Carrie Prejean may have been out of sight at Sunday's Miss California USA pageant—but she definitely was not out of mind.
The annual pageant, held at Agua Caliente Resort and Casino in Rancho Mirage, was full of overt digs at the controversial beauty queen. Donald Trump, the owner of Miss Universe, even got in on the action, appearing via video feed to introduce the interview portion of the show.
"Get ready for some really tough questions...and as time has proven, they get us in a lot of trouble," he promised.
Host Chris Jacobs also contributed a few cracks about Prejean, saying that one lucky girl would win the chance to "become TMZ's new favorite topic" and "give Larry King something inappropriate to talk about." He also referenced her solo sex-tape scandal, joking that a producer wanted to call Miss Photogenic "the Carrie Prejean award."
Backstage, pageant codirector Shanna Moakler weighed in on the controversies that have colored the organization's year. (Moakler, who left her post at Miss California USA during Prejean's reign, returned after Trump ousted the scandal-ridden titleholder.)
"It was a really difficult decision for me when I did step down," Moakler told E! News. "But my faith has been restored in the Miss Universe system and Donald Trump, and it makes me really happy that the contracts that I signed as a youth actually are valid."
Moakler also said she hopes Prejean's political and personal predicaments can be a lesson to other pageant contestants.
"I think a lot of attention has been put on great issues—not just issues of Prop 8 and free speech and things like that—but it sends a clear message to young girls, like, 'Hey you may want to think twice before videotaping yourself or sending pictures that are private and personal to a boyfriends,' " she said, adding: "Yes, I posed for Playboy, but I was prepared for the whole world to see it."
The former Miss USA also shared her reaction to reading Prejean's new book, Still Standing, joking: "I like fiction."
At the unveiling of the Miss California USA crown on Saturday night, E! News asked reigning titleholder Tami Farrell if she had any advice for the competitors.
"I say, if you get first runner-up, just pray for a controversy!"
In the end, Nicole Johnson of Sherwood was selected as Miss California USA 2010 in the first live, televised broadcast of the pageant in 15 years. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Miss USA Kristen Dalton, CSI's A.J. Buckley and Hill Harper, and Kelly Monaco of Dancing With the Stars were among the celebrity attendees and judges at the event.
Think this is scandalous behavior? Check out our Beauty Pageant Scandals gallery and compare.