Miss South Carolina Teen USA, Lauren Caitlin Upton at the MTV Video Music AwardsMiss South Carolina Teen USA, Lauren Caitlin Upton at the MTV Video Music Awards"I personally believe...that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because...uh-some-uh people out there in our nation don't have maps and uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as...and I believe that they should, our education over here, in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our children." Rather than the pageant itself or even the winner, it was these words uttered by Miss South Carolina Teen USA, Lauren Caitlin Upton when asked why a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a map. This statement was analyzed to death by every talk show and at its peak was the most downloaded video on the YouTube website. It led to a seemingly endless string of parodies and Lauren was given the chance to redeem herself on the Today Show and ended up parlaying this little absent-minded moment to becoming a presenter on the MTV Video Music awards making fun of her own answer. I just could not believe that it blew up into what it did. A lot of it has to do with the newfound instantaneousness of video uploads on the internet like on websites like YouTube and everywhere like such as... One can only imagine what would have happened to the likes of Dawn Renee Huey, Angelique de Maison and Larissa Meek had such video uploading websites existed back in their days. But that answer's been played to death and we'll discuss it a little later but it's time to focus on the pageant itself.

Mario Lopez and Miss Teen USA 2006, Katie BlairTo the sounds of another Canadian artist, Avril Lavigne, the girls told us they don't like our girlfriends and they think we need a new one. The 'Girlfriend' song reminds me a lot of Toni Basil's cheerleading anthem, 'Mickey' beat-wise. And then they told us they fell in love with a DJ, DJ. Gasp! Could that be me? The intros were interesting this year with constant movement with practically every word. Some thought it was a little bit too much...Too much edgy, perhaps? But it certainly captured your attention. You know you were practicing your own intro the same way! Remember, teens today have a much lower attention span so movement is vital to the retention of such audiences. While today's Miss Teen USA pageants are geared towards younger audiences, older Miss Teen USA pageants were geared towards older audiences in terms of the use of 50s and 60s music, some Broadway elements and even the use of Dick Clark as a host who hosted American Bandstand. I liked the choreography this year. Casey McClain, Miss California Teen USA 2001 assisted head choreographer, Scott Grossman. I loved New Jersey's intro and her awesome Natalie Glebova spin and DC's head dip was cool too.

Mario Lopez, a former teenager himself, served as host for the third time in Teen USA history. He also hosted in 1998 and 2003 and has been quite busy hosting pageants this year. He also hosted Miss Universe and Miss America. I wonder if it's finally time for him to host Miss USA too. He was briefly married to former Miss USA, Ali Landry, and one can't help but wonder how she feels about him moving in on her territory. Reigning Miss Teen USA, Katie Blair had a bit of a turbulent reign since it was rumored that she was seen partying with former Miss USA, Tara Conner resulting in Mothers Against Drunk Driving breaking their ties with her. However, Katie emerged this evening looking radiant with some great gowns. Gaspar Cruz of Crown Couture is someone I have conversed with in the past and he did some fantastic work with the gowns for Katie.



Winner=Colorado-Hilary Cruz

Winner=New Jersey-Alyssa Campanella*

1st Runner Up=New Jersey-Alyssa Campanella

1st Runner Up=South Carolina-Lauren Upton*

2nd Runner Up=North Carolina-Katie Coble

2nd Runner Up=North Carolina-Katie Coble*

3rd Runner Up=South Carolina-Lauren Upton

3rd Runner Up=Texas-Sommer Isdale

4th Runner Up=West Virginia-Chelsea Welch

4th Runner Up=Georgia-Jena Sims

FINALISTS (alpha'l)


Alabama-Canden Jackson

Tennessee-Maci Erwin*

Kansas-Jaymie Stokes

Kentucky-Katrina Giannini

Minnesota-Vanessa Vonbehren

Missouri-Lauren Peterson

Rhode Island-Rochelle Rose

Kansas-Jaymie Stokes*

Virginia-Emily Bruce

Idaho-Krista McNeal



Hawaii-Serena Karnagy

California-Kylee Lin

Illinois-Victoria Davis

Louisiana-Logan Travis

New Mexico-Elizabeth Kranz

Colorado-Hilary Cruz*

Tennessee-Maci Erwin

Oregon-Whitney Whitehouse

Wyoming-Mollie Smith

Florida-Annilie Hastey


ALTERNATES:Mississippi, Virginia*, Illinois*, West Virginia*, Alabama*


HONORABLE MENTIONS:Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Minnesota*, Washington, Rhode Island*


* = made actual top 15

So in terms of my predictions, you can see I got 6 of the top 15 plus a whopping 4 alternates and 2 honorable mentions. The 3 surprise girls this year were Hawaii, New Mexico and Wyoming, all of whom were eliminated in the first round. So what happened to the 9 in my list that didn't make it? First off was Texas' Sommer Isdale and it looks like Heaven forbade because it seemed impossible that Texas would be absent from the semifinals 3 years in a row. Mind you, Texas was also absent from Miss Teen USA semifinals from 1992 to 1995 and then in 1996, Boom! They win it all. Also notice, that Texas' long running streak at Miss USA was broken when they missed the semis in 1999 and 2000 but then Boom! In 2001, they win it all. Could this mean that the next time, Texas makes the semifinals at Miss Teen USA, they will win it all??? Hmmmm.... Sommer certainly had a great body and hair but some questioned the really bright yellow gown. Georgia also looked great in terms of body and gown so I don't know what happened there. Kentucky looked very teen and delicate but it seems like they weren't going for that this year. Missouri had a great fresh look, hair and a distinctly bold red gown and I thought she would make it. Idaho had a great Fadil headshot but her preliminary presentation was a bit of a letdown. The gown probably wasn't the best choice. They denied the hometown girl, California, who had a very teen look to her. Louisiana clearly modelled herself after Shelley Hennig, Miss Teen USA 2004 but I didn't see a clear reason why she was excluded. Even though Oregon has the most Miss Teen USA winners, their presence in the semifinals tends to be a little sporadic and they were denied this year even though they sent a highly favored contender. Finally, Florida sent us a sweet girl with a look very similar to Miss Teen USA 1986, Allison Brown. Also the panel of judges had some interesting members in it, including Mario's 'Dancing with the Stars' rival, Joey Lawrence. I'm sure he thought on several occasions, 'Why are you the host, while I'm the judge?' Of course, Mario finished 2nd and Joey finished 3rd on Dancing With the Stars but the man who took it all was of course, Emmitt Smith, who is married to none other than the gorgeous Pat Southall, who was first runner up at Miss USA 1994. Also Melissa Joan Hart and Shelley Hennig were also very much appreciated on the judging panel.
Hilary Cruz is announced a top 15 semifinalist
After the top 15 were announced, Kat Deluna performed 'Whine Up' complete with energetic gyrations and I thought this song was actually perfect for swimsuit. It was suspiciously similar to last year's swimsuit song and I loved the beat as Alabama was introduced. I also like the spike-the-beach-ball move. Alabama was up first and she was great. She has a bit of a Reese Witherspoon-ish look to her. Notice how she was always called first? It reminded me of Miss Teen USA 1988 when Alabama's Anna Mingus was also always called first. Kansas followed with a very nice body and you can just tell that she is fun-natured. Tennessee was eliminated early surprisingly. Could it have been the random hand raising? Nonetheless, I thought she definitely should have advanced. Wyoming was interesting with her violent spins and Madonna-like mannerisms. And of course, followed our winner from Colorado who stood from the beginning as easily having one of the best bodies in the competition. Virginia looked nice. Hawaii was pretty spunky but short. West Virginia looked really nice and had a subtle confidence about her. Her look reminded me of Jamie Solinger, Miss Teen USA 1992. New Jersey was absolutely amazing and I love it when a girl knows how to work her body the way that Alyssa did. South Carolina also looked stunning. Really great body and overall look. A grat contender. Minnesota certainly looked fit with great ab formation. North Carolina was also easily one of the top contenders. Apparently, she is related to actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Rhode Island comfortably takes the title of 'most tanned contestant' and she had good mannerisms in spite of her height. Illinois looked decent. I think I would have liked to have seen her advance instead of perhaps Minnesota because Illinois had a really nice gown. And finally, New Mexico concluded looking okay but something seemed a little off in how she was walking and posing.

After the cut was made to the top 10, it was time for evening gowns set to the teen rock sounds of the Jonas Brothers. Some people thought the music wasn't really a good fit but I actually thought it worked for a teen competition. It was an interesting change. Alabama's turquoise fishtail gown with the gold designs was sensational and she worked it so well. West Virginia had one of those Brazilian pleated gowns in a light blue and it was nice and unique. Virginia's gown looked loose at times until you realized that she was wearing a gown that looked like a gown over a gown. I certainly didn't expect to see that close-up of her crying after she was eliminated. South Carolina follows in a nice light blue gown with silver sparkles with the nice cuffneck that I love so. Rhode Island wearing a tan colored gown. So what was more tan-her or the gown? North Carolina's cotton candy flowy gown was an excellent choice with the lavender over the light blue. She certainly did everything right looks wise. Her hair also reminded me of Allie Laforce, Miss Teen USA 2005. New Jersey followed in an off-white gown with feathers from the waist down and she, of course, looked stunning. Minnesota followed in a sparkly light blue number. It seems like blue was the color of choice this year. Kansas also a great fishtail gown like Alabama's in a deeper shade of blue and although I thought it was a great gown, at times, her walk looked a little uncomfortable. Colorado concluded the competition in her gorgeous blue gown which I thought was more suited for a 'Miss' rather than 'Teen' competition but I guess Miss is the new Teen! I also liked how the camera gave us the toe-to-head, head-to-toe shots.

Miss Congeniality was won by Mississippi, who interestingly enough, was the only one of my alternates that didn't make the semifinals. Photogenic went to Maryland. And then the top 5 were announced: South Carolina, Colorado, West Virginia, North Carolina and New Jersey. I was so pleased to see that my top 3 picks actually made the top 4. Before that dreaded question session, what the general public didn't see was the friendly chat with the top 5 including South Carolina who sounded a little more together during this round. Mario asked her how she was and she said she was doing fabulous and felt like she was at a rock concert, with her heart going up and down, y'know? Mario then asked about her wild adventures in Myrtle Beach. Lauren responded by talking about reverse bungee jumping where they pull you down 130 feet and launch you at 60 miles up in the air. She said it was ridiculously crazy and she swears it felt like she was going to faint after getting off, got her heart going a lot and did it 6 times in a row, which probably wasn't a good thing... It probably wasn't... I just wanted to note that I was about to pick South Carolina as my winner because she was clearly a favorite from the beginning but I decided to go with New Jersey not only because of her strong presentation but also because she is not blonde. I had an inkling that this year's winner would not be blonde since the last two Miss Teen USAs were blonde and also that the winner would come from a state that has never won and New Jersey never has won but it turned out that Colorado also fit these criteria interestingly enough. Colorado was asked to talk about she overcame her biggest fear of riding a roller coaster. She calmly described that she thought she had the kind of ear that you need therapy for but during the summer, her friends said she can do it and she ended up riding on every roller coaster in the front seat. West Virginia talked about winning an essay contest at age 11 which was sponsored by a local grocery store and the prize was a 'strip', I mean...a trip to space camp. Hmmm...Just what exactly were they telling the girls backstage? Anyway, she won out of 16 finalists and went for a week where she didn't go to outer space but did a flight simulation and she was the captain. North Carolina, sounding like someone who starred in 'Clueless' talked about parasailing over a bunch of sharks. Okay, so this was like, her first time and like, her brother persuaded her to do it and she was like, okay, I'll try it out, y'know? She saw the hundreds of sharks swimming below and like, her stomach, like, dropped, like totally, and she was, like, kicking to get off. But looking back, she was glad she did it. Like, for sure! Thank you, Chase. New Jersey was asked what her attraction was to space travel and why she owns a space shuttle manual. Alyssa said she didn't know what it was because she's terrified to get on roller coaster so why would she want to get in a rocket. She fell in love with the space administration, the NASA program and not too long ago went to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It really made her want to learn more about space exploration and she admires NASA's determination to explore outer space. Our top 5 was certainly a very adventurous bunch, right?

And then came that magical moment when Lauren Caitlin Upton became a household sensation. Aimee Teegarden posed the question, 'Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?' As Lauren gave that internationally famous answer, I think many people didn't really understand how she could have given such the answer that she did. Her defense on the Today Show was that she probably only really heard only two words of the question meaning that she wasn't particularly focused at that moment. And of course, we all know that presence of mind is crucial at this point of the competition rather than getting all dazed and light-headed. On the Today Show, she redeemed herself somewhat by reanswering that question stating that this reflected a need for emphasis on education. I think there was more to it than that. I sensed a good portion of this answer was Lauren trying to incorporate Rachel Smith's winning answer to her question, hence the mentioning of helping South Africa. Rachel talked at Miss USA and Universe about how she volunteered at Oprah Winfrey's leadership academy in South Africa. I'm sure that Lauren watched Rachel's answer and was trying to make the same answer work for her and although this question was also about education, it wasn't quite the same question as Rachel Smith's and the end result was the scatterbrained, incoherent answer that we heard. A lot of non-pageant fans would not have known about Rachel Smith's answer which would have caused them to have the 'what-the-hell' reaction that they did to Lauren's answer but I guess people who heard Rachel's answer had the same reaction. Even Mario was giving her this look as Lauren was answering her question. She just kept blindly rambling and I guessed hoped that this messy answer would somehow piece itself together. Oh, well. I guess she can take the publicity that came from this and turn it into something good which it looks like she is already doing! Colorado's winning answer came after John Ferriter asked if she preferred Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie or Lindsay Lohan. The audience roared at this question. Some even yelled out, 'Neither!' Hilary tactfully stated, 'First of all, I would not say they they're my role models.' The audience reacted with delighted screams. She concluded her answer by stating that she would have to say Paris Hilton because she showed that, in the end, she knew what was right and what was wrong. West Virginia picked Melissa Joan Hart who asked at what point in life do you officially become a grown-up. 'That's a tough one. I would say...hmmm...When you can realize what is right and what is wrong without your parents help.' I thought it turned out to be a nice, concise answer. West Virginia turned out to be full of good quotes, like the 'those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind' statement uttered during her top 10 video. Mario humorously stated after that answer, 'With that said, I'm still waiting to grow up!' North Carolina picked Joey Lawrence who asked her what the biggest risk she'd ever taken in her life and what she learned from it. I'm glad Katie didn't channel Michelle Cardamon and reiterate her parasailing answer. She mentioned when she went to Canada snowboarding and it was not like the mountains in North Carolina and was pretty hard work and it was a big risk going 'down there' definitely a risk. Although, she meant going 'down' the mountain, some people heard that as going 'down there' to Canada, when Canada is actually 'up there' but we knew what she meant. Finally, New Jersey was asked by Selita Ebanks what skills are most lacking in teens today and how can they be taught? Alyssa was very quick to say public speaking (perhaps alluding to other contestants) She said a lot of teenagers don't find themselves very comfortable in front of large crowds or even small crowds. She said that if they fell comfortable with themselves, then maybe they can have a better chance of...with their skills in public speaking. This question and answer session seemed a lot more flavorful this time around attributed to the really good thought provoking questions.

At the final act, you all know I loved, loved, loved the winning moment montage of all the Miss Teen USA winners, even if it was slightly out of order. Those of you who have ordered pageants from me know that I have done a similar montage with Miss Universe winners. It was also great to see that shot of Brandi, Janel, Charlotte, Keylee, Shelly, Marissa and Tami in the audience for the 25th anniversary of Miss Teen USA. They all looked fantastic and I was so happy to see all of them. West Virginia was 4th runner up which surprised some people but remember this vote in based on 'overall' impression. South Carolina finished 3rd runner up, North Carolina as 2nd runner up and finally New Jersey was announced 1st runner up as a final twist of fate saw Hilary Carol Cruz of Colorado proclaimed the new Miss Teen USA. After seeing all those winning moments, I was hoping to see more than a sideview of a head full of hair bow down but Hilary's a formidable winner and I congratulate her. This is also the first time since 1992 that the winner of Miss Teen USA was not in white or pink. Jamie Solinger wore green, Janel Bishop and Cherise Haugen wore blue and Bridgette Wilson wore a maroonish-purple. Miss USA and Teen USA are also both bi-racial (Rachel Smith is half-black/half-white and Hilary Cruz is half-Mexican/half-German) so it's nice to see our trio of winners including our Asian Miss Universe, Riyo Mori to be of more culturally diverse backgrounds.

So now we know that Miss USA and Universe are safe on NBC until 2010 but what is happening to Miss Teen USA is a little bit unclear at this stage. Perhaps, it will resume as normal next year and maybe we're just worried for nothing but there is also a rumor that it will be held as a concurrent event with Miss USA much like Miss USA and Universe were concurrent events up until 1965. I hope that South Carolina's answer and the interest in the pageant that generated from that will cause NBC to renew Miss Teen USA too. Lauren's 'popularity' certainly helped leading her to being signed with Trump Model management. There is also a long new show coming out called 'Pageant Place' on MTV which will be similar to the reality TV style format like 'The Real World' featuring the Miss Universe family of titleholders and I really hope it will draw in some fans to the Miss Universe system because we want our pageants to prosper and flourish. So that concludes another year of pageantry and I wish our titleholders well as they overcome the challenges and use every opportunity to their advantage.