Just be careful how you say that last name!
Michigan's Rima Fakih is Miss USA 2010

Michigan now has its 3rd Miss USA crown. Michigan's first two Miss USA winners in 1990 and 1993 were also the first two black Miss USA winners (Carole Gist and Kenya Moore) so Michigan continues its trend in making a first in Miss USA history by crowning Rima as the first Arab Muslim winner of the Miss USA title. Rima is of Lebanese descent. Back in 2002, which was the first Miss USA pageant after the attacks of September 11, 2001, I drew attention to the fact that the 4th runner up in that pageant, Connecticut's Alita Dawson was very open about being Muslim and how a win then would have been controversial. Eight years later, some of the stereotypes still exist and many Arab Americans saw Rima's win as a victory for diversity in the United States. Rima was born into a powerful Shiite family in Southern Lebanon but their family said they celebrate both Christian and Muslim faiths. Some critics saw Rima's win as affirmative action at work implying that Oklahoma's 1st runner up placement was due to her answer to the question about Arizona's new immigration law. And then the pictures came out of Rima wearing skimpy shorts and a tanktop performing some suggestive moves at a pole dancing class sponsored by a radio station in 2007. But Rima defended herself saying it was a morning class and there were only women there and being friends with the radio station DJ, Rima did those moves to get the party started. The Miss Universe Organization also notes that the photos were no more provocative than anything on the Miss USA website. Which brings us to the pre-pageant controversy surrounding the 'Waking Up in Vegas' Fadil Berisha photoshoot. Some critics saw the poses as too suggestive and the sexy lingerie that the contestants were wearing weren't deemed appropriate by some particularly if these contestants plan on applying for jobs in a more corporate setting. In keeping with the times and for making the pageant more relevant in a modern era, the photos were defended and they did generate publicity which normally should generate an audience. Some felt the photos were sexy and tasteful so some deemed it a non-issue but pageants have increasingly become much less of a family event that they once were. Gone are the days of the little sisters and campy sing-alongs or dance numbers. Some of you have emailed me telling me that you would never want your children seeing the photos resulting from that racy shoot. This year's pageant had to face some stiff competition from the finale of 'Survivor' so the ratings were hurt a bit but this year's pageant was originally supposed to air a month earlier on the same night as the Country Music Television Awards. Still Miss USA and Universe have renewed with NBC for another 3 years so we're safe until 2013! Miss America was again dropped by TLC and is shopping for a new network. And I think we have Donald Trump to thank for that because his show 'The Apprentice' has also been renewed so NBC and the Donald are striking up some good deals.

Contestants dance in opening So the opening number was nicely done. 'Telephone' by Lady Gaga & Beyonce and 'Tik Tok' by Ke$ha were the perfect choices for the music. I loved the gold, silver and bronze sequined outfits and the dances were great. Very vivacious and energetic. Again, having Donald Trump open like he did at Miss Universe like did helps as Trump is associated with power. Kristen Dalton, Miss USA 2009 looked amazing. The hosts were quite good. Natalie Morales was really good as she is more of a Nancy O'Dell type and Curtis Stone is a nice looking guy but I sensed a lack of confidence with him. And of course, it was great to have Joan and Melissa Rivers in the mix. Both of them participated in the last season of Celebrity Apprentice which Joan won. Joan didn't hold back with her comments and was true to her style. The line about Missouri being dipped in Gatorade was classic! Melissa Rivers was a judge at Miss Teen USA 1997 so it was great to see her back with a bigger role this time around.

In terms of my predictions, I picked 8 of the top 15, 2 alternates and 3 honorable mentions. Colorado and Mississippi were the two that escaped my list. I was okay with this list but I think a lot of ladies that were in my list who were left out would have made a more exciting group of semifinalists and not so ho-hum. As the night progressed, I found myself caring less and less about who won. This year was a total crap shoot. It really could have been anyone's night but I think they were looking for more spice and they found that in Rima. So what happened to my girls that didn't make it? First up was Massachusetts' Lacey Wilson. I was anxiously awaiting Lacey's return to the Miss USA stage. She was my prediction to win Miss Teen USA 2002 (the Teen USA class to boast the most Miss USAs - Tara Conner in 2006 and Rachel Smith in 2007) and it is starting to look like that class may not claim any more Miss USA crowns. I raised a big fuss at the time supporting Lacey and not so much the winner of that pageant thinking that Miss Teen USA should be more superior and not so much average. Lacey had competed at Miss California USA and Massachusetts USA prior to finally winning her Miss USA state title so it was a really emotional win given how hard Lacey worked for the title and it finally paid off. But I was really disappointed to see Lacey shut out again at Miss USA 2010. Everything about her was spectacular and her presence was unmistakable so I didn't understand why she wasn't being supported by others. Another disappointment for me was the gorgeous delegate from Arizona, Brittany Bell who had a lovely face and the beautiful curled hair that I love reminiscent of former Miss USAs Lynnette Cole and Susie Castillo. I feared her height would affect her but she was so gorgeous, I thought for sure she would be in. Rima Fakih reacts to winning Miss USA 2010 The next shocking exclusion was Connecticut's Ashley Bickford who was the other girl who also competed at Miss Teen USA 2002. Ashley also competed at Miss America 2008 as Miss Rhode Island winning a preliminary swimsuit and the photogenic awards but not placing at Miss America. Ashley did place among the top 10 at Miss Teen USA 2002 however. Something tells me having Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006 as a judge might have affected the placement of Connecticut and Massachusetts to avoid any bias as she also competed with these ladies at Miss Teen USA 2002 but I don't even know if they were friends or not. The next shock of all shocks was the exclusion of the state with the most Miss USAs, Texas! Kelsey Moore had the potential to win Texas' "10"th Miss USA crown in 20"10" and adding to her strength, I noted in my prethoughts that she was the first Miss Texas USA to win her state title on her first try which is a feat that hasn't been accomplished since Christine Friedel won the Miss Texas USA crown for 1994 showing how rare it has become for a Miss Texas USA to win on her first try at the title and proving her strength. In spite of her height and versatility to become both the athlete and the beauty queen, Kelsey was unable to place for Texas which is the first time since 2000 that Texas failed to place showing how rare it is. Some blame the gown and others questioned her face and still others questioned if it had something to do with the fact that Miss Texas USA 2010 was not televised which was the first time Miss Texas USA hadn't aired on TV in decades. But Miss California USA 2010 did air on the CW network after several years off the air perhaps due to the Carrie Prejean saga of last year drawing attention to Miss California USA but perhaps also due to the involvement of Miss USA 1995, Shanna Moakler with the Miss California USA system. Then, Washington's Tracy Turnure, twin sister of last year's Miss Washington USA, Tara Turnure, was also unable to place in spite of her height. In terms of the tallest 3 (Texas, Washington and Maine), instead of Texas and Washington making it, Maine does when I decided at the last minute to take her out of my list and put her as my highest alternate. Gah! So it was vice versa of what I predicted which just goes to show how tough it is to predict and how random it can end up being. Finally, Georgia's Cassady Lance and Rhode Island's Kristina Primavera were both former Miss Teen USA delegates with experience and I was very pleased with their look in preliminaries but both of these ladies were excluded also.
What did make me very happy was that my top 2 picks: Alabama and Nebraska respectively won the Miss Photogenic and Miss Congeniality awards! I agree one billion percent with those choices! Alabama's facial beauty was what propelled her to the top position of my predictions. It was so touching that Nebraska won Congeniality knowing that her father passed away recently and yet Belinda had the strength to perform with tremendous confidence. I guess they weren't going to crown two blondes in a row since that seems to be extremely rare in recent years. I believe the last time this happened was when Kelli McCarty, Miss USA 1991 crowned Shannon Marketic, Miss USA 1992.



Winner=Michigan-Rima Fakih

Winner=Alabama-Audrey Moore*

1st Runner Up=Oklahoma-Morgan Woolard

1st Runner Up=Nebraska-Belinda Wright*

2nd Runner Up=Virginia-Samantha Casey

2nd Runner Up=Massachusetts-Lacey Wilson

3rd Runner Up=Colorado-Jessica Hartman

3rd Runner Up=Arizona-Brittany Bell

4th Runner Up=Maine-Katie Whittier

4th Runner Up=Wyoming-Claire Schreiner*



6. Tennessee-Tucker Perry

Virginia-Samantha Casey*

7. Alabama-Audrey Moore

Connecticut-Ashley Bickford

8. Mississippi-Breanne Ponder

Texas-Kelsey Moore

9. California-Nicole Johnson

Pennsylvania-Gina Cerilli*

10. Missouri-Ashley Strohmeier

Washington-Tracy Turnure



11. Wyoming-Claire Schreiner

Oklahoma-Morgan Woolard*

12. Pennsylvania-Gina Cerilli

Georgia-Cassady Lance

13. Kansas-Bethany Gerber

Tennessee-Tucker Perry*

14. Nebraska-Belinda Wright

Rhode Island-Kristina Primavera

15. Arkansas-Adrielle Churchill

California-Nicole Johnson*


ALTERNATES:Maine*, New Jersey, Kentucky, Michigan*, Ohio


HONORABLE MENTIONS:Missouri*, Louisiana, Kansas*, Arkansas*, Florida


* = made actual top 15

After the top 15 were announced, it was on to the swimsuit competition. Arkansas was up first but her score of 7.75 was significant lower than the rest of the delegates. She probably suffered from going first which sometimes can have an impact but then there are years when the delegate who is called first ends up winning (i.e. Tara Conner and Shauntay Hinton at USA and Zuleyka Rivera, Sushmita Sen, Lorraine Downes, Karen Baldwin at Universe) so it's hit and miss. Arkansas' styling looked a little old style pageant to me and perhaps that was what kept her out. Kansas followed looking like she was styled to be the next Danielle Boatwright (1st runner up at Miss USA 1996, 2nd runner up at Miss Teen USA 1992 and winner of a season of Survivor) but she too suffered a lower score. Next up was the eventual winner Rima Fakih of Michigan who placed 9th in the swimsuit competition so I wonder how she will hold up at Miss Universe but she was in control of body and face so her presentation was notable. Wyoming followed and although she had won over some fans in preliminaries with a great body and face, it wasn't enough to keep her in the competition. I drew attention to the fact that she is dating Cody Gifford, son of noted media personality, Kathie Lee Gifford who once competed at America's Junior Miss and co-hosted Miss America for years with Regis Philbin while those two hosted Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. Believe it or not, this is only Wyoming's 2nd placement in the semifinals in Miss USA history. The first time was in 1986 with Beth King who won the Photogenic award in the same year that Halle Berry competed! Pennsylvania followed and this was one I didn't notice at all until I saw her in preliminaries and that hot body set her apart coupled with her sensational unique gown. It was a shame she was cut at this point since we didn't get to see a good look at her gown during the telecast. California followed and although I thought her height would hurt her, she did manage to advance to the top 10. Colorado then comes out of nowhere to place 2nd in the swimsuit competition. She was okay and I saw a really nice headshot of her initially and then I saw a picture of her where it looked like her neck was going to burst and that was a complete turn-off so I must have subconsciously just excluded her from that point on because she was one of the two that was not on my radar. Tennessee followed and while she is a serene beauty, I found her to be a bit too subtle. She was just there and not making an impact so I knew she wouldn't win. Then comes Oklahoma who was really hyped to death prior to the pageant and that tends to turn me off unless I see it but I didn't really see it with her. Something about her face is a little off to me but she does have body and seemed well prepared. She finished 3rd in swimsuit. I should have known Missouri was going to make it. She was in my top 10 initially until preliminaries when I saw that gown so I dropped her to an honorable mention spot but she does have a good face and body. Next up was Alabama who was just a refreshing beauty with a great body but perhaps her look was a little too close to Kristen Dalton's from the previous year so they went for something different. Nebraska followed and many of us knew that her father passed away recently but she presented with such confidence but I guess the judges felt the need to cut her at this point to avoid any bias and I felt that they were getting away from the whole fairytale win idea. And Kudos to Nebraska for placing for the first time since 1980. Virginia's Samantha Casey followed looking great as expected. Mississippi followed and I still really didn't feel anything from her but she still managed to advance and finally Maine showed us the long legs that come with that tall body to end up winning the swimsuit competition.

After the top 10 were announced, it was on to the gown competition. Joan loved the woman in the big hat. Hee hee. It was a funny reference to Trace Adkins. Not my type of music but whatevs. Tennessee was up first in a silver liquid beaded gown which was nice but again, she was too subtle. Maine followed in a black gown. Earlier, I commented in her looking a bit matronly in it which some other people saw too but she was decent. I really felt like she was going for the style of Brooke Daniels, last year's Miss Texas USA. Mississippi said her gown was red, sexy and flowy just like her. Really? She's red and flowy?? The one sleeved gown with the cut over the stomach reminded me of a combination of swimsuits and evening gowns from the mid 90s as that style was popular then. Alabama's blue number was nice but as I said earlier maybe her look was a little too similar to Kristen Dalton's. Michigan changed her gown from preliminaries and some people said they preferred her preliminary gown and this white gown she wore on finals night caused her to do a quick little stumble after her scores was entered. I heard that Oklahoma's gown was designed by a Venezuelan and was worth about $10,000. She felt it was the epitome of poise, glamour and elegance so I guess it works when a girl feels confident in her gown. Missouri followed in that unflattering neon thing. I knew that gown would do her in. California followed in a smart choice. A nice white gown similar to Michelle Arnette (1st runner up to Miss USA 2003) with the see through jewelled side over to the opposite sleeve but what I really appreciated about this gown was how it elongated her but it wasn't enough to keep her in the competition as she was cut at this point. Virginia followed in a white gown reminiscent of Diana Nogueira (2nd runner up at Miss Universe 1999). It was covered in the front with a hole in the front to reveal the cleavage and very low cut open back. And finally Colorado concluded the gown competition with a Vegas appropriate number that won her the gown competition.

The Top 4And then it was the cut to 5, Oklahoma, Michigan, Colorado, Virginia and Maine. In the brief chat with the top 5, Oklahoma was asked about being artistic. She said she likes to paint and write and it's a hobby she enjoys. Michigan was asked why she sold her car. She sold car to pay for the entrance fee to enter Miss Michigan USA and she wasn't going to let financial problems stop her from being there. Thank you. It was a short to the point answer so she was asked to expand and she said she sold a Ford proving she buys American and entered her state pageant and thanked her state director, Melissa Proctor, who was also Miss Ohio USA 1990 and a semifinalist at Miss USA 1990 where she might have said the phrase 'positive role model' one too many times! Melissa also competed at Miss Texas USA prior to winning the Ohio title. Colorado was asked expand on being a laidback country girl. She said she grew up on a ranch, likes boots and jeans and wrangling a steer. Virginia very sweetly and engagingly talked of her grill cheese sandwich. Competition for Curtis stone in the food arena. She said she makes it with Texas toast and extra cheese. Maine was asked to talk about flight as Curtis made light of her height. Natalie asked her 'How tall are you?' to which Maine responded 'I'm great, thank you.' Clearly, she misheard on stage but I'm sure TV audiences found that amusing. She wanted to face her biggest fear of flying and now wants to be a solo pilot.

Rima Fakih with Curtis StoneAnd then came the ever popular round of final questions. Oozing with controversy just the way the public loves it. Oklahoma got the ball rolling picking Oscar Nunez's question describing Arizona's new immigration statute which authorizes law enforcement authorities to check the citizenship of anyone they believe may be in the country illegally. Boos started from the audience as he read the question prompting him to command them to listen to the question before they boo. He went to say that critics say this amounts to racial profiling and asked if she thinks that this should be mandated by the state or by the federal government. Oklahoma responded saying she is a huge believer in state's rights and she thinks that's what's so wonderful about America so she thinks it's perfectly fine for Arizona to create that law. You could sense sourness in the audience at this point. She went on to say that she's against illegal immigration but she's also against racial profiling so she sees both sides of this issue. There's no denying she handled that question very well but some people felt that the question was a trap and was a no-win situation regardless of what answer she gave reminiscent of Carrie Prejean's answer last year indicating that she opposed same-sex marriage and like Carrie Prejean, Morgan Woolard also finished as 1st runner up. The eventual winner from Michigan selected Tara Conner's question indicating that this month marks the 50th anniversary of the oral birth control pill. She asked if as a woman, if she believes health insurance should cover birth control like every other drug. Rima responded saying absolutely she believes that. 'Hi, Mom!' squealed Rima which was just one of those spur of the moment things that ended up winning her the crown. It caused people to instantly laugh out loud. Obviously, most people don't feel comfortable talking about things like birth control in front of their mother but the way she did that totally lightened the situation and put people at ease which is a quality Miss USA should have and it set Rima apart. It really didn't have anything to do with her ethnicity as some might suggest. She went on to say that she believes that birth control is just like every other medication even though it's a controlled substance (which some people were quick to point out that birth control isn't a controlled substance but she misspoke which happens when you're on the spot) and she went on to say it's provided by family clinics, obgyns, etc. so it should be something women should get through insurance because it is costly. The final 2: Oklahoma and Michigan Colorado followed being asked by Johnny Weir if sites, like a new social networking site which has become a place for young people to anonymously post gossip, nasty and sometimes sexual comments about their peers, should be regulated by the government. She said she feels that it's hard to regulate these sites, to regulate any website but she feels that we should take it into our own hands to be above the status and to show people that we should be kind and caring to everyone no matter who they are, what they look like or what they believe in. I think her answer was decent but it did sound like something we've heard before. Virginia followed choosing Paula Deen's question. I'm sure a lot of people were just dying to hear Paula's accent. Paula told Virginia, 'You're beautiful' to which Samantha replied, 'So are you!' and again we see the engaging nature that helped Samantha in pageantry. Paula's question had to do with Obama saying that British energy company BP is responsible for cleaning the oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. She asked if BP should bear all the costs even if forces the company out of business. Gathering her brain, Virginia replied that it was a tough question and just to put it out there, the whole situation is unfortunate. You hate to see this happen. She said she thinks they are a lot responsible. She's not going to say they're entirely responsible though but she thinks they need to take responsiblity for what happened. Quickly, she came up a nice conclusion to her answer stating at the same time, we need to think of better way of finding alternative energy fuels and reduce our dependency on oil in general and she hopes that happens. Samantha was coached very well and we even saw that when she competed at Miss Teen USA 2006 so we were ready to see a strong showing from her and she battled her way through a tough question so get a respectable 2nd runner up finish. Finally, Maine chose Melania Trump's question which was a question I think many people anticipated would be asked. Since the Miss Universe Organization came under fire for the contestants' glamour shots which some critics said are too racy. She asked how they make her feel. Maine said she absolutely loves the pictures. She thinks they're beautiful and she thinks it represents a beautiful, sexy Miss USA and it's just a wonderful thing. She said they're so classy and she loves them. It was a decent simple answer but I wasn't expecting her to place as 4th runner up.

So as stunning as Kristen Dalton was, it was time for her farewell as Maine was declared 4th runner up, Colorado as 3rd runner up, Virginia as 2nd runner up and finally, Oklahoma as 1st runner up as Michigan's spunky Rima Fakih was declared Miss USA 2010. That reaction was classic as she put her hands on her head and spun around and then said she would have a pizza, which she later confessed to actually having! So now, it's on to Miss Universe 2010 which will also be held in Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay on Monday, August 23. Las Vegas also hosted the 1991 and 1996 Miss Universe pageants so we'll see how Rima fares against the women of the world.

 The Prethoughts - Miss USA 2010




Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP