A little advice for aspiring beauty queens: Padding your swimsuit is okay. Padding your resume is a no-no.
Three weeks after she was named Miss Virginia, Andrea Ballengee was stripped of her title yesterday by pageant officials. The 21-year-old has been accused of falsifying her credentials, but the exact reason for her dismissal was not announced. "New facts have come to the Board's attention, which when considered in light of recent events, caused the Board to reconsider Miss Ballengee's ability to represent the Miss Virginia Scholarship Pageant," said a statement issued by pageant President Robert Bennett.
Ballengee was asked to resign but refused, so the pageant's board voted unanimously to drop her. "We're taking her crown," said pageant spokesman Bud Oakey, who declined to comment further.
The blue-eyed blonde was to have competed in the Miss America Pageant on Sept. 16 in Atlantic City, where the last two Miss Virginias have been among the five finalists. Virginia pageant officials said they would name a successor after a "formal review" of credentials.
If her resume checks out, the first runner-up, Amber Medlin, Miss Virginia Beach, is likely to be named Ballengee's successor next week.
Ballengee is reportedly in seclusion at the Roanoke apartment provided for the reigning Miss Virginia; a friend there said she would be unavailable for comment. "She was very upset," her mother, Pat Ballengee, told the Associated Press. "It was a surprise this morning. . . . They told her time and time again that they would support her."
Her problems began shortly after she was crowned in Roanoke on July 1. After news reports announced her victory and used details from a fact sheet completed by each contestant, questions about her resume were raised.
According to the fact sheet, Ballengee graduated from Tabb High School in Yorktown, Va., and Virginia Tech with high honors, which classmates and teachers say she exaggerated or never received.
For example, she noted that in high school she was a "highest honors graduate" and won the "Most Outstanding Female Athlete award." Tabb's principal said she was closer to a B student and won the prize for Most Outstanding Cheerleader, -- not the athletic award.
Ballengee also said that in college she belonged to Phi Beta Kappa, the national academic honor society. The chairman of the Phi Beta Kappa membership board at Virginia Tech came forward, saying Ballengee's grade-point average "wasn't anywhere close" to the qualifying 3.6.
At a July 7 news conference, Ballengee dismissed all the fuss as simple misunderstandings. She said she considers cheerleaders to be athletes, believed previous college credits could be used toward her GPA at Tech, and was "invited" to join Phi Beta Kappa. "I believe 100 percent what I wrote down," she said.
At the time, pageant officials said they believed the errors on the fact sheet were honest mistakes and that the matter was closed. They did, however, concede that they were rethinking the resume verification process.
Currently, Virginia's city and county pageants are required to double-check the facts. After a Miss Virginia is selected, state pageant officials review the information before it is submitted to the Miss America Pageant.
Linda Haas, director of the Miss Hampton-Newport News Pageant, which Ballengee won before moving on to the state pageant, told the Roanoke Times & World-News that she had not believed it necessary to do a fact-check because Ballengee had competed in three previous pageants and was well liked and respected.
Yesterday, the pageant said other information that had surfaced prompted officials to withdraw the title. Pageant Director Margaret Baker said this is the first time a Miss Virginia has been dethroned in the 42 years the contest has been held in Roanoke.
The irony is that Ballengee would likely have captured the throne even without the disputed claims. The job of a titleholder such as Miss Virginia is primarily that of a spokeswoman for the state. Judges use the fact sheet to conduct interviews, then rate each contestant on her personality, talent and, yes, how well they fill out the traditional swimsuit.
Ballengee had competed in the statewide pageant for four years, landing in the Top 10 three times before finally winning this year. Her talent was lyrical dance, her platform helping disadvantaged children. She was crowned by last year's Miss Virginia, Cullen Johnson, who was the first runner-up at September's Miss America Pageant.
Ballengee will have to give up the title, the crown, the apartment in Roanoke and the new Chevrolet Camaro lent to her for a year. She will be allowed to keep the $7,500 scholarship that came with the title.
Although Ballengee's career as a beauty queen is over -- at least in Virginia -- she can proceed with her stated goal of attending law school. The political science major has said her ambition is to eventually run for Congress. CAPTION: Heavy is the head that wore the crown: Ex-queen Andrea Ballengee. CAPTION: Amber Medlin, the first runner-up in the Miss Virginia Pageant, will likely replace Andrea Ballengee if her resume checks out. CAPTION: Miss Virginia Dethroned Pageant officials yesterday stripped Andrea Ballengee, above, of her Miss Virginia crown for undisclosed reasons. She earlier had been accused of falsifying her resume. (Photo ran on page A01)