The Miss USA is an American beauty pageant that has been held annually since 1952 to select the American entrant in the Miss Universe pageant. The Miss Universe Organization operates both pageants, as well as Miss Teen USA.
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. Currently, Fox holds the broadcast rights for the pageant.
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 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 (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. 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 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.
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 the control of diseases, peace, and public awareness of AIDS. Aside from the job, the winner also receives a cash allowance for her entire reign, a New York Film Academy scholarship, 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.
In late-June 2015, both NBC and Spanish-language network Univision 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, resulting in both Miss USA and Miss Universe being dropped from their schedules. NBCUniversal also plans to take steps to remove itself from the MUO joint venture. Trump threatened to sue both companies over the decision; on June 30, 2015, Trump sued Univision for defamation and breach of contract. In February 2016, Donald Trump and Univision reached a settlement ending the litigation. The terms of the settlement remain confidential. As a result, Miss USA 2015 was carried via a webcast on the pageant's website. The pagent was sold to WME/IMG in September 2015. On July 1, digital cable network Reelz announced they would televise the 2015 pageant. In 2016, Fox started broadcasting the pageant.
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 and the winner is crowned by the previous year's titleholder. Since 1997, different panels of judges have officiated the finals and the Preliminary competition.
From 1975 to 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 to 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.
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, placing only once in 2015; Montana, which has not placed since the 1950s; South Dakota, which has only placed three times (the last time in 2016), 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 directorial groups are the following: RPM Productions (Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina), Vanbros (Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma). Future Productions (Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming). Pageant Associates (Connecticut, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia). Pageants NW Productions (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington). Crystal Group (Texas). Greenwood Productions (Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee). D&D Productions (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island). Proctor Productions (Michigan, Ohio). Casting Crown Productions (Arizona, Utah). Top 10 Productions (California). Smoak Productions (Nevada). Connie Clark Harrison (Kentucky). KPJ Productions (Virginia). Clemente Productions (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire). Garness Productions (Alaska). New Media Productions (Hawaii). Debbie Miller and Cindy Provost (New York). Laura's Productions (New Mexico). Five Crown Pageant Productions (District of Columbia).
The oldest woman to win Miss USA is Miss USA 2015, Olivia Jordan of Oklahoma, at 26 years and 10 months old. The oldest woman to be crowned Miss USA is Miss USA 2012, Nana Meriwether of Maryland, at 27 years old and 7 months. Meriwether succeeded Olivia Culpo who won the title of Miss Universe 2012.
The first Asian-American woman to win Miss USA was Macel Wilson of Hawaii in 1962; the first Latina was Laura Martinez-Herring of Texas in 1985; the first African-American, Carole Gist of Michigan in 1990; and the first Miss USA of Middle-Eastern descent was Rima Fakih of Michigan in 2010.
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. 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, Rachel Smith, and Crystle Stewart.
|Year||Miss USA||State||Host City||Placement at Miss Universe|
|2017||Kára McCullough||District of Columbia||Las Vegas, Nevada||TBA|
|2016||Deshauna Barber||District of Columbia||Las Vegas, Nevada||Top 9|
|2015||Olivia Jordan||Oklahoma||Baton Rouge, Louisiana||2nd Runner-Up|
|2014||Nia Sanchez||Nevada||Baton Rouge, Louisiana||1st Runner-Up|
|2013||Erin Brady||Connecticut||Las Vegas, Nevada||Top 10|
|2012||Nana Meriwether||Maryland||Las Vegas, Nevada||Succeeded Olivia Culpo|
|Olivia Culpo||Rhode Island||Las Vegas, Nevada||Miss Universe 2012|
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 Myanmar, Myint Myint May, and Miss Louisiana USA, Rebecca Fletcher. In 2015, Alaska and Delaware tied for the Miss Congeniality award. Vermont has 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. 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 2016, 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, Shandi Finnessey and Shanna Moakler on Dancing with the Stars, Jennifer Murphy of The Apprentice 4, and Tori Fiorenza of The Challenge: Cutthroat.
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