51 Miss USA Contestants Compete for a Vegas Win

By: Kathleen Hennessey AP
By: Kathleen Hennessey AP

LAS VEGAS (AP) - For 51 young women from across America, beauty
comes to (figurative) blows Sunday as they compete for the Miss USA
crown.

Contestants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia will be judged by their performance in a swimsuit and evening gown modeling contest and their responses to a question asked onstage as the show airs live on NBC, at 7 p.m. EDT, from the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino.

Unlike the rival Miss America pageant, the Miss USA contestants do not perform a talent.

The winner will dethrone Miss USA 2008 Crystle Stewart, a 27-year-old Texan who worked to raise awareness for breast cancer as she traveled the globe promoting the beauty contest.

The title comes with a year's use of a New York apartment, a public relations team, a two-year scholarship at the New York Film Academy and an undisclosed salary.

The winner also will go to the Bahamas in August to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, where American beauties haven't been lucky in recent years. Both Stewart and predecessor Miss USA Rachel Smith wiped out on stage during the evening gown competition, becoming accidental YouTube stars.

Stewart has avoided the foibles and scandals that have followed other recent pageant winners. Earlier this month, Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza was skewered for a blog posting from a trip to Guantanamo Bay. The entry described having "aloooot of fun" at a base that houses the notorious military prison and was later deleted from the pageant's Web site.

The contest, which is owned by NBC and reality TV mogul Donald
Trump, will be hosted by "Access Hollywood" co-anchor Billy Bush
and Nadine Velazquez of the NBC sitcom "My Name is Earl." This year's judges include "Saturday Night Live" cast member Kenan Thompson, "Dancing with the Stars" winner Kelly Monaco and gossip
blogger Perez Hilton.

Organizers said Sunday's show kicks off "Green Week" at NBC. As part of the environmental awareness campaign, the Miss USA crown was designed by a jeweler that specializes in conflict-free and eco-friendly jewels. The crown from Diamond Nexus Labs of Franklin, Wis., is worth $202,000.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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