened up a little bit. Are you ready for what’s going to happen in the next round? Because these guys are going to come at you all over again. Are you ready for that?
PREJEAN: I am ready. I feel as though I could take on anything right now. People will try and say whatever they want about you, but I just feel so strong. I feel like I have the courage of a 35-year-old. And that just comes from my faith, my family, the supporters that I have. And I don’t think of myself as just a little 22-year-old beauty queen.
Q: One of the things which I think a lot of Americans will find real identification with: the gay community seems to play by different rules. One of the things you say in the book is ‘tolerance has to be a two-way street.’ What do you mean by that?
PREJEAN: I don’t see why they say that we have to accept them, and we have to be tolerant of them, but yet when a young girl goes and says her opinion at a beauty contest, she is so viciously attacked for just stating an opinion. It’s just an opinion. I’ve learned, just being 22-years-old. I’ve learned that tolerance, unfortunately, isn’t a two-way street. I said in my book how they want to come out but yet we have to go hide in the closet and just silence ourselves and be politically correct, and we can’t voice our opinions and our thoughts and our beliefs. And it’s sad.
Q: How big a danger is political correctness? I mean, not just to the beauty pageant industry, but to America, to the young people. How much pressure does that place on the young folks?
PREJEAN: It’s a lot of pressure. Especially my generation. I feel like my generation is so easily influenced by the pop culture, and what their parents tell them. They don’t have their own voice, they don’t watch the television, they don’t watch the news, they don’t read the newspaper, they don’t go on websites that educate them with politics and with what’s going on around them. So they have a disadvantage and just say ‘Obama’s cool — he’s a cool guy, he’s change, and this and that’– so they kind of just go along with that. They need to know that there are cool, conservative people out there — especially women, who are very intelligent, who are in tune with what’s going on around them — who aren’t liberal.
Q: Well, what’s next for Carrie Prejean? You still want to be a sportscaster?
PREJEAN: Oh, that would be so cool. That would be awesome. I love sports.
Q: You played a lot of sports. And one of the most prominent conservative women is also, I think, a former high school hockey or basketball player. You had a conversation with the lady who used to be known as Sarah Barracuda. Tell me about it.
PREJEAN: Oh, that was very, very cool. I was having a really bad day one day. Sarah called me and just — it was like talking to a friend.
Q: Just out of the blue, Sarah called.
PREJEAN: Yeah. It was a great conversation, and she just told me how proud she is of me. She gave me hope, because she’s been through so much. And I look up to her so much and admire her so much for her strength.
PREJEAN: She just has the strength, the courage to get through — she’s been through so much junk. And it’s just because she’s conservative, she’s gorgeous, she’s intelligent, she has a wonderful family, and people want to continually call these conservative women stupid. They want to call them dumb, they want to make fun of their family. But yet nobody sees it happening to Michelle Obama. Very seldom do you see things made fun of — Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi. But you see constantly people making fun of Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Sarah Palin, and myself — and it would never, ever, ever be tolerated with the liberals.
Q: Is there a political future for Carrie Prejean?
PREJEAN: Most likely not. Not because I’m scared at all, but just because I see myself doing other things. I see myself mentoring young women, and speaking to college campuses, and really encouraging my generation. And not caring about old politicians.