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Miss USA

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Miss USA
Miss USA Logo.png
FormationJune 27, 1952; 69 years ago (1952-06-27)
TypeBeauty pageant
HeadquartersLos Angeles, California
Miss Universe
Official language
National Director
Crystle Stewart

Miss USA is an American beauty pageant that has been held annually since 1952 to select the entrant from United States in the Miss Universe pageant. The Miss Universe Organization operated both pageants, as well as Miss Teen USA, until 2020, when the organization announced it was licensing operation of the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants to Crystle Stewart, Miss USA for 2008.[1]

The pageant was owned by Donald Trump from 1996 to 2015 and was previously broadcast on NBC. In September 2015, WME/IMG purchased the pageant from Trump.[2] In 2020, for the first time, the FYI network broadcast the competition.

The current Miss USA is Elle Smith of Kentucky, who was crowned on November 29, 2021, at the Paradise Cove Theater, River Spirit Casino Resort, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


The Miss USA pageant was conceived in 1950 when Yolande Betbeze, winner of the Miss America pageant, refused to pose for publicity pictures while wearing a swimsuit. Pageant sponsor Catalina decided to pull their sponsorship of the pageant and create their own competition.[3] Other owners have included a subsidiary of Gulf+Western Industries, ITT Corporation, and Donald Trump.[4][5]

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.[6] There were 30 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 to 1966, Bob Barker from 1967 (he was not a regular for the CBS network until 1972 when he became host of The Price Is Right which he hosted until 2007) until 1987 (at which point he quit in a dispute over fur coats), Alan Thicke in 1988, Dick Clark from 1989 to 1993, and Bob Goen from 1994 to 1996. The show's highest ratings were in the early 1980s, when it regularly topped the Nielsen ratings.[7][8][9] Viewership dropped sharply from the 1990s to the 2000s, from an estimated viewership of 20 million to an average of 7 million from 2000 to 2001.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12][13] In 1967, the first runner-up Susan Bradley of California declined the title and the crown went to the second runner-up Cheryl Patton of Florida. 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 of Maryland resigned after it was discovered she was married.[14]

The winner is assigned a one-year contract with the Miss Universe Organization, traveling across the United States, and in some cases overseas, to spread messages about their chosen causes. Aside from the job, the winner also receives a cash allowance for her entire reign, a modelling portfolio, beauty products, clothes, shoes, as well as styling, healthcare, and fitness services by different sponsors of the pageant. She also gains exclusive access to events such as fashion shows and opening galas, as well as access to casting calls and modeling opportunities throughout New York City. When Donald Trump owned the pageant, the winner was given the use of a Trump Place apartment in New York City during her reign, which she shared with the Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA titleholders. If the winner, for any reason, cannot fulfill her duties as Miss USA, including if she wins the title of Miss Universe, the 1st runner-up takes over.

After losing its television partners, it was announced that Miss USA 2015 would be streamed on the pageant's website. Shortly before the pageant, Reelz Channel announced that it would broadcast Miss USA 2015.[15][16]

In September 2015, IMG bought the Miss Universe Organization for an undisclosed amount. The company had previously been involved in licensing and production for the events. The following month, Fox announced that it had acquired the U.S. television rights to Miss USA and Miss Universe beginning with Miss Universe 2015 and Miss USA 2016.[17][18]

Miss USA 2015 Controversy

In late-June 2015, both NBC and Spanish-language network Univision (which was to begin a new five-year contract for Spanish rights) announced that they would cut their ties with Donald Trump and the Miss Universe Organization in response to remarks Trump made relating to undocumented immigrants during the launch of his 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Trump threatened to sue both companies over the decision; on June 30, 2015, Trump sued Univision for defamation and breach of contract.[19][20] In February 2016, Donald Trump and Univision reached a settlement ending the litigation. The terms of the settlement remain confidential, but included an agreement for Trump to buy back NBCUniversal's stake in the MUO.[21][18]

Response to COVID-19 pandemic

The Miss USA 2020 pageant had always usually in spring or summer schedule and it had been impacted with numerous scheduling delays, lacked of finding a location and broadcasting issues amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, it would be televised at FYI and the first pageant to be held in fall, in the month of November.[22]

2020–present: Split from MUO

In the summer of 2020, the Miss Universe organization finalized licensing of future annual operation of the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants to Crystle Stewart, who was Miss USA 2008.[1] The first competitions under her directorship are the 2021 productions.


The modern pageant consists of a preliminary competition held a week before the pageant when all contestants are judged in swimsuit, evening gown, and interview competitions.[23]

State competitions

Every year, each state[clarification needed] holds a preliminary competition to choose their delegate for the Miss USA pageant.[citation needed] In some states (such as Texas and Florida), local pageants are also held[clarification needed] to determine delegates for the state competition.[citation needed] The state winners hold the title "Miss (State) USA" for the year of their reign.

The most successful state is Texas; nine Texas representatives have gone on to win the Miss USA title, more than any other state, including five consecutive winners from 1985 until 1989.[24] California has the second most wins at six, while the District of Columbia, New York, Hawaii, and Illinois each have four.

Miss USA licenses out the state pageants to pageant directors, who in some cases are responsible for more than one state. The directorial groups are the following:


The oldest woman to win Miss USA is Miss USA 2019, Cheslie Kryst of North Carolina, at 28 years old and 4 days. Miss USA 2015, Olivia Jordan, of Oklahoma is the only Miss USA winner to compete in two major international pageants: Miss Universe and Miss World. The tallest Miss USA is Miss USA 2012, Nana Meriwether, of Maryland at 6 feet and 0 inch (183 cm).

The first Asian-American woman to win Miss USA was Macel Wilson of Hawaii in 1962; the first Hispanic woman was Laura Martinez-Herring of Texas in 1985; the first African-American winner was Carole Gist of Michigan in 1990;[25] and the first Muslim Miss USA was Rima Fakih of Michigan in 2010.[26]

Though no woman has ever won both titles outright, Brandi Sherwood of Idaho 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 of Hawaii won the Miss Universe pageant.[13] Ten other Miss USA titleholders have also previously competed at Miss Teen USA. These include:

Six Miss USA titleholders have also competed at Miss America. These include:

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, Rachel Smith, Crystle Stewart, and Cheslie Kryst.

Miss USA titleholders

Year State Miss USA Venue Placement at Miss Universe Special awards
2021  Kentucky Elle Smith[27] Tulsa, Oklahoma Top 10
2020  Mississippi Asya Branch Memphis, Tennessee Top 21
2019  North Carolina Cheslie Kryst Reno, Nevada Top 10
2018  Nebraska Sarah Rose Summers Shreveport, Louisiana Top 20
2017  District of Columbia Kára McCullough Las Vegas, Nevada Top 10


The awards most frequently presented at Miss USA are Miss Amity (also known as Miss Congeniality) 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. From 1952 to 1964, when the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants were concurrent events, the 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 Universe Burma, Myint Myint May, and Miss Louisiana USA, Rebecca Fletcher. In 2015, Alaska and Delaware tied for the Miss Congeniality award. Vermont and Wyoming have won five Miss Amity/Congeniality 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.

Louisiana won both the first Miss Amity and Photogenic awards given to a Miss USA contestant.

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.[28] 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.[29]

From 1972 onwards, the pageant has been held in various locations, generally being held in each location for two to three years.

As of 2021, the pageant has been held in the following states:

Special feature episodes

Since 2003, a number of delegates have been involved in special episodes of regular programs broadcast by NBC. From 2003 to 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 2006, Chelsea Cooley and twenty-six delegates participated as briefcase models in a Miss USA special of Deal or No Deal.

In 2010, ten Miss USA and Miss Universe winners competed for charity on a special "Last Beauty Standing" edition of Minute to Win It.

Reality television

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 and contestant of Survivor: Winners at War, Christie Lee Woods of The Amazing Race 5 and The Amazing Race 31 and Nicole O'Brian also of The Amazing Race 5, Shandi Finnessey, Shanna Moakler and Hannah Brown on Dancing with the Stars, Jennifer Murphy of The Apprentice 4, Tori Fiorenza of The Challenge: Cutthroat, Hannah Brown of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and Caroline Lunny, Caelynn Miller-Keyes, Alayah Benavidez, Kelsey Weier, Victoria Paul, Mariela Pepin, and Susie Evans also of The Bachelor.[30]

In 2007, Pageant Place, a reality television show featuring Rachel Smith, Riyo Mori, Hilary Cruz, Katie Blair, and Tara Conner aired on MTV.[31]

On June 19, 2011, Bravo Television's Andy Cohen co-hosted the event's 60th anniversary live in Las Vegas with E! News and Fashion Police's Giuliana Rancic.[32] They also hosted the 2012 pageant.[33]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Exclusive: Crystle Stewart takes on new leadership role for Miss USA, Miss Teen USA". New York City, New York: Good Morning America. December 30, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2021. The Miss Universe Organization is announcing that it is licensing both pageants to the former titleholder, actress and entrepreneur. ... Stewart is the first Black woman and person to ever hold the licensing rights to Miss USA and Miss Teen USA.
  2. ^ "WME-IMG ACQUIRES THE MISS UNIVERSE ORGANIZATION". Miss Universe. September 14, 2015. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  3. ^ Deam, Jenny (2005-10-11). "There she goes...Miss America Once queen of the airwaves, beauty pageant is left homeless". Denver Post. p. F01.
  4. ^ "Gulf+Western Industries announces reorganization plan". PR Newswire. 1985-03-12.
  5. ^ Associated Press (1996-10-24). "Trump buys Miss Universe, two other beauty pageants". The Globe and Mail. p. B14.
  6. ^ Colon, Marisa (1999-05-28). "Long Beach, Calif., Consultant Coaches Beauty Contestants". Press-Telegram.
  7. ^ Associated Press (1980-05-21). "U.S. pulchritude tops TV charts". The Globe and Mail. p. P15.
  8. ^ Associated Press (1982-05-19). "Pageant tops Nielsen ratings". The Globe and Mail. p. P15.
  9. ^ Associated Press (1983-05-18). "Beauty pageant most-watched show". The Globe and Mail. p. P15.
  10. ^ de Moraes, Lisa (2002-06-22). "There She Goes: Pageants Move to NBC". The Washington Post.
  11. ^ "Trump moves pageants from CBS to NBC". St. Petersburg Times. 2002-06-22. p. 2B.
  12. ^ Froelich, Janis (1989-10-27). "News anchor shuns beauty queen past". St. Petersburg Times. p. 1D.
  13. ^ a b "USA Sherwood". Associated Press. 1997-05-18.
  14. ^ de Moraes, Lisa (2007-06-21). "Are Trump's Beauties at Home With the Camera? They'll Have to Be". Washington Post. p. C07.
  15. ^ Busis, Hillary. "Miss USA will air on TV after all". Mashable. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  16. ^ "Miss USA To Be Streamed After NBC And Pageant Co-Hosts Bail". Deadline. 2015-06-30. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  17. ^ Kissell, Rick (2015-10-28). "Miss Universe Pageant Moving to Fox in December". Variety. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  18. ^ a b "WME/IMG Acquires Miss Universe Organization From Donald Trump". 2015-09-14. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  19. ^ "NBC: Done With Donald Trump, Miss USA, Miss Universe – Update". Deadline. 2015-06-29. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  20. ^ "Donald Trump Hits Univision With $500M Miss USA Lawsuit, Network Calls It "Ridiculous" – Update". Deadline. 2015-06-30. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  21. ^ "Donald Trump & Univision Reach Settlement Surrounding Miss USA Pageant". E! Online. 2016-02-11. Retrieved 2016-03-03.
  22. ^ Petski, Denise (August 31, 2020). "2020 'Miss USA' Competition Moves To FYI Network From Fox". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  23. ^ "Beauty business – as usual;Miss USA contest fights the blemishes". USA Today. 1988-03-01. p. 01D.
  24. ^ Associated press (1991-03-27). "Pair who groomed beauty queens fired as Miss Texas USA directors". The Dallas Morning News. p. 29A.
  25. ^ "'Royalty' Happy Overseas". Albuquerque Journal. 2001-05-16. p. D2.
  26. ^ Knowles, David (2010-05-17). "Rima Fakih, First Muslim Miss USA - David Knowles - Paradigms Lost". True/Slant. Archived from the original on 2012-10-08. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  27. ^ "WHAS11 Reporter Elle Smith wins Miss USA 2021". WHAS-TV. 29 November 2021.
  28. ^ "Shawnae Jebbia of Massachusetts Crowned "Miss USA 1998"". Business Wire. 2007-03-11.
  29. ^ "Explosion of undetermined cause rocks site of Miss USA pageant". New York Times Abstracts. 1972-05-21. p. 35.
  30. ^ "Tori Hall Fiorenza Real World Challenge pictures, bio, dating". 1986-12-20. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  31. ^ Lee, Felicia (2007-10-10). "Three Crowns Sharing One Apartment". The New York Times.
  32. ^ "Andy Cohen on Hosting the Miss USA Pageant: I Want to Bring Out the Competition - Today's News: Our Take". 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  33. ^ "Miss USA 2012: Olivia Culpo Crowned, Beats Latina Beauties | Fox News Latino". 2012-06-04. Retrieved 2012-11-06.

External links