Former Montana pageant queen crowned Miss California

Katie Blair, a West High graduate who won the Miss Teen USA competition in 2006, was crowned Miss California USA to fill out the remaining reign of Alyssa Campanella, who was crowed Miss USA 2011.

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Katie Blair, who left Montana as Miss Teen USA 2006, was crowned Miss California USA last Saturday to fill out the remaining reign of Alyssa Campanella, who was crowned Miss USA 2011 in June.

Blair, who graduated in 2006 from West High, will reign as Miss California 2011 until January.

Redemption is the theme of Blair's story of her return to the pageant circuit.

"I swore up and down I wasn't going to do a pageant again," she said during a phone interview from Los Angeles, where she now lives. "But I wanted the opportunity to recover from my term as Miss Teen USA."

Her reign was marred by massive media coverage surrounding the carousing of the then-Miss USA, Tara Conner, who went into an alcohol abuse rehab program to retain her title. Blair, who admitted to underage drinking but denied other accusations made in the tabloid press, was dropped as a spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Blair was part of Donald Trump's MTV reality show "Pageant Place," which also followed the lives of Miss USA and Miss Universe.

"It put me in quite an unpleasant light," Blair said. Although billed as "reality," some of the dialog was scripted and they were placed in uncomfortable situations, she said. Only the "juiciest parts of the story" aired on TV.

"I came off as immature, disrespectful, naive, young and ignorant," Blair said.

The effect was hurtful, she said.

"I've spent almost five years now waking up and dealing with that," she said. She opted to try for a positive pageant experience rather than to "sit around and be bitter and regretful and resentful."

She raised her own funds to enter the California pageant. When she competed last November against 280 contestants, she was in the best physical shape of her life, she said, and wore a gown styled by Houston designer Gaspar Cruz.

The California pageant gave her the opportunity to "show the world -- and myself more than anyone -- that I am a strong, honest, educated, independent woman."

Now she's looking forward to using her title as a steppingstone for her career in public relations. She works in asset management for an import/export business in Los Angeles.

During her California reign, Blair will attend numerous "red carpet events." On July 3, she'll play in Steve Garvey's televised celebrity softball game after the Angels/Dodgers game. The game is a benefit for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. In July, she'll be at the ESPY awards honoring top athletes. She intends to work during her reign with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, along with the anti-bullying organization Love is Louder and the No H8 campaign, a silent protest in support of same-sex marriage, which was banned under California's Proposition 8.

Blair was in Billings before Mother's Day to participate in the Montana Women's Run along with three generations of her family. Her visit was a surprise for her grandmother, Gloria Blair.

Contact Donna Healy at dhealy@billingsgazette.com or 657-1292.

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