04/21/2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
So serious were the claims -- begun on a French Internet site -- that the Miss France entry, Elodie Gossuin, in the May 11 Miss Universe race was born a man that both the pageant and the contestant have responded to reports. Gossuin, a 20-year-old nursing student from Picardie, France, said she initially laughed at stories -- until she realized that they could hurt her chances for the crown. "They really had to look far and wide to come up with a story so grotesque," Gossuin told reporters on Wednesday. She spoke through an interpreter and shook her head "no" when asked if she'd ever been a man. "So far, all signs point to the fact that she's a female," Miss Universe spokeswoman Mary Hilliard McMillan, told the Associated Press in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the pageant is to be held. "She has a birth certificate that says she is a woman, and she is one of the most stunning women I've ever seen. She's very feminine."