Miss Universe Contestants and Former Colleagues on Donald Trump’s "Dismissive," "Creepy" Treatment of Women

Donald Trump - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

Donald Trump - Getty - H 2016

“He said: ‘I know you’re a woman in a man’s world. And while men tend to be better than women, a good woman is better than 10 good men.’ … He thought he was really complimenting me.”

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has been criticized in the press for the way he treats and talks about women. He made headlines for his comments about Megyn Kelly at a Republican debate, and more recently became an Internet meme after accusing Hillary Clinton of using the “woman card.”

More women have come forward to reveal their experiences with him in a New York Times article on Saturday, sharing stories of how Trump has treated them in Hollywood, business and personal relationships.

While head of the Miss Universe and Miss USA Organization in the mid-‘90s, Trump reportedly became heavily involved with the contestants and their appearance.

Alicia Machado, Miss Universe in 1996, recalls a time when she had gained weight after winning her title. She reached out to the Miss Universe Organization for help getting healthy again, but Trump instead used the situation to publicly shame her, according to Machado. She was taken to a hotel in New York then taken to a gym with “90 media outlets” there to watch.

“I had no idea that would happen. I was about to cry in that moment with all the cameras there. I said, ‘I don’t want to do this, Mr. Trump.’ He said, ‘I don’t care.’”

Machado says that episode led her to unhealthy extremes. “After that episode, I was sick, anorexia and bulimia for five years,” she said. “Over the past 20 years, I’ve gone to a lot of psychologists to combat this.”

Miss Utah Temple Taggart, then 21 years old, recalls Trump introducing himself to her with a sudden kiss directly on the lips and was later insulted when he suggested he should lie about her age to get ahead. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, gross.’ He was married to Marla Maples at the time. I think there were a few other girls that he kissed on the mouth. I was like ‘Wow, that’s inappropriate.’” 

Carrie Prejean, a 21-year-old Miss USA contestant in 2009, remembers a “humiliating” exercise when she and her fellow pageant contestants were asked to line up for Trump onstage for his evaluation. “Donald Trump walked out with his entourage and inspected us closer than any general ever inspected a platoon. He would stop in front of a girl, look her up and down, and say, ‘Hmmm.’ Then he would go on and do the same thing to the next girl. He took notes on a little pad as he went along.”

“Some of the girls were sobbing backstage after he left,” said Prejean, “devastated to have failed even before the competition really began to impress ‘The Donald.’”

Former Miss Universe Brook Antoinette Mahealani Lee says that Trump once paraded his daughter Ivanka around at an awards show, asking for opinions on her body. “’She’s hot, right?’” she remembered him asking. “That’s just weird. She was 16. That’s creepy.”

Other women’s accounts are similar, though Trump defends his opinion on women and their work ethic, adding, however, “It would just seem that there was something that they want to really prove.”

Rowanne Brewer Lane, a 26-year-old model when she met Trump in 1990, says the business mogul led her away from a Florida pool party she was attending to tour her around the mansion before asking her to model a swimsuit for him. “I went into the bathroom and tried one on,” she said. “I came out, and he said, ‘Wow.’” Calling the whole meeting “intimidating,” she says that he showed her off to the crowd. “He brought me out to the pool and said, ‘That is a stunning Trump girl, isn’t it?’”

But his behavior reportedly goes beyond pageants and models. Barbara Res, once a construction executive within his company, says that Trump would bring up women’s bodies in business meetings and casual conversation. "'You like your candy,'" Res says Trump once told her. "It was him reminding me that I was overweight."

One former student at Trump’s New York Military Academy (where Trump was dubbed the “ladies’ man”) recalled that even at a young age, “Donald was extremely sensitive to whether or not the women he invited to campus were pretty,” adding that “For Donald, it’s display.”

Res added that it was all about the company’s appearance to Trump and he was often oblivious to how his remarks were heard in the office. “He said: ‘I know you’re a woman in a man’s world. And while men tend to be better than women, a good woman is better than 10 good men.’ … He thought he was really complimenting me.”

Alair A. Townsend, former deputy mayor in New York, said his tone to women he worked with was “dismissive,” and Res says that he often called her “Honey Bunch.” His own wife, Ivana, was reportedly paid only a $1 annual salary for running his Plaza Hotel and one of his casinos, and Trump says it was a mistake because it took her “out of the role of wife." 

Some colleagues, however, praise his attitude toward women, telling stories about him encouraging them to make time for their families and pursue their own creative projects while working for him. Trump himself stands by his own treatment of women, saying that many women have jobs and opportunities because of him and his company.