A New England Beauty Queen: Miss Rhode Island wins Miss USA at Last

The drought is over. It's been 61 years and Rhode Island finally got a Miss USA (note they haven't yet had a Miss America). Last night Olivia Culpo was crowned Miss USA.

I had a lot of fun watching the pageant (and live tweeting) and RI was a standout from the beginning. Her gown was gorgeous, especially the color-- as was her face-- and she answered her final question with aplomb.

What was that final question? It was about the pageant, of course. If you recall a few months ago the Miss Canada Pageant had to deal with controversy when a transgendered contestant was first denied and then reinstated as a competitor (I wrote about this and linked to some press coverage here). So Culpo was asked, "Would you feel it would be fair for a transgender woman to win the Miss USA title over a natural-born woman?" Her response: "I do think that that would be fair, but I can understand that people would be a little apprehensive to take that road because there is a tradition of natural-born women.  But today where there are so many surgeries and so many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life, I do accept that because I believe it’s a free country."

The whole Miss USA Pageant this year was both meta and self-referential. It was a pop culture smorgasbord with too many reality television stars to count. On the judges' panel alone there was a Kardashian, an Apprentice, a Bachelorette-- need I go on? And Giuliana Rancic of E! and her own reality show fame (note she married another reality TV star, Bill Rancic, Trump's first winner of The Apprentice) along with Andy Cohen, Bravo exec and host of Watch What Happens Live!, co-hosted.  Rancic wore three dresses, one with an aspirational Jolie leg slit; needless to say, in general, her dresses dominated the questionable pageant styles donned for the telecast (particularly the Sherri Hill monstrosities "modeled" during the Parade of States).

The final questions were the real pop culture test. Out of the five three referenced pageantry-- the transgendered contestant query for RI, another mentioning Toddlers & Tiaras, and the most amazing referred to an embarrassing clip from Cohen's WWHL that showed several contestants unable to name Biden as the VP (and the contestant explained how the girls just "misanswered").  One of the others about women in movies and TV made a strange reference to Pretty Woman, which also has a T&T link after Paisley appeared in her "prostitot" streetwalker costume.

Not nearly as bad as the Miss SC Teen fiasco from a few years ago though (to relive that gem, click here).

I do have to say that I hated it when the outgoing Miss USA pulled out a "factoid" that is meant to apply to the Miss America Pageant (although, statistically speaking, I suppose it could apply to both pageants). Alyssa Campanella said that parents have a better chance of having a son play in a Superbowl than a daughter who wins Miss USA. I've been using this for some time (I first wrote about it in 2007) and I know it is supposed to refer to Miss America. Let's keep our pageant systems straight ladies!

The next stop for Olivia Culpo won't be a return to her dorm room at Boston University-- at 20 she just finished her sophomore year.  Instead she'll be in New York starting to make appearances and prepare for Miss Universe.  Despite Culpo's beauty it's hard to imagine that she'll be able to stand up with the tall international queens, but you never know! I'm curious why she opted for Miss USA and not Miss America (given that she has a talent beyond being able to tie a cherry stem with her tongue, which is playing the cello).  Pageant watchers, was she "too beautiful" for the Miss America system? In any event, she's ended her state's drought and taken her own rightful place in the pop culture pantheon.