When you're this legally blonde, they call you Elle!
Ellen Elizabeth (Elle) Smith of Kentucky is Miss USA 2021.

This Kentucky Fly Chica was fingernail paintin' good as Elle captures a second Miss USA crown for the Bluegrass state succeeding the win of a world-famous name, Kentucky's Tara Elizabeth Conner in 2006.
ky21pre3.jpgBorn in Springfield, Ohio but now hailing from Germantown, Kentucky, Elle won a lot of favor this year with her exotic looks but apart from that, this woman also possessed the speaking skills that the job of Miss USA requires. In 2019, Elle worked as a college associate in Fox News‘s bureau in the District of Columbia. She also worked as a videography intern in Arkansas and even studied in Florence, Italy for a semester. In May of 2020, Smith graduated from the University of Kentucky’s School of Journalism and Media in Lexington obtaining a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in political science. She was the vice president of the university’s National Association of Black Journalists chapter. In October 2020, Smith gained employment as a reporter at WHAS11 News which is an affiliate of the ABC television network licensed to Louisville. Her specialization is in the region of Southern Indiana. Kentucky had only won the Miss USA crown once which was in 2006 with the headliner Tara Elizabeth Conner and now another woman with Elizabeth as her middle name representing Kentucky was able to repeat this feat! Elle was inspired to compete in pageants after seeing her high school classmate, Brittany Reid, Miss Ohio Teen USA 2013 win her title. A favorite from the beginning, Elle’s work as a broadcast journalist helped her achieve a very rare feat as many previous Miss USA titleholders have competed in several pageants prior to their Miss USA win but Elle won her first pageant, Miss Kentucky USA on her first try and Miss USA was only her second pageant and now she is in Israel to compete for Miss Universe as there was less than two weeks this year between Miss USA on November 29 and Miss Universe on December 12 and the onslaught on pageants in December is blamed largely on the Covid pandemic which has affected the world since March 2020. The last Miss USA titleholder to win only her state title on her first try without previous pageant experience was Rhode Island’s Olivia Culpo in 2012 who went on to win Miss Universe that year so could the same thing happen to Elle?? It’s also interesting that curls are in during recent years and the look that was started by Delaware’s Ashley Coleman when she won Miss Teen USA 1999 seems to be enjoying much success 20 years later!
North Dakota's Caitlyn Vogel and Audra MariSome other Miss USA firsts are that the last name Smith has become the most common last name of Miss USA titleholders as three Miss USA titleholders have this last name: the late Chelsi Smith-1995’s Miss USA and Miss Universe, Rachel Smith-2007’s Miss USA and now Elle Smith-2021’s Miss USA. This is also the first time in history that three black (or biracial) titleholders have won Miss USA successively with Cheslie Kryst in 2019, Asya Branch in 2020 and now Elle Smith in 2021. Cheslie and Elle are both biracial though. Cheslie’s father is Caucasian as is Elle’s mother. Elle’s blonde curls come from her blonde mother. In fact, 5 of the last 6 Miss USA winners would be considered black so there seems to be a dramatic shift in the dynamic compared to years past.
In an interesting twist of fate, two former Miss Teen USA runners-up replicated their Miss Teen USA placements at Miss USA. North Dakota's Caitlyn Vogel was 1st runner up at both Miss USA 2021 and Miss Teen USA 2019 (which matches her fellow North Dakotan, Audra Mari who also placed as 1st runner up at both Miss USA 2014 and Miss Teen USA 2011) and now Caitlyn and Audra now hold the distinction of being the only two women to place as 1st runner up at both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA and they are both from North Dakota! Also of note is that every time that North Dakota has placed in Miss USA history, they have always advanced to a top 6 position. As I said before, when North Dakota places, they place BIG! Audra Mari would go on to represent the USA at Miss World 2016 placing in the top 11 for Miss World that year. However, Caitlyn has stated in social media that her pageant days are over if she doesn’t have to take over as Miss USA if Elle Smith wins Miss Universe as Caitlyn plans on getting married. The other former Teen runner up to match her Miss Teen USA placement was Illinois' Sydni-Dion Bennett who placed as 3rd runner up at both Miss USA 2021 and Miss Teen USA 2018. The Miss Teen USA 2nd runner ups competing this year had lowered positions this time oddly enough. South Carolina’s Marley Stokes was 2nd runner up at Miss Teen USA 2016 but only placed in the top 8 and Pennsylvania’s Sydney Robertson who was 2nd runner up at Miss Teen USA 2014 did not place unfortunately at Miss USA 2021.

It was the dawning of a new day as 2021 echoed 1993 in many ways. For starters, this 70th Miss USA competition was the first to no longer being under the umbrella of the Miss Universe Organization but it is now under the directorship of Crystle Stewart who reigned as Miss USA 2008 and is the most recent Texan to win the Miss USA crown and although Texas hasn’t fared as well in recent years, Texas is still the most successful state in Miss USA history boasting 9 Miss USA winners topping the list of Who Has the Most Miss USAs. The official announcement was made on December 31, 2020 on ‘Good Morning America’ and time will tell if Crystle Stewart’s new direction of the Miss USA pageant will be able to breathe new life Opening Number of Miss USA 1993Opening Number of Miss USA 1993in the pageant with new sponsorship and a return to the glamour of yesteryear and hopefully, there will be enough interest to get Miss USA back on to a major network as this will be the second year in a row that Miss USA will be broadcast on the fyi network which is a lesser known network that is not available in all States or Canada or the Miss USA pageant could be streamed on Hulu as streaming is growing exponentially in recent years. From 1952 to 1964, Miss USA was held as a concurrent event with Miss Universe (similarly to how Miss USA and Miss Teen USA are concurrent events today) so Miss USA would compete for Miss Universe only a few days after her national title and this year seems to have a similar setup as Miss Universe being held in Eilat, Israel on December 12 just two weeks after the Miss USA is crowned on November 29 and Elle Smith had to fly to Houston, Texas right after her win in Tulsa, Oklahoma to get fitted for her Miss Universe wardrobe. The wake of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus is creating a bit of a mess for the contestants in Israel and all the contestants, including Elle, had to quarantine for three days upon arrival in Israel and some contestants like that of France have tested positive so we will see who ends up competing on the final night. With vaccines now available, the world is slowly returning to normal and you will recall that the 69th Miss Universe pageant was held earlier this year in May 2021. Miss USA 1965 to 2002 were broadcast on CBS, Miss USA 2003 to 2014 were broadcast on NBC, Miss USA 2015 was broadcast on Reelz, Miss USA 2016 to 2019 were broadcast on FOX and Miss USA 2020 was broadcast on fyi as is 2021 so we shall see if Crystle’s Miss USA pageant will be able to attract a major network to broadcast Miss USA again. Going back to Miss USA 1993, that was the last year that the delegates wore state costumes during the parade of nations and guess what?? State costumes returned this year! Tennessee won the state costume competition with Utah and Oklahoma getting 2nd and 3rd place respectively. Unfortunately, the State Costumes were not shown as the delegates were introduced for the telecast and there was no special segment to showcase some of the state costumes in a dance number as was done for Miss Universe 2003 to 2005. The opening number showed the delegates wearing one outfit, a one-piece long-sleeved black swimsuit and the choreography was great and I’m impressed they were able to make that happen in a short time but choreographer Kent Gregory Parham is very experienced so he would have known how to make it happen. Pageants seem to have suffered an identity crisis in recent years trying to cater to people that will never watch them so hopefully these changes will appease traditional pageant watchers and let pageants be pageants again and this year seemed to be a return in that direction.

In September, Crystle Stewart invited most of the 2021 Miss USA delegates to Cancun, Mexico for a four day stay for pageant orientation and this kind of exotic travel for the Miss USA contestants hasn’t been done in quite some time. One of the main sponsors is Crystle Stewart’s Miss Academy which is a training organization and a lot of the delegates got preparation from her team learning about things like make-up, walking, interview and presentation skills.

And let’s not forget the winner of Miss USA 1993, Michigan’s Kenya Summer Moore who has recently starred on the U.S. edition of “Dancing With the Stars” finishing in 10th place which is higher than any other former Miss USA who competed on that show and Kenya’s recent claim to fame is starring on the Real Housewives of Atlanta in recent years and becoming a first-time mother at the age of 47 to daughter Brooklyn Doris. Also notably, the 1993 2nd runner up, Kansas’ Tavia Shackles’ daughter, Gracie Hunt represented Kansas in 2021 placing among the top 16.

A boomer sooner through and through, Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, hosted the Miss USA pageant for the first time at the Paradise Cove Theater of River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa. The competition was hosted by some new names on the pageant scene, Zuri Hall and Patrick Ta, with Nicole Adamo serving as a lounge host. Zuri Hall was an excellent host. She was very on-the-ball and sharp and presented amazingly well so most people would gladly like to keep her. The other two didn’t really seem in their element. Patrick Ta is actually a make-up artist but I think the backstage commentating roles should be left to former titleholders as we have seen in years past. Another better change was that they have returned to including male judges this year. Male judges were excluded from the selection committee starting in 2018. The judges were: Haley O’Brien Kalil-Miss Minnesota USA 2014 and Miss Minnesota Teen USA 2010, Natalía Barulích, Sophie Elgort, Chloe Flower, Ty Hunter, and Oliver Trevena. Missing from the panel but originally announced as judges were two of the male judges: Alton Mason and Pascal Mouawad, whose company designed the current Miss USA, Teen USA and Universe crowns since Miss Universe 2019.
I loved the intro incorporating the voice of Bob Barker with a montage of clips from Miss USA pageants from the 1960s to the present leading to the delegates dancing to Ciara’s “Work” and “Warrior” by Hidden Citizens and Rayelle. I would have liked to have heard the delegates introduce themselves rather than the male announcer and see captions of their names and states in the pre-taped intro segment. Here is where they probably could have incorporated the state costumes but I don’t know that this kind of event is really worth it anymore so I wonder if the whole state costume thing might get discontinued as it was in 1994.



Winner=Kentucky-Elle Smith

Winner=North Carolina-Madison Bryant*

1st Runner Up=North Dakota-Caitlyn Vogel

1st Runner Up=Illinois-Sydni-Dion Bennett*

2nd Runner Up=Florida-Ashley Carino

2nd Runner Up=Maryland-Layilah Nasser*

3rd Runner Up=Illinois-Sydni-Dion Bennett

3rd Runner Up=New York-Briana Siaca

FINALISTS (alpha'l):


Maryland-Layilah Nasser

Kentucky-Elle Smith*

North Carolina-Madison Bryant

Utah-JessiKate Riley*

South Carolina-Marley Stokes

Texas-Victoria Hinojosa*

Texas-Victoria Hinojosa

South Carolina-Marley Stokes*



Kansas-Gracie Hunt

Oklahoma-Albreuna Gonzaque

Louisiana-Tanya Crowe

Florida-Ashley Carino*

Mississippi-Bailey Anderson

Indiana-A'Niyah Birdsong

Nebraska-Erika Etzelmiller

Oregon-Allison Cook

South Dakota-Caroline Pettey

Pennsylvania-Sydney Robertson

Tennessee-Elizabeth Pistole

Georgia-Cora Griffen

Utah-JessiKate Riley

California-Sabrina Lewis

Virginia-Christina Thompson

Virginia-Christina Thompson*


ALTERNATES: Nebraska*, Delaware, Nevada, Kansas*, Arkansas


HONORABLE MENTIONS: New Hampshire, Alabama, North Dakota*, Mississippi*, Louisiana*


* = made actual top 16

It was hard to gauge the direction the judges would go this year given the results of Miss Teen USA 2021 which had the same preliminary judging panel and was held a few days prior to Miss USA but in terms of my predictions, I picked 9 of the top 16 plus 2 alternates (Nebraska and Kansas), 3 honorable mentions (North Dakota, Mississippi and Louisiana) and the two that I missed were: South Dakota and Tennessee who were both in my next tier below honorable mentions. I try to eye out more of the surprises or potential interview queens but it looks like it didn’t skew that way this year. What happened to my 7 ladies that didn’t place? Nevada-Kataluna Enriquez First up was New York who was also an early favorite but after preliminaries, a lot of people commented that her gown was perhaps too much and that her make-up and styling were off but I still thought she would place and the gown didn’t bother me. The host delegate, Oklahoma didn’t place at either Miss or Teen so maybe they don’t want Oklahoma to host anymore?? No, I’m sure it wasn’t that but Albreuna was tall and striking with a nice gown but I guess just wasn’t as favored somehow. Indiana’s A’Niyah Birdsong tragically lost her mother in a car crash on October 31, just one month prior to the Miss USA pageant so I thought she would surely get a sympathy spot similarly to Nigeria’s 2019 delegate at Miss Universe but it didn’t happen but A’Niyah did make the best of what she had despite her petite frame but she was very fit. Oregon was very tall and formerly represented her state at Miss America 2014 going unplaced there too. She did have an amazing body and catwalk and some may have thought she overdid her gown performance working the scarves over her shoulders almost like they were wings as if she was ready to fly away but some have said she needed to watch her facial angles but she was certainly memorable. Fresh-faced Pennsylvania and a former 2nd at Miss Teen USA 2014 was also a favorite but I did noticed that her body and walk were still quite Teen and almost uncomfortable to watch but I thought she would be forgiven due to that photogenic face and her short blonde hair which was styled very similar to Madonna’s True Blue era and we have seen women with questionable walks place before so I thought Sydney would do it. Finally, Georgia’s Cora Griffen defeated statehopping California’s Sabrina Lewis who was 3rd runner up to Cora at Miss Georgia USA 2021 so I thought this meant that Cora would place at least one spot above Sabrina as these were both accomplished, interview queens but since Miss USA is no longer under IMG, that accomplishments meant less this year. Interestingly enough, apart from Georgia and California there were other contestants for Miss USA 2021 that also competed against each other in previous pageants. For example, North Carolina’s Madison Bryant placed one spot ahead of Virginia’s Christina Thompson at Miss North Carolina USA 2020 with Madison being 1st runner up to Jane Axhoj. Also, four of this year’s Miss USA delegates competed at Miss Texas Teen USA 2017 where Texas’ delegate, Victoria Hinojosa was 3rd runner up, Kansas’ Gracie Hunt was 4th runner up, Arkansas’ Stephanie Barber placed in the top 16 and Wisconsin’s Samantha Keaton (who you might have noticed placed her sash during the preliminary swimsuit competition in such a way that her cleavage was on full display) also placed in the top 16 at Miss Texas Teen USA 2017 so some of my rankings were based off of some these results. Another interesting tidbit about this year was that both North and South Dakota have only placed 5 times in Miss USA’s 70 year history but 2021 marks the first year that both Dakotas placed in the same year!
Of course, we also need to mention the history-making first openly transgendered Miss USA delegate, Nevada’s Kataluna Enriquez who I suspected would not place but I thought would instead get a ‘special segment’ as was done in recent Miss Universe pageants particularly the one for Spain’s 2018 delegate, Angela Ponce who is still the only openly transgendered delegate at that pageant. But there was no special segment and she was quietly dismissed. Of Filipina descent, Kataluna designs her own clothes and even did a dramatic reveal by unveiling one gold/silver gown underneath a white frilly one during her state pageant but (pout) we didn’t get a similar reveal at Miss USA and she wore a gown with rainbow streams on it in honor of her community. She probably wanted to do a reveal but was likely talked out of it. She did get much news coverage prior to the pageant but I can’t help but get the impression that they want to quietly discourage transgendered delegates altogether so we’ll see if there are other transgendered contestants in the future. Kataluna says, "It was an honor just to be able to represent my community and be an example for young queer children who now know they don't need to be limited by society's standards." Regarding not placing, she said, "I was shocked. But I was more disappointed because I worked so hard for it… I think they were just not ready." She also said her interview was largely about her transitioning and not politics or climate change or other hot topics asked to other delegates but she appreciates the impact she made and the support she receives on social media and from her fellow contestants.

After the top 16 were announced without the little get-to-know-you packages which probably weren’t that necessary anyway and some other packages to promote Tulsa as host city, it was time for the swimsuit competition and I was glad that all of the top 16 got to compete in BOTH swimsuit and gowns before a cut because that’s what we, the pageant viewing public, want to see! Can you believe we haven’t seen all the semifinalists compete in both swimsuit and gown since 2017 and prior to that, 2003?? When asked by Zuri Hall what the highlight of her year as Miss USA was, Asya Branch said, “It’s really hard.” And I was like, ‘That’s what she said.’ Then Asya mentioned travelling nation-wide advocating for criminal justice reform and the trip to the Nizuc resort in Cancun, Mexico. Just prior to the swimsuit competition, special performer Ja Rule made his comeback, perhaps over some playback, to rap his hit, ‘Livin’ It Up’ which was released in 2001 and I actually thought it was a nice choice for a throwback song and I liked the fun dancing incorporated as it did feel like something we haven’t seen for about 10 years. North Dakota was up first and her body and style appealed to many people and she just came across as very genuine and likeable and her distinct short hair and pleasant face and curves. She competed just two years ago to become first runner up at Miss Teen USA 2019 to Connecticut’s Kaliegh Garris and some would say to wait a few years before making the transition from competing from Teen to Miss but for Caitlyn, it obviously worked immensely never really getting out of competition mode. I think the shortest turn-around time that I can recall was Connecticut’s Adrienne Hazelwood who competed at Miss Teen USA 1984 making the top 10 and immediately competing at Miss USA 1985 but going unplaced. Some say she should have waited but sometimes you just can’t as many delegates have won their state titles after multiple tries. Next up was Maryland serving us some Naomi Campbell realness with her fierce catwalk and the long straight hair with bangs. Layilah was fierce with her great body and she wore one of the frilly bras which flared up with the wind at the end of the runway which I like as it really seemed to blow out the girls’ hair and some of the add-ons like feathers/attachments to gowns and this added to the glamour effect. Utah was next and looked amazing. Her body is on point and her long dark hair and her light eyes provided a great contrast. Beaver’s JessiKate also competed at Miss America 2018 going unplaced so I was glad she got her moment in the spotlight at Miss USA as she was one of my favorites. She is a talented violinist and her style reminds me of one of my favorite performers, Sarah Brightman. Nebraska was next and she had a very nice overall look. Lately, blondes have fallen out of favor and she didn’t place at Miss Teen USA 2016 which caused me to place her as an alternate in my list but she worked out hard to get that great body and she was favored by many so she was worthy. North Carolina followed and she was my winner right from when she won her state title as she was tall with an amazing body and overall look and her winning smile and cheery disposition made her come alive in a charming way. Illinois was a pro and looked amazing. Maybe she could have covered her ears a bit more with her hair but she was solid all around. Louisiana was fit and after competing 7 times before winning her state title, Tanya was well prepared and her having Native American roots probably came up in interview and likely helped her. Mississippi was also a formidable candidate with a more serene approach and she did finish as 2nd runner up to Asya Branch at Miss Mississippi USA 2020 so she was likely destined for some success here. Tennessee followed and although I usually like the delegates from this state, this delegate seemed like a step down but I understood her placement. She does work with special needs children but someone told me she used said children to promote a certain former owner of this pageant’s second run for president so that soured some impressions of her. Kentucky followed and looked great with her finely toned body and also rocking her distinct blonde curls and you can tell she has been quietly following pageantry and doing her homework studying and then gave it a shot and won her state title on her first try so it all worked out for her. Kansas followed and like her famous mother, Gracie does have an extremely fit and amazing body especially in the legs and hips and guess what, no ribs poking out! This was a well done presentation but perhaps she could have smiled more? Gracie is one of this year’s major legacy delegates being the daughter of Tavia Shackles who was 2nd runner up at Miss USA 1993 and a semifinalist at Miss Teen USA 1990 and her family owns the Kansas City Chiefs football team which invited Asya Branch to sing during one of their preseason games so I should have known Kansas would be up there. Florida was also favored by many right when she won her state title with her exotic looks and tall, fit body and long hair. It was no surprise to see her do so well here. Next up was Virginia who is another legacy delegate being the daughter of Hallie Bonnell-Miss Ohio USA 1987 who was crowned by another famous Halle, Halle Berry herself when she completed her reign as Miss Ohio USA 1986. Christina was also Miss New Jersey Teen USA 2013 and placed as a semifinalist at Miss Teen USA 2013. Christina looked great and with her broadcast journalism background probably would have done well had she advanced to the top 8. South Carolina’s long flowy blonde hair was a highlight and she was still as stellar as she was when she placed as 2nd runner up at Miss Teen USA 2016 looking fit and fabulous. Texas is naturally on the thin side but her overall appearance was very strong and finally South Dakota was a good delegate also. She statehopped from Alabama after years of competing there and while she would considered one of the more surprising choices, she was decent. After the swimsuit competition, Patrick and Asya did a little wrap-up segment where you can tell they were reading off a prompter. For future presenters, try your best to make it sound natural and make it sound like it is said, not read.

After Nicole Adamo had a backstage chat with the newly crowned Miss Teen USA, Breanna Myles and Crystle Stewart as the new president of the Miss USA organization, it was then time for the evening gown competition set to Jason Derulo and Adam Levine’s song “Lifestyle” starting with a colorful parade of all the delegates which we all appreciated and then the top 16 started off with North Dakota is a classic burgundy velvet gown with a slit to show leg and a jeweled choker neckline with a middle slit in the bodice to show off the cleavage. She didn’t have to have an overly flashy presentation as her calm classiness seemed to speak volumes. Maryland followed in a beige sweetheart gown with gold fringe and a slit to show off her legs and she worked it well but I wasn’t wowed by this gown. Utah followed in a unique gown with turquoise, blue and white lines over a sheer nude gown and I didn’t really like it at first but I appreciated its uniqueness later. Somehow I feel like a darker color would have looked better on her. Nebraska followed in a light orange gown with a belt and a curtain effect going down the skirt to reveal a middle slit. I think more of a cherry red gown like Mississippi’s would have looked better on her. North Carolina followed in a black gown that drew mixed reactions. Some loved it and others didn’t like the unusual off-to-one-side asymmetric design showing off one side of her body but Madison could do no wrong in my eyes! Illinois followed in a sexy nude-toned criss-cross bra with another criss-cross mid-section beaded gown and she looked sensational reminiscent of the gown worn by Pennsylvania’s Brenda Brabham for Miss USA 2005. I don’t care if the skirt didn’t touch the ground. I know some people made a big to-do about that. Louisiana followed in an orange gown made out of that cheap-looking shiny fabric for which I don’t particularly care. I guess those kinds of gowns look better on stage as I have seen quite a few of them over the years. It also had a ruffly design over the shoulder but I would have liked to have seen her in a better gown than this. Mississippi’s gown was actually really nice. I think the cherry red shimmery classic gown looked great on her. Tennessee followed in a white one-shoulder gown with long streams of beaded silver fringe with fringe earrings to match and it was nice. Kentucky followed in a more classic gown which twinkled in the light and it was a smart choice obviously. Kansas followed in an elaborate gown similar to the one worn by Peru’s Janick Maceta who was 2nd runner up at Miss Universe 2020 and I heard it was created by the same designer with less of the nude illusion effect. Florida wore a gold fringe gown with long sleeves but revealing cleavage and a slit to show off the leg and I wasn’t really a fan of this gown and think she could have gone with something better but she also could do no wrong seemingly. Virginia followed in a black gown with silver skirt minus the gloves which she wore in preliminaries perhaps to make it look less costumey and I think it worked and Christina looked great. South Carolina followed in her trademark unique style wearing a hot pink gown with a shoulder-padded sleeve on one side and a thin sleeveless double strap on the other side making it look like two gowns in one and it was different but Marley could pull anything off really. Texas followed and she was one of the few to change gowns from preliminaries to finals. In finals, she wore a rich, deep blue gown but in preliminaries, she wore a white gown with open long sleeves and both gowns were excellent. Texas has had to struggle to place in recent years but it looks like they are back on track. Finally, South Dakota came out in a sparkly light silver gown and some suspect she might have won the fan vote although it was never revealed officially. The congeniality award was announced on December 3 as going to Michigan’s Taylor Hale. The photogenic award was announced on December 6 as going to Pennsylvania's Sydney Robertson. You know I loved the special segment for the 70th anniversary with the montage of clips from Miss USA pageants from yesteryear in addition to the interviewed formers featured: Myrna Hansen-1953, Wendy Dascomb-1969, Terri Utley-1982, Carole Gist-1990, Brook Lee-1997 and of course, the goddess Lynnette Cole-2000. This was followed by some formers in attendance appearing on stage and of course, I wanted to see them named as I couldn’t recognize all of them at first so it looks like they were from right to left as they appeared on stage: Kára McCullough-2017, Sarah Rose Summers-2018, Kandace Krueger-2001 (although I originally thought it was Kristen Dalton-2009), Carole Gist-1990, Shanna Moakler-1995, Jineane Ford-1980, Shannon Marketic-1992, Barbara Peterson-1976, Gretchen Polhemus-1989, Bobbi Johnson-1964 and Crystle Stewart-2008. I was impressed to see Bobbi there and Barbara Peterson seems to always make an effort to attend these reunions and fans like me appreciate that. I also liked seeing the segment of Crystle Stewart talking about how she took ownership of the Miss USA organization and the positive changes she is making with the vision she has.

Chat seshThe top 16 delegates then changed into their interview outfits for the announcement of the top 8. After the top 8 were announced, they were divided into groups of four and then Zuri Hall had a chat session like a talk show format with each group of four delegates. This was an interesting concept which has been seen in Miss America pageants during the 90s but never at a Miss USA pageant. It was interesting to see the girls interact with each other and then be asked a judge’s question and while there is some potential for delegates speaking over each other which there was much when this was done during Miss Teen USA, I think the delegates who observed that knew to take turns. The first group consisted of: Florida, Maryland, Illinois and South Carolina. During the chat session, the ladies were asked, “We are one month away from 2022. Will you be making a new year’s resolution?” Illinois said she would and it would be continue to be her better self. With owning her own company, she is trying to be better and achieve new things. Maryland threw in that she wants to continue a role model for her girl scout sisters and she has been involved with girl scouts for 16 years and was a troop leader in two states and another country and she encourages girl scouts to break barriers and do anything they set their mind to. South Carolina humourously threw in that she wants to say she’s going to stick to her diet but she was going to continue to advocate for kids with learning disabilities. Growing up with them, she wants to reach every single child in the USA. Florida said it would be asking God to deliver new opportunities and advocate for mental health since she works in a mental health agency. Then it on to some fun questions, “Who understood the assignment better – Adele or Taylor Swift?” All of them unanimously said Adele and Florida threw in that Adele had an amazing comeback and looks amazing. Then they were asked, “Who is their best celebrity fashion icon – Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian or Beyoncé?” Florida and Maryland said Beyoncé, Illinois chose Kim Kardashian since she puts a little risk and edge to her outfits and South Carolina also said Kim Kardashian. Then it was time for the judges’ questions. Florida chose Ty Hunter who asked, “As a rising professional, what are you doing to be financially literate?” Florida answered, “I believe for me, it’s all about just educating myself. Information and just knowing what you need to do and how to do it is the important thing regardless of the subject so just educating myself, knowing what I need to do and how to do it. That’s what I’m doing right now.” Maryland chose Oliver Trevena who asked, “What are you doing to help promote positive mental health among your own network of peers?” Maryland answered, “As a girl scout troop leader, one of my greatest values is teaching my girls to take care of themselves. Being able to pour positivity but also being able to see their passions shine through in different ways. I think one of the biggest things that we need to focus on throughing…during challenging times during the pandemic is mental health. For me, I focus on meditation but I think it’s important for everybody to find different ways to channel themselves throughing…through challenging times.” Illinois chose Chloe Flower who asked, “Is gender equity solely a women’s issue. Why or why not?” Illinois answered, “Um. I do not believe it is. I believe that everybody has a role in this world and I believe that everybody should have their own place. I believe that we all are in equal in our own skin and our own bodies and we should all be represented.” South Carolina chose Sophie Elgort who asked, “Anxiety seems to be at an all-time high. What is your best advice on how to deal with today’s increasing pressures?” South Carolina replied, “Breathe. That’s all that I have been doing tonight. Stay true to yourself and believe in yourself and breathe.”
Chat seshThe second group consisted of: Texas, Kentucky, North Carolina and North Dakota. During the chat session, Zuri asked, “What is your most important core value?” North Carolina said being intentional saying she had a traumatic incident where there was a mass shooting and she was disappointed and looked at to North Dakota who was her roommate during their stay in Tulsa saying they have talked about this. She was disappointed that she wasn’t living life to the fullest up to that point and she hadn’t cherished and really stuck her teeth into everyday experiences. Now, she takes hold of them and lives every day to the fullest. North Dakota said she would go with love saying she’s a firm believer that if you approach everything with a loving mindset that everything that comes from you will be positive and in the best light. Zuri said, “Love wins.” Kentucky said honesty and I appreciate it with herself and friends and family and when you are honest with yourself and surround yourself with people who are honest with you, you can propel yourself into different situations and she appreciates that. Texas said to treat others like you would like to be treated which is something she says to her elementary school kids and is one of her favorite morals. Zuri said, “We love the golden rule!” further demonstrating her sharpness as a host. Then for a fun question, Zuri asked if these trends should stay or go away. When asked about epic charcuterie boards, all of them said it’s a stay. I probably ditzily would have replied, ‘What’s a charcuterie board??’ so a charcuterie board is basically one of those appetizer boards filled with cured meats, cheese, veggies, nuts, olives, dried fruits, and crackers. Kentucky was hesitant since she didn’t like cheese as a child but does now. North Carolina said she was a sucker for pepper jelly. When asked about wearing sneakers with everything, Texas said not with everything maybe with a pair of jeans but that sometimes when dressing up, heels are appropriate. Kentucky is a fan of sneakers since her job as a reporter requires much running around and she plugged her favorite sneaker being Jordan 1s. North Carolina said she also has to wear sneakers when she is being a nurse but when she’s outside of those walls, she wants to turn heads and high heels will do that as she is six feet tall. North Dakota said she’s also a nurse like Maddy (her roommate Madison, Miss North Carolina USA) but that she loves a cocktail and sneaker look. Then it was time for judges’ questions. Texas chose Chloe Flower who asked, “What changes would you like to see to increase racial equality?” Texas answered, “So one of the things that I’ve done as Miss Texas is go to elementary school kids and do and educate an activity that I call, ‘What would you like to be?’ where I do a coloring activity with kindergarteners and first graders and I help them understand the importance of being kind and accepting one another so all their bumblebees are different but just because they’re different doesn’t mean that they’re not beautiful and so I think impressing this at such a young age is the foundation and going forward, I know they will carry this with them.” Kentucky chose Ty Hunter who asked, “Sustainability is becoming more and more important in professional landscapes. How can we encourage business to be more environmentally conscious?” Kentucky answered, “I think we got to look at it from a macro level and also a micro level (feeds cut)…switch to green energy. I think that’s something that we can all agree on but then at the micro level, we all know how to reduce, reuse, recycle and those are things we can implement in our daily lives.” Based on the audience reaction, one would easily conclude that Kentucky’s answer was a slamdunk (possibly thanks to those Jordan 1s) and even North Carolina said, “That’s a tough one to follow!” before choosing Sophie Elgort who asked, “How is Miss USA the same and how is she different compared to 70 years ago?” North Carolina replied, “In many ways, Miss USA is evolving to promote a powerhouse woman and nothing says powerhouse woman like a woman that can do everything at one time and look completely polished so for like myself, I’m a full time student, I’m working in the hospital for clinicals and I am representing Miss North Carolina all the time but the only reason I am capable of doing that is because I have an entire team that stands behind me and that is willing to fight for me but this is not to say that former Miss USAs didn’t do this as well.” Finally, North Dakota chose Haley Kalil who asked, “If you could give advice to a potential politician on topics that are important to your generation. What would you tell them?” North Dakota replied, “I think something very impor’ant is unity. We are based off a bipartisanship government and we’ve lost the heart of that. It was established to, as a means of compromise and instead we’re using it as a means of division so I definitely think that’s something we need to focus on.” All the ladies did a fine job. I didn’t really object to the rankings but I think Kentucky and North Dakota really sets themselves apart as the top two with their final answers.

After a modern-day serenade by Ja Rule singing “Mesmerize” with backing vocals from Ashanti to the top 8 dancing along. I usually think these serenades can get a bit creepy but Ja Rule was respectful not so much like El Puma, Jose Luis Rodriguez at Miss Universe 1983 who seemed to get right in the faces of that year’s top 5.

After Asya Branch’s farewell walk, the announcement of the runners-up was done in a different way that was once seen at Miss America in the 80s and the Miss World pageant has used this format for decades. From the top 8, they called out the 3 runners-up (There was only a top 4 announced this year similarly to 2011) and then the winner. But they didn’t say ‘runner-up’ but just said in 4th, 3rd and 2nd place. I guess the term runner-up has become outdated and it’s also unnecessary and confusing. If you didn’t notice, Elle’s earring fell off right before the announcement of the winner and she said something to Madison of North Carolina seemingly to just leave it as it is hard to bend in those body-constricting gowns and that the announcement came and Elle buckled in disbelief clutching to the delegates from North Carolina and Texas before stepping forward to claim her crown and take her first walk as Miss USA 2021! Elle even commented to her newsteam shortly after her win that she thought Maryland was it was down to the last 5 ladies but Elle won it all. The crown seemed dwarfed in Elle’s big hair which was also clumped down during the crowning and even Elle herself thought it looked somewhat off but the Miss USA title is all hers. Qui est la nouvelle Mademoiselle États-Unis d'Amérique ? Mais oui, c’est Elle!

The Prethoughts - Miss USA 2021




Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP