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Topless photo scandal at Miss Universe contest

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Miss Universe New Zealand, Ria Van Dyke. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Miss Universe New Zealand, Ria Van Dyke. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

In what appears to be a drastic bid to make global column inches, the Miss Universe pageant released official photos taken by photographer Fadil Berisha of some of the contestants posing topless and covered only in strategically placed body paint.

The nudity has caused an uproar of criticism from many commentators who view the racy photos as a blatant attempt by organisers and the Trump organisation (which co-owns the Miss Universe Organisation with NBC) to increase ratings.

Donald Trump, no stranger to publicity and making a buck, has no problem with the promotional photos for the beauty contest which takes place in Las Vegas on August 23.

"The Miss USA Pageant and the Miss Universe Pageant just got renewed for three years by NBC," Trump told The Insider. "The ratings have been terrific. We are in a different age. They are a little bit sexy but I'll tell you what - everybody's watching so I have no problems with it."

Ironically, Trump terminated Miss California Carrie Prejean's contract last year after photos surfaced showing her partially nude with her back turned to the camera.

The pageant body paint photo shoot gave the contestants the choice to take off their tops and bare all. Miss Trinidad and Tobago reportedly "felt liberated and artistic during the shoot." Miss USA said she felt comfortable taking her top off because she's "known to standout and always wanting to do something different."

But Miss New Zealand, 21-year-old Ria Van Dyke, opted not to strip off. Perhaps she thought going topless for the sake of art and ratings wasn't worth it.

Still, is Van Dyke tarred with the same tacky brush? Have beauty pageants stooped so low that it now takes naked women to make them relevant and newsworthy?

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