Outcry over racy Miss USA snaps

Pageant owner Donald Trump has defended a series of controversial photos taken of scantily clad Miss USA contestants.

The racy snaps of the contestants, showing the girls posing provocatively in lacy lingerie, were released to promote the upcoming Miss USA pageant being broadcast in America on Sunday night (Monday, NZ time).

In the past, contestants have been disciplined for having sexy photos taken of them. Carrie Prejean had her crown taken off her over a series of misdemeanours, including topless photos surfacing on the internet.

Pageant officials called the photos tasteful and Trump said they were "a little bit sexy".

"I think they've gone maybe a little over the top this year," Trump told Ryan Seacrest, E! Online reported.

"These pictures are pretty wild. But the girls are incredible."

Miss Universe spokesperson Lark-Marie Anton told E! Online the photos showed only one side of the contestants.

"We are in the business of beauty, and the contestants who compete for the title of Miss USA are not afraid to be sexy.

"These ladies are the full package - smart, accomplished, relevant and sexy."

-With AP

Watch footage from the photo shoot below: