Friday, July 8, 2011

Paige Duke speaks out on her firing and the life lessons learned

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Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Miss Sprint Cup is a job many young women dream of. Paige Duke had her dream job, and recently lost it all. Duke had been an ambassador for Sprint since the 2010 season and worked on behalf of Sprint to promote the brand as the title sponsor of NASCAR's top series. The duties of Miss Sprint Cup are not just “trophy girls” as many think. Miss Sprint Cup makes numerous sponsor appearances, meet and greets with fans, and interacts with the teams as well. Even after the races, their job is not done - they host a victory lane at the shop, rewarding the winning team members with breakfast.

Paige Duke had been a great ambassador for the brand, loved her job and was loved by those in the NASCAR community … then her world was turned upside down. Upon receiving a phone call from a friend notifying her of some photos online, Duke investigated herself to be sure what was going on. Private photos, taken over six years ago, were leaked by an ex-boyfriend, that ever present skeleton in her closet. The pictures were taken for her then-boyfriend and for him only, never to be seen by anyone else. Speaking of the photos, Duke initially thought they may have been altered digitally, until she saw them with her own eyes.

Upon seeing the photos she began crying, consoled by her sister and then her parents; they knew it was something they could get through as a family. Worst of all was the timing - the very next day she had to fly out to California for the Infineon race weekend. She had immediately informed one of her bosses about the situation, and they waited to see if it was just an e-mail circulated around to people Paige only knew. Once the pictures circulated online, appearing on websites, Sprint immediately fired her. Duke understands the termination; she violated the morality clause in her contract. She makes it clear: this has nothing to do with NASCAR, this was a decision by Sprint, which is who Miss Sprint Cup works for. 

Speaking about her reaction, Duke said, “No questions asked, I felt hopeless. I didn’t deserve anything good to come to me. For a week I didn’t leave the house, I couldn’t get up the energy and I didn’t even have the emotional stability to even leave. I was just crying, no one is ever going to hire me.”

After the initial shock passed, support started to pour in from family, friends and fans. The garage has also reached out in support. Duke said she has received calls and text messages from drivers and crew members offering her support and welcoming her back with open arms, no judgment whatsoever. 

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Duke is speaking out not to get sympathy, but to share her story in hopes of teaching others to be more careful. She says, “I want girls to learn a lesson from this, not just about sending pictures, but about who you trust, being independent and not relying on your happiness to come from someone else.” 

As for what’s next, currently Paige is back at the veterinary office she worked at during the off season.

I asked her would she be interested in working in NASCAR is some other aspect; the answer is a definite yes. “I would love to stay in NASCAR, I am in love with this sport. I would love to stay in broadcasting or host a TV show, even be a sports reporter. If that happens to be in NASCAR, that’s even better for me.”

Putting the rumors to rest, Paige now looks forward with her head held high. She made mistakes as a teenager; she has learned from them and is hoping others will as well.

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