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 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, 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 has represented the United States in its sister Miss Universe pageant. From its inception to 2008, seven Miss USA titleholders have gone on to win Miss Universe. In the mid-1960s, it was established 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 has happened in 1980, 1995 and 1997. In 1967, the first runner-up declined the title and the crown went to the second runner-up Cheryl Patton. The only instance where a first runner-up assumed the title of Miss USA prior to this period was in 1957 when Mary Leona Gage resigned when it was discovered she was married.
Unlike the Miss America pageant, there is no talent section at Miss USA. Delegates are required to compete in Evening Gown, Swimsuit, and Interview. The 2010 pageant drew criticism for publishing photos of contestants in revealing outfits and sultry poses.
The modern pageant consists of a preliminary competition, held in the week before the pageant where all contestants are judged in swimsuit, gown, and interview. From this the semi-finalists are chosen, and they are announced during the live broadcast of the final competition. Semi-finalists then compete in swimsuit and evening gown, before some are eliminated and the interview competition is held. The runners-up and winner are announced at the end of the telecast. The judges for the finals are usually different from those who judged 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 and leaving only the "final question" for the top five delegates to answer. The finals judges thus only hear the final candidates speak.
From 1979–2002, the average scores of each delegate were shown on the television broadcast and thus the semi-finalists could be ranked. This was changed in 2003 to a "circle" system where judges choose a certain number of delegates to "circle", and those with the most "circles" make the cut. This was the same system that was used prior to the "computer" scoring system implemented in 1979.
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 Montana, which has not placed since the 1950s; Wyoming, which has had only one placement, in the 1980s; and Delaware, the only state that has never placed. 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 (Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina), and Vanbros, created in the early 1990s (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma), both of which have been in existence since the early 1990s. Future Productions direct the most states, six, across the Midwest and Rockies.
The first Eurasian woman to win Miss USA was Mai Shanley in 1984, and the first African-American to win was Carole Gist in 1990.
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.Eight other Miss USA titleholders have also previously competed at Miss Teen USA. These include:
Shanna Moakler (1995), (Miss Rhode Island Teen USA 1992), Ali Landry (1996), (Miss Louisiana Teen USA 1990), Kimberly Pressler (1999) (Miss New York Teen USA 1994), Lynnette Cole (2000) (Miss Tennessee Teen USA 1995), Susie Castillo (2003) (Miss Massachusetts Teen USA 1998), Chelsea Cooley (2005) (Miss North Carolina Teen USA 2000), Tara Conner (2006) (Miss Kentucky Teen USA 2002) and Rachel Smith (2007) (Miss Tennessee Teen USA 2002).
Five Miss USA titleholders have also competed at Miss America. These included Miss USAs 1954–1956 (Miriam Stevenson, Carlene King Johnson, Carol Morris), Mai Shanley (1984) and Shandi Finnessey (2004). All were unplaced Miss America, although 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.
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, Shanna Moakler, Ali Landry, Kenya Moore, Brandi Sherwood, Susie Castillo and Shandi Finnessey.
List of titleholders
Year Miss USA State Represented Host City Placement at Miss Universe
2009 Kristen Dalton North Carolina Las Vegas, Nevada Top 10 Finalist
2008 Crystle Stewart Texas Las Vegas, Nevada Top 10 Finalist
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
2002 Shauntay Hinton District of Columbia Gary, Indiana –
2001 Kandace Krueger Texas Gary, Indiana 2nd Runner-up
2000 Lynnette Cole Tennessee Branson, Missouri 4th Runner-up
By number of wins
States Titles Winning years
Texas 9 1977 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1995← 2001 2008
California 5 1959 1966 1975 1983 1992
New York 4 1952 1979 1995^ 1999
Hawaii 4 1962 1972 1978 1997←
Illinois 4 1953 1963 1973 1974
Louisiana 3 1958 1961 1996
South Carolina 3 1954← 1980← 1994
North Carolina 2 2005 2009
Tennessee 2 2000 2007
Massachusetts 2 1998 2003
District of Columbia 2 1964 2002
Michigan 2 1990 1993
Ohio 2 1965 1981
Virginia 2 1969 1970
Utah 2 1957~ 1960←
Kentucky 1 2006
Missouri 1 2004
Idaho 1 1997^
Kansas 1 1991
New Mexico 1 1984
Arkansas 1 1982
Arizona 1 1980^
Minnesota 1 1976
Pennsylvania 1 1971
Washington 1 1968
Alabama 1 1967←
Florida 1 1967^
Maryland 1 1957 (Dethroned)
Iowa 1 1956←
Vermont 1 1955
← Won the Miss Universe Title
^ Runner-up took over the Miss USA title when the first Miss USA won the Miss Universe, this rule implemented since 1961–present
~ Replacer of the dethroned Miss USA
The awards most frequently presented at Miss USA are Miss Amity and Miss Photogenic.
The Miss Amity Award is chosen by the delegates, and recognises 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 Amity 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 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 2009 the pageant has been held in the following states:
Alabama (Mobile 1989), California, (Long Beach 1952–1959, Los Angeles 2004, 2007), Florida (Miami Beach 1960–1971,1997 Lakeland 1984–1985, Miami 1986), Indiana (Gary 2001–2002), Kansas (Wichita 1990–1993), Louisiana (Shreveport 1997–1998), Maryland (Baltimore 2005–2006), Missouri (Branson 1999–2000), Mississippi (Biloxi 1979–1982), Nevada (Las Vegas 2008–2009), New Mexico (Albuquerque 1987), New York (New York City 1973, Niagara Falls 1974–1976), South Carolina (Charleston 1977–1978), Tennessee (Knoxville 1983), Texas (El Paso 1988, South Padre Island 1994–1996, San Antonio 2003).
Special Feature Episodes
Since 2003, a number of delegates have been involved in special episodes of regular programmes 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 winners 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.
Main article: List of Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America titleholders who have appeared on 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, Nicole O'Brian and Christie Lee Woods of The Amazing Race 5 and Jennifer Murphy of The Apprentice 4.
In 2007 Pageant Place, a reality television show featuring Rachel Smith, Riyo Mori, Hilary Cruz, Katie Blair and Tara Conner aired on MTV.(source:wikipedia)