Jersey Beauty Queen Pushes Back After Blackmail Attempt

Miss New Jersey says someone is threatening to make some personal photographs of her public if she does not give up her crown.

But Amy Polumbo is not just Miss New Jersey, she's also a Jersey girl, and says she has no intention of giving in.

"It would certainly be easier for me to simply succumb to these unlawful and immoral threats, and quietly disappear," Polumbo said Thursday at a news conference she called in Asbury Park.

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Polumbo, a 22-year-old Howell resident and a senior at Wagner College on Staten Island, won the Miss New Jersey competition last month, giving her the right to compete in the next Miss America competition — wherever and whenever it may be held. Her platform: Protecting children from online predators.

Polumbo's lawyer, Anthony Caruso, said that starting last week, Polumbo, her family and officials in the Miss New Jersey Education Foundation received packages with pictures of her and the demand that she resign by Friday.

Caruso said the pictures show her with some friends and some may have been photos that she posted years ago on a private Internet site.

Did they reveal skin that a pageant-sanctioned swimsuit would cover up? College students behaving badly, perhaps? Caruso would not say.

"I don't think the photos are that bad," Caruso said. "The people posting this blackmail scheme are trying to make these photos out to be worse than I think they are."

He said he couldn't comment further because more photos could arrive and change everything.

Officials at the Miss America Organization and the New Jersey affiliate did not immediately return messages Thursday from The Associated Press. But Caruso said the New Jersey competition officials were on board with her trying to fight back.

Caruso said he was planning to contact law enforcement officials to see if any laws were broken.

"It's a real shame because she's a sweet kid," the lawyer said. "She's got a stellar background and she's very talented and it just seems we can never get away from this in our culture."

If Polumbo did step down for some reason, first runner-up Ronica Licciardello would become Miss New Jersey.

Reached by phone at her Mount Laurel home Thursday, Licciardello said she had not heard of the scandal. "I hope this situation is resolved in the best way possible," she said.

Polumbo is not the first pageant winner to have problems stemming from old photographs.

In 2002, Miss North Carolina Rebekah Revels, gave up her crown after an ex-boyfriend told pageant executives he had topless photos of her. The photos never surfaced, but the damage was done. Miss America 1984, Vanessa Williams, was forced to resign when Penthouse published nude photos of her.

Both of those women rebounded. Revels later became Miss United States in the Miss World competition. Williams, of course, has found enduring fame as a pop singer and actress.