Passed the Federal examination for professional radio operator at the age of 12, at the time the youngest ever to receive the license. She and her father received praise from the government for sending wireless distress signals during the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane, from Houston, Texas.
She competed the next year, as Miss Houston, in Galveston's "Second International Pageant of Pulchritude and Eighth Annual Bathing Girl Revue".
In 1929 she entered the Miss Universe contest as Miss Tulsa, Theda Delrey. Her eligibility was questioned when two other contestants filed affidavits that she was, in fact, Alberta McKellop who was Miss Houston in 1927 and, as such, was ineligible to compete. In 1930 she competed as Miss California in the "America's Sweetheart" contest, early forerunner of Miss America, in Miami, Florida and placed second in the competition. She was disqualified two months later because she had entered the contest while staying at her grandmother's home in Oklahoma and pageant determined she was not eligible to be Miss California.
She was originally under a short contract with MGM which was touting her for a brief period. However, when her contract was up they failed to renew and Walter Wanger stepped in and gave her a five year contract.
In 1952 she created a stir at the Miss Universe pageant in Los Angeles, when she interrupted a rehearsal and attended, uninvited, a luncheon for contestants. It appears that it was a publicity stunt of some sort and it received considerable press coverage.
Press releases of the time indicate she was of Native American ancestry, descendent of the Cherokee. However, her father is listed on the roles as a member of the Creek (Muscogee) Nation.