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Logo of the Miss USA Organization.
Logo of the Miss USA Organization.
The Miss USA beauty contest has been held annually since 1952 to select the United States entrant in the Miss Universe pageant. The Miss Universe Organization operates both pageants, as well as Miss Teen USA. The pageant is broadcast on NBC and (starting 2013) on Xbox Live. The current Miss USA is Erin Brady from Connecticut, who received the crown from Nana Meriwether from Maryland.
The Miss USA pageant was conceived in 1950 when Yolande Betbeze, winner of the rival Miss America pageant, refused to pose for publicity pictures while wearing a swimsuit. Pageant sponsor Catalina decided to pull their sponsorship off the pageant and create their own competition. Other owners have included a subsidiary of Gulf+Western Industries, ITT Corporation, and billionaire Donald Trump, the current owner who bought the pageant in 1996.
The first Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants were held concurrently in Long Beach, California in 1952; the first Miss USA winner was Miss New York USA Jackie Loughery. There were thirty delegates in the first year of competition, and many states did not compete every year during the first two decades of the pageant's history. From the 1970s, each state and the District of Columbia have sent a delegate each year. Alaska first competed in 1959 and Hawaii in 1960. Both had competed at Miss Universe until this time.
The pageant aired on CBS from 1963 until 2002, and for many years was known for having a CBS game show host as pageant host. John Charles Daly hosted the show from 1963–1966, Bob Barker from 1967 until 1987 (at which point he quit in a dispute over fur coats), Alan Thicke in 1988, Dick Clark from 1989–1993, and Bob Goen from 1994–1996. The show's highest ratings were in the early 1980s, when it regularly topped the Neilsen ratings. Viewership dropped sharply from the 1990s to the 2000s, from an estimated viewership of 20 million to an average of 7 million from 2000–2001. In 2002, owner Donald Trump brokered a new deal with NBC, giving them half-ownership of the Miss USA, Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA and moving them to NBC on an initial five-year contract. The pageants were first shown on NBC in 2003.
Historically, the winner of the Miss USA title represented the U.S. in its sister pageant Miss Universe. Since its inception, eight Miss USA titleholders have gone on to win Miss Universe. In the mid-1960s, the organization established a rule that when a Miss USA wins the Miss Universe title, the first runner-up assumes the Miss USA title for the remainder of the year. This occurred in 1980, 1995,1997, and 2012. In 1967, the first runner-up declined the title and the crown went to the second runner-up Cheryl Patton. The only instance when a first runner-up assumed the title of Miss USA prior to this period was in 1957, when Mary Leona Gage resigned after it was discovered she was married.
The modern pageant consists of a preliminary competition held a week before the pageant when all contestants are judged in swimsuit, gown, and interview competitions. From this, semifinalists are chosen, and they are announced during the live broadcast of the final competition. These semifinalists then compete in swimsuit and evening gown, and the finalists are chosen. These finalists then proceed to the final question portion of the competition. The runners-up and winner are announced at the end of the telecast. Since 1997, different panels of judges have officiated the finals and the Preliminary competition.
From 1975–2000, all delegates who made the initial cut competed in an interview competition in some format, often involving all semi-finalists. As of 2001, this interview portion was taken away, leaving only the final question for the top five delegates to answer.
From 1979–2002, the average scores of each delegate were shown on the television broadcast; thus the semi-finalists could be ranked. This was changed in 2003 to a "circle" system, wherein judges choose a certain number of delegates to "circle", and those with the most "circles" make the cut. This system was used prior to the computer scoring system implemented in 1979. In 2007, the circle system was reinstated and contestants' composite scores were shown live.
In 2013, no scores were shown to the TV audience. Also, after the judges chose five finalists, the remaining contestant, out of the ten semi-finalists, who received the most votes from viewers by Twitter was added to the group.
Every year, each state holds a preliminary competition to choose their delegate for the Miss USA pageant. In some states (such as Texas and Florida), local pageants are also held to determine delegates for the state competition. The state winners hold the title "Miss State USA" for the year of their reign.
The most successful state is Texas, which has had the most semi-finalists and winners, including five consecutive Miss USA titleholders during the 1980s. Other successful states include California, New York, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. The least successful states are Delaware, the only state that has never placed; Montana, which has not placed since the 1950s; South Dakota, which has only placed twice (the last time in 1974), and Wyoming, which gained only its second placement in 2010. The only state which has produced more than one Miss Universe is South Carolina.
The Miss Universe Organization licenses out the state pageants to pageant directors, who in some cases are responsible for more than one state. The most well established directorial groups are RPM Productions, created in 1980 (Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina), and Vanbros, created in the early 1990s (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma). Future Productions direct the most states, seven, across the Midwest and Rockies.
The first Asian American woman to win Miss USA was Macel Wilson in 1962; the first Latina was Laura Martinez-Herring in 1985; the first Black, Carole Gist in 1990; and the first Miss USA of Middle-Eastern descent was Rima Fakih in 2010.
Brandi Sherwood is the only woman to have held both the Miss Teen USA and Miss USA titles. She was Miss Idaho Teen USA, Miss Teen USA 1989, Miss Idaho USA 1997, first runner-up at Miss USA 1997 and in May 1997 assumed the Miss USA title after Brook Lee won the Miss Universe pageant. Nine other Miss USA titleholders have also previously competed at Miss Teen USA. These include:
Five Miss USA titleholders have also competed at Miss America. These included: (Miriam Stevenson, Carlene King Johnson and Carol Morris) (1954–1956), Mai Shanley (1984) and Shandi Finnessey (2004). Shandi Finnessey, Miss USA 2004 and Miss Missouri 2002 won a preliminary evening gown award at Miss America 2003. Also, Miriam Stevenson placed in the top 10 at Miss America 1954 as Miss South Carolina 1953.
Many Miss USA winners have gone to pursue careers in the entertainment industry. Those who have been successful in the industry include Summer Bartholomew, Deborah Shelton, Laura Martinez-Herring, Kelli McCarty, Shanna Moakler, Frances Parker, Ali Landry, Kenya Moore, Brandi Sherwood, Kimberly Pressler, Susie Castillo, Shandi Finnessey and Rachel Smith.
|Year||Miss USA||State Represented||Host City||Placement at Miss Universe|
|2013||Erin Brady||Connecticut||Las Vegas, Nevada||Top 10 Finalist (6th place)|
|2012||Nana Meriwether||Maryland||Las Vegas, Nevada||Did not compete|
|Olivia Culpo||Rhode Island||Miss Universe 2012|
|2011||Alyssa Campanella||California||Las Vegas, Nevada||Top 16 Semi-Finalist|
|2010||Rima Fakih||Michigan||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|2009||Kristen Dalton||North Carolina||Las Vegas, Nevada||Top 10 Finalist (10th place)|
|2008||Crystle Stewart||Texas||Las Vegas, Nevada||Top 10 Finalist (8th place)|
|2007||Rachel Smith||Tennessee||Hollywood, California||4th Runner-up|
|2006||Tara Conner||Kentucky||Baltimore, Maryland||4th Runner-up|
|2005||Chelsea Cooley||North Carolina||Baltimore, Maryland||Top 10 Finalist|
|2004||Shandi Finnessey||Missouri||Hollywood, California||1st Runner-up|
|2003||Susie Castillo||Massachusetts||San Antonio, Texas||Top 15 semi-finalist (13th place)|
|2002||Shauntay Hinton||District of Columbia||Gary, Indiana|
|2001||Kandace Krueger||Texas||Gary, Indiana||2nd Runner-up|
|Texas||9||1977 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1995 2001 2008|
|California||6||1959 1966 1975 1983 1992 2011|
|New York||4||1952 1979 1995 1999|
|Hawaii||4||1962 1972 1978 1997|
|Illinois||4||1953 1963 1973 1974|
|Michigan||3||1990 1993 2010|
|Louisiana||3||1958 1961 1996|
|South Carolina||3||1954 1980 1994|
|North Carolina||2||2005 2009|
|District of Columbia||2||1964 2002|
|Utah||2||1957  1960|
|Rhode Island||1||2012 |
1 Won the Miss Universe Title
2 Since 1961, the first runner-up takes over the Miss USA title if the reigning Miss USA wins Miss Universe. There was an exception in 1967, when the first-runner up refused the crown and the second runner-up became Miss USA.
3 Replaced the dethroned Miss USA
|Rank||State||Miss USA||1st Runner-up||2nd Runner-up||3rd Runner-up||4th Runner-up||5th Runner-up||Semifinalists||Total|
|11||District of Columbia||2||2||0||0||1||0||13||18|
The awards most frequently presented at Miss USA are Miss Amity and Miss Photogenic.
The Miss Amity Award is chosen by the delegates, and recognizes those who are the friendliest and make the pageant experience the most enjoyable. In 1952 to 1964 when the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants were concurrent events, the Miss Congeniality Award could be won by a contestant competing either for Miss USA or Miss Universe. In fact, in 1960, there was a tie, with the award going to Miss Burma Myint Myint May and Miss Louisiana USA Rebecca Fletcher. Vermont has won five Miss Amity awards, two more than any other state.
The Miss Photogenic prize was first awarded in 1965 and was chosen by journalists until 1996 when it was chosen by an internet vote for the first time. There has been only one tie in this award's history: in 1980 when it was shared between Jineane Ford of Arizona and Elizabeth Kim Thomas of Ohio. The state that has won the most Photogenic awards is Virginia.
Other awards that have been presented include Best State Costume (1962–1993), Style (1995–2001) and Most Beautiful Eyes (1993). In 1998, a special Distinguished Achievement award was given to Halle Berry. Berry was Miss Ohio USA 1986 and placed 1st runner-up to Christy Fichtner of Texas. She later went on to become an acclaimed actress and Oscar winner.
In the first eight years of competition (1952–1959) the Miss USA pageant was held in Long Beach, California. The competition moved to Miami Beach, Florida in 1960 and stayed there until 1971. In 1972 the pageant was held in Puerto Rico, the only time the pageant has been held outside the continental United States. That pageant was rocked by an explosion at the host hotel.
From 1972 onwards the pageant has been held in various locations, generally being held in each location for two to three years.
As of 2013 the pageant has been held in the following states:
Since 2003, a number of delegates have been involved in special episodes of regular programs broadcast by NBC. From 2003–2005, six delegates each year were chosen to participate in a special Miss USA edition of Fear Factor, with the victorious contestant taking the title "Miss Fear Factor USA" and a prize of $50,000 ($25,000 of which was to be donated to a charity of the winner's choice). These were broadcast immediately prior to the live pageant broadcast.
In 2010, ten Miss USA and Miss Universe winners competed for charity on a special "Last Beauty Standing" edition of Minute to Win It.
Many Miss USA and Miss Teen USA delegates have participated in reality television shows and other television game shows. Well known delegates who later competed in reality shows are Danni Boatwright, winner of Survivor: Guatemala, Nicole O'Brian and Christie Lee Woods of The Amazing Race 5, Jennifer Murphy of The Apprentice 4 and Tori Fiorenza of The Challenge: Cutthroat.
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