Going viral has its pros and cons, but for Caitlin Upton it was a curse.
Upton was a Miss Teen USA contestant in 2007, but will most likely always be known as the 18-year-old from South Carolina who badly fumbled her answer about education in America. When asked why some Americans couldn't identify their home country on a map, Upton stumbled and said it was because there weren't enough maps to go around...among other reasons.
Footage of her answer quickly spread across the Internet, which caused her to be harshly bullied for years. "I lost a lot of close friends over it—people I'd been friends with since I was 10, people I grew up playing soccer with. One group of girls took me to this party at the University of South Carolina, and I walk in, and the entire USC baseball team surrounded me and bashed me with the harshest, meanest comments I had ever heard," she tells New York Magazine.
"And somebody once put a letter in my parents' mailbox about how my body was going to be eaten alive by ants and burned in a freak fire. And then it said, in all caps, GO DIE CAITE UPTON, GO DIE FOR YOUR STUPIDITY," she continues. "That's the kind of stuff people would say to me for two years."
The constant harassment would eventually take its toll, and now Upton reveals that she debated ending her own life, feeling she couldn't take it anymore. "I definitely went through a period where I was very, very depressed. But I never let anybody see that stuff, except for people I could trust," she reveals. "I had some very dark moments where I thought about committing suicide. The fact that I have such an amazing family and friends, it really, really helped."
Upton ultimately decided to dye her hair brown with the hopes of not being recognized. Since transforming into a brunette, Upton says she hasn't been pegged as the famous pageant contestant, but she does have to deal with another problem.
"But I also get recognized for having a similar name to Kate Upton," she reveals. "So I'll go into my auditions and be like, 'Yes, yes, I know—I'm the other one.'
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).