Yes! No doubt about it! Crystle Stewart of Texas is the new Miss USA! My prediction wins the crown again and Crystle makes history as this is the first time that we have had black to black wins at Miss USA! Texas also retains its stranglehold for having the most Miss USA winners as this is win number 9 for the lonestar state! Once again, Texas is Miss USA!

Crystle Stewart wins Miss Texas USA 2008Putting this year in historical context, the unquestionably poised Crystle Stewart was a heavy favorite going in to the pageant. Crystle in only the second Miss Texas USA of color following Chelsi Smith in 1995 who went on to win Miss USA and Miss Universe. Crystle has also remained persistent in the Texas pageant as she was 1st runner up at Miss Texas USA in 2006 and 2007. 'Third time's a charm!' declared Crystle when she captured the Texas crown. Crystle was also 3rd runner up in 2005 and a semifinalist in 2003. I actually thought Crystle should have captured the Texas crown sooner than she did but it all worked out in the end and the timing was just right for Crystle. Lauren Lanning and Magen Ellis, the winners of Miss Texas USA 2006 and 2007 respectively both placed in the top 10 but not the top 5 at Miss USA.The 6 year Texas chain: Miss USA 1989-Gretchen Polhemus, Miss USA 1995-Chelsi Smith, Miss USA 2001-Kandace KruegerTexas did have a 6 year chain of wins (1989, 1995 and 2001) and if you want to count 1977 and 1983, you might be able to considering that Texas won in 1977 and in 1983, Texas' Lisa Allred was 1st runner up to another GuyRex girl, Julie Hayek of California. Richard Guy and Rex Holt (also known as GuyRex) controlled the Texas and California state pageants throughout the 80s and part of the 90s. California interestingly enough has 5 Miss USA crowns making them second to Texas. The 6 year chain was of course broken last year when Rachel Smith of Tennessee (the other 'T' state, interestingly enough) captured the Miss USA crown. Lest we forget, that the last time Tennessee won (in 2000), Texas won the year after which brings us to Tennessee's Rachel Smith capturing the crown in 2007 and in 2008, and history repeats itself as Texas succeeds another Tennessee win!
Crystle Stewart, Miss Texas USA 2008Crystle has made history since this is the first time that there has been a set of 'black to black' winners in the history of Miss USA. But prior to this, we have come very close several times. In 1990, history was made when Carole Ann Marie Gist of Michigan became the first black Miss USA. I wonder if she still wants to make you feel at home and happy when you check into her hotel and rent a car from her? Carole's win was a long time coming because we came so close to having a black Miss USA for the first time in 1972, when articulate Alberta Phillips of New York placed first runner up to Hawaii's Tanya Wilson at Miss USA. The next such opportunity was when the one and only Halle Berry was 1st runner up to Miss USA 1986, Christie Fitchner of Texas and the next year, Chloe Cabrera was 1st runner up to Miss USA 1987, Michelle Royer of Texas. Right after Carole won Miss USA in 1990, the year after saw New Jersey's Charlotte Ray almost making history but placing first runner up to Kelli McCarty of Kansas. But it didn't take long until Michigan brought us another black stunner in 1993 by the name of Kenya Summer Moore (a friend of Carole Gist and also of soon-to-be supermodel Tyra Banks) went on to become the second black Miss USA. Kenya Moore-Miss USA 1993, Pat Southall-1st runner up to Miss USA 1994, Chelsi Smith-Miss Universe 1995Lu Parker-Miss USA 1994The year after, Virginia gave us the stunning Pat Southall who again almost made the black to black winner dream come to fruition but it was not to be as she finished second to South Carolina's Lu Parker, Miss USA 1994. It was a heavily debated win largely due to the controversial final question where Lu Parker defended Tonya Harding in the incident involving the Nancy Kerrigan leg-beating incident stating that anyone is innocent until proven guilty whereas Pat Southall also acknowledged Tonya's claim that she was not involved in the crime but also said that Tonya misled the public and felt that anyone shouldn't represent the United States unless they have been honest. Bob Goen gets Pat Southall to confess that she is jobless and when he asks her what she is going to do next, Pat gives this grin to the judges.  She didn't say it but the look said it all.  She was ready for the Miss USA crown!Pat would have been a formidable Miss USA but one can't help but wonder if Pat's loss was truly due to the final answer or if it was an intentional prevention of 'black to black' winners. Pat was most recently seen supporting her husband, Emmitt Smith, who recently won the 'Dancing With the Stars' competition. In the following year of 1995, Texas' Chelsi Smith claimed the Miss USA crown, stressing her biracial background. Chelsi, of course, went on to win the Miss Universe crown but had Pat Southall won the crown in 1994, there would have been an unprecedented 3 fabulous Miss USA winners in a row of color. However, one can't help but wonder if Pat had won Miss USA, would Chelsi have won the year after? No question, Chelsi was unstoppable the night she won Miss USA and it's interesting to note that Pat Southall was one of the judges when Chelsi won Miss Texas USA. In 2000, Lynnette Cole captured the Miss USA crown and the next year, Liane Angus was 1st runner up to Kandace Krueger, and the next year, Shauntay Hinton captured the Miss USA crown. Did the Pat Southall effect also impact Liane Angus? But it didn't affect Crystle Stewart! At Miss Universe, it is interesting to note that only 4 women of color have captured the crown: Trinidad & Tobago's Janelle Commissiong became the first black Miss Universe in 1977, USA's Chelsi Smith in 1995, Trinidad's Wendy Fitzwilliam in 1998 and Botswana's Mpule Kwelagobe gave us the first set of black to black winners after winning the year after in 1999.
Four fabulous Miss Universes: Janelle Commissiong, Chelsi Smith, Wendy Fitzwilliam and Mpule Kwelagobe

Donny and Marie Osmond were fine hosts for Miss USA 2008 which marks their triumphant return to the pageant stage after a lengthy absence. The two hosted Miss America pageants in the past when they had their talk show. Marie Osmond and reigning Miss USA, Rachel Smith both had very notable falls in the past year. Marie fainted shortly after one of her performances on 'Dancing With the Stars' and Rachel also fell during the evening gown competition at Miss Universe. Perhaps that had something to do with the selection of hosts? Donny is especially no stranger to the Miss USA and Universe pageants since he performed in these pageants in the late 70s and early 80s. Donny Osmond serenades Miss USA 1980, Jineane Ford of Arizona during the 1980 Miss USA pageantDonny Osmond serenades Miss Universe 1980, Shawn Weatherly of South Carolina during the 1980 Miss USA pageantI took some screen captures of Donny serenading Miss USA 1980, Jineane Ford of Arizona and Miss Universe 1980, Shawn Weatherly of South Carolina during the 1980 Miss USA pageant. Did anyone else think those serenades during that era were kind of creepy?? I think Jineane looked timelessly stunningly gorgeous at Miss USA 1980. Interestingly enough, this is the first time that Miss USA was held in Las Vegas only a few months after Miss America was also held in Sin City. The Miss Universe pageant was, of course, held in Las Vegas in 1991 and 1996. Prepageant publicity seemed to focused heavily on Heather Mills, who recently divorced Paul McCartney and got a lot of money out of it, headlining as a judge for this year's pageant. She is certainly someone who can take an opportunity and use it to her advantage... Also the commercials for Miss USA seemed to show ad nauseam Rachel Smith's 'fall' from grace at Miss Universe and Lauren Caitlin Upton's memorable final answer at Miss Teen USA with the hopes of attracting more audiences with the idea that 'anything can happen' and they should see it live. Disturbingly enough, it didn't work as Miss USA was not first in the ratings for that particular Friday night but it was still in the top 3 shows for the night. Miss USA had its lowest viewership in history but with more alternative TV channels than in the olden days and the fact that Friday and Saturday normally has fewer viewers, I suppose that was to be expected. I really wish the Miss Universe family of pageants had the loyal following that American Idol and other reality shows seem to have. I guess those newer shows have a fresher format whereas pageants seem to be likened to the game shows of yesteryear. Another piece of prepageant publicity was California's state pageant when a winner was declared, Cristina Silva, who was later stripped of the title when it was announced that there was an error in the tabulation of the final results and that Cristina had to surrender the crown to the true winner, Raquel Beezley. Cristina seemed to have launched a lawsuit due to her supposed mental anguish and humiliation. Interestingly enough, former Miss California USA, Shauna Gambill when competing for her USA state title stressed the importance of needing to stop frivolous lawsuits.
I'm a little bit country, I'm a little bit rock 'n' roll...and I'm a little bit techno...
The opening for this year's pageant set to the hit songs of Rihanna, "Shut Up and Drive" and "Please Don't Stop the Music" had a great TV series look to it complete with 'star' captions for each of the delegates. Donny and Marie tried to zazz up the show with Donny's Elvis impersonation and the dramatic music and zoom in to announce the final question. All that reference to the final question was also highlighted by the appearance of Lauren Caitlin Upton herself. Donny called her a good sport... such as... and Marie followed with an 'I'll knock him out later' and 'I'll make him trip!' When they interviewed Rachel Smith, who had some interesting gown choices during the evening, Marie asked Rachel if she would be her daughter in law and Rachel seemed keen on the idea. Let's add yet another Osmond! But Rachel is going Hollywood now so watch out, Osmonds!

In regards to my predictions, I chose 9 of the 15 plus 2 alternates and 2 honorable mentions. The two that weren't on my list were Mississippi and Rhode Island. So what happened to the 6 in my list that didn't make it? Abbey Curran, Miss Iowa USA 2008Well, first up was Iowa's Abbey Curran and here's my take on this delegate. When I was just looking at the pictures of all the delegates, I never once considered Abbey as a possibility but then I watched the preliminary videos and that changed everything. When I saw what a challenge it was for her walk across the stage, I was amazed and inspired and it totally changed my perspective. I thought to myself that this girl could become THE story of this pageant. But it was not to be. If Abbey had some airtime during the actual pageant she could have been bringing so much publicity to Miss USA and she can talk about having cerebral palsy and be invited on talk shows. But she has been on shows like Ellen among others where she talked about the Miss You Can Do It pageant. At one point, I was ready to proclaim her as my winner and then I thought a little more about the logistical aspect and how much of a challenge it would be to have Abbey as Miss USA and getting her to Vietnam for Miss Universe. This was not a Heather Whitestone (the first deaf Miss America) or Charlotte Lopez (Miss Teen USA 1993 who was 'lost in the system' since she was a foster child), rather this is more like the story of Miss USSR 1991, Yulia Lemigova who placed 3rd at Miss Universe 1991. Yulia was the story but didn't quite seem ready to be Miss Universe over the very poised Lupita Jones or I could perhaps liken this to the deaf Miss Sucre, Vanessa Peretti at Miss Venezuela and Vanessa was also second runner up to Ly Jonaitis. That was my reasoning for placing Abbey as second runner-up because it was a respectable enough position but I suppose fair is fair and it was about the body in the judging. Had she made the finals, the judges might have been seen as monsters had they not given her the crown so it really was an all or nothing kind of deal. I guess the days of the fairytale charity case win are over. Next up was Virginia's Tori Hall who was a surprise exclusion to me but her recent appearance in a reality show where her language was considered unbecoming of a queen seemed to have tainted people's perceptions of her. The hometown girl, Nevada's Veronica Grabowski was another surprise exclusion. She is dating Criss Angel who is a Vegas performer and magician but unfortunately he couldn't perform his magic when it came to getting Veronica a spot. I thought she should have worn the white gown she was wearing in some other shots instead of the red one but I still thought she would get a spot.The rest of my list, I felt really uncertain about and it turned out I was wrong about Wisconsin, Maryland and Georgia. Wisconsin was the other strong sistah in the group aside from Texas who talked about being hit on by Jamie Foxx but I thought her performance was quite good. I also liked Maryland a lot but she didn't seem to have a strong showing on other lists. I suppose her look came across as a little too sexy. Georgia was exotic and her leg looked great poking out of a less desirable gown and she was on quite a few other lists so I decided to give her the spot that I probably should have given to New Jersey. I guess Mississippi had the exotic look that they were looking for this year complete with breasts that some might consider a little too large for her body. Rhode Island's Amy Diaz also competed at Miss Teen USA 2001 but seemed to have groomed herself enough to snag a top 15 spot. Interestingly enough, Amy and Jackie Bruno of Massachusetts were the only former Miss Teen USA competitors in the top 15.



Winner=Texas-Crystle Stewart

Winner=Texas-Crystle Stewart*

1st Runner Up=Mississippi-Leah Laviano

1st Runner Up=South Carolina-Jamie Hill*

2nd Runner Up=New Jersey-Tiffany Andrade

2nd Runner Up=Iowa-Abbey Curran

3rd Runner Up=Oklahoma-Lindsey Jo Harrington

3rd Runner Up=Tennessee-Hailey Brown*

4th Runner Up=Pennsylvania-LauRen Merola

4th Runner Up=Oklahoma-Lindsey Jo Harrington*

FINALISTS (alpha'l)


6. Missouri-Candice Crawford

Missouri-Candice Crawford*

7. Indiana-Brittany Mason

Massachusetts-Jacqueline Bruno*

8. Florida-Jessica Rafalowski

Virginia-Tori Hall

9. Tennessee-Hailey Brown

Nevada-Veronica Grabowski

10. Massachusetts-Jacqueline Bruno

Pennsylvania-LauRen Merola*



11. South Carolina-Jamie Hill

Wisconsin-Michelyn Butler

12. California-Raquel Beezley

Maryland-Casandra Tressler

13. Utah-Julia Batchison

Georgia-Amanda Kozak

14. Rhode Island-Amy Diaz

Indiana-Brittany Mason*

15. Minnesota-Kaylee Unverzagt

Florida-Jessica Rafalowski*


ALTERNATES:New Jersey*, West Virginia, Hawaii, North Carolina, California*


HONORABLE MENTIONS:Minnesota*, Utah*, Washington, Illinois, Alabama


* = made actual top 15

After the top 15 were announced, it was time for swimsuit set to Finger 11's 'Paralyzer.' I find it interesting how different the live performance sounds in comparison to the treated recorded song. Usually, the live performances sound a lot worse to me. And each of the delegates came out wearing furs! This hasn't been done since 1991 and it was also done in 1987. In 1987, Bob Barker who was hosting that year (and had been hosting since 1967) said the delegates were wearing simulated furs. Bob Barker was obviously against the wearing of furs and since the fur company was a major sponsor of the time, it was a key factor that led to Bob Barker's separation from the Miss Universe family of pageants. Some general side notes were that I really don't like the open crotch poses. To me, it looks unflattering to have spread legs and it makes the hips look bigger. I much prefer poses like that of former Miss Universe delegates such as Claudia Moreno, Miss Venezuela 2000 or Verna Vasquez, Miss Curacao 1997. I guess the open crotch pose is meant to sex it up a little. Yet, the newer era seems to remind me of a Saturday Night Live skit from about ten years ago where Tim Meadows playing the Ladies Man had a Dating Game type show entitled 'Who Wants to Be My Skank?' and Sarah Michelle Gellar's character when asked what article of clothing she would be, she replied, 'Well, I'm warm, supportive and open so if I could be an article of clothing, I'd have to be a pair of crotchless panties!' Okay, maybe we haven't gone quite that far but I couldn't help but bring it up.

First up in the swimsuit competition was Minnesota, who looked quite decent but going up first seemed to be a hex in every aspect of this pageant because with each round, whoever went first placed last of the group. Massachusetts followed sporting that great body and flaunting those abs. Oklahoma followed comfortably winning this competition. She did look great and I liked how she draped the fur over her breasts before the reveal. Rhode Island looked okay. I liked her hair but this was as far as she would go. Missouri looked great with nice tightness all around. New Jersey also looked really good. She had a more subtle sex appeal and was very careful to do the profile pose throughout the night. South Carolina however was severely underscored. The former Amazing Race contestant definitely should have advanced but like last year's Miss South Carolina USA, Ashley Zais, she received an inexplicably low score. Tennessee also looked great as is to be expected. Pennsylvania looked nice but I didn't think her score would be as high as it was. Mississippi flaunted that large chest like nobody's business. Texas looked every bit sensational as we all expected. Indiana looked okay as did California but her performance throughout this pageant seemed really played down for some reason but I guess the controversy surrounding her state pageant was an influential factor in getting her a spot in top 15 but she didn't advance further. Utah looked fair and finally Florida looked tall and was quite fit and had great hair as well.














Rhode Island






New Jersey



South Carolina



























On to the top 10 who competed in the evening gown competition set to yet another Rihanna song, 'Umbrella' Pageants of yesteryear might have incorporated some use of actual umbrellas and choreography like in Miss Teen USA 1984's swimsuit competition set to the Eurythmics' 'Here Comes the Rain Again' or perhaps a rain curtain would have been suitable for this portion but that probably would have been better suited for swimsuit too. Maybe I'm just thinking too much. Massachusetts was up first and she suffered the fate of the delegate up first as she received a low score when she had on a great simple black gown which showed off her back and cleavage and it did look very elegant and her style was often compared to Larissa Meek, Miss Missouri USA 2001. Jackie had a chance to continue the historical Massachusetts chain... In 1998, Shawnae Jebbia won the Miss USA crown and the reigning Miss Massachusetts Teen USA was Susie Castillo. Five years later, Susie Castillo won the Miss USA crown and the reigning Miss Massachusetts Teen USA was Jackie Bruno. Five years later, Jackie certainly tried her best to continue the chain but it was not to be. Missouri followed in a gown that a lot of people didn't really know what to think about. It was an unconventional choice but this unique choice did end up hurting her as it kept her from advancing to the top 5. Carrie did work the gown well and you could see her legs through the material. It was interesting that she is the younger sister of Gossip Girl's Chace Crawford who recently broke up with American Idol winner, Carrie Underwood. New Jersey followed giving us a style that was reminiscent of former Miss Teen USA, Christie Woods. It wasn't so much about the gown as it was the aura she had. Pennsylvania followed in what I call a 'yes' gown. Previously I hadn't paid much attention to it but as soon as I saw the gown, I knew it would secure her a spot in the competition. Oklahoma dominated scorewise yet again but she needed to smile more. Her facial expressions at times seemed like she didn't want to be there. The gown was nice and sexy and the material had a great glisten in the light. She did stumble a bit as well just as her score was shown. Mississippi's gown was tastefully revealing. As for Tennessee, I loved her and the gown but something about the walk looked a little off. Texas followed with her incredible presence and carriage. She looked very womanly, her hair was sensational and Crystle really made sure she captured and entranced you with her stares. Indiana's gown was decent but like I said earlier, I thought she was quite good bodywise but I sensed a lack of confidence in her face. Finally, Florida followed in a gown that had a great shape and flowiness to it but perhaps needed to be in a different gradient of colors.

At this stage of the game, we were about to discover the new method for determining the top 5. Unlike in previous years, the swimsuit and gown scores are no longer averaged to determine the top 5, rather the swimsuit scores are deleted and the top 10 compete anew for the top 5 spots. We discovered this when Mississippi advanced instead of Missouri. Missouri had the higher average score but the lower gown score. This was the same method that was used last year but it didn't make a difference because at both Miss USA and Universe, the top 10's ranking in gown and their ranking based on an average of both scores were exactly the same.

So the top 5 were announced: Pennsylvania, Texas, Oklahoma, New Jersey and we could all feel the suspense...Mississippi. It's interesting to note also that ever since the NBC take over of Miss USA, the 2nd woman who was called in the top 5 ended up becoming the winner! Now that I've pointed it out, it may not happen next year... For the casual chat with the top 5, Pennsylvania travelled with the USO Tour as a Miami Dolphins cheerleader and was asked to tell the highlight of her adventure. She said while preparing for the tour, it was cancelled because two helicopters were shot down and then two weeks later, they had the option to go so 7 of the 12 went and the highlight was staying in Sniper Alley and thanking soldiers face to face. Texas followed and Marie Osmond said Crystle was an entrepreneur and Crystle responded with a firm, 'Yes, ma'am' indicating that Crystle is a disciplined woman. She talked about her business called Inside Out which offers a self improvement program, birthday party planning and motivational speaking. Oklahoma was asked to talk about chasing a wild boar. She said she has a lot of guy friends that loved to go boar hunting and one night they found a boar, wrestled it to the ground and took it out of the area. An answer that I'm sure infuriated animal rights activists everywhere. As if the fur in the swimsuit competition wasn't enough... New Jersey talked about her trip to the land where your heart flames to the rhythms of merengue, the Dominican Republic. Last summer, she went with her dad and family and her dad is more into nature whereas she is more into the beach. They went on a waterfall trail which was out of character for her and scary but she did it and it was great. Mississippi overcame a speech impediment that made her self conscious and was asked how competing in pageants helped her gained confidence. She simply said right now, she was confident to speak on live TV, in public and made her better overall.

After Congeniality went to Ohio and Photogenic went to Alaska, we arrive at (cue dramatic music and zoom in) the final question! Pennsylvania chose Heather Mills question. Some cosmetics companies are marketing beauty products to girls in elementary school and is this a good thing? Pennsylvania said that it depends on what the product is. She felt it was important to teach youth to take care of themselves from early on. Obviously this answer was a little too evasive and she didn't really talk about the make up. But most people would probably not agree with selling make up to kids so overall it wasn't really a surprise that she finished 5th. Texas chose Shawne Merriman's question which was that in some countries, when you turn 18, you are required to spend a year in the military and he asked if it should be enforced here. Coolly, calmly and collectedly, Crystle immediately responded that she didn't think it should be enforced. She said she thought he was talking about draft in the U.S. but she said it shoul dbe a choice. We have people in Iraq right now fighting for our country and it was their choice and I really appreciate that. She ended with a concise summary of her answer, that it should be a choice. Yes, absolutely Crystle. I knew she wouldn't disappoint in this round. When she talked about the glass ceiling at Miss Texas USA, I knew that Crystle would deliver in the interview round in a big way. It's all about 'choice' and Crystle's answer seemed to have echoed Chelsi Smith's judge's question in 1995 where she was asked if taking prayer out of schools was wrong and Chelsi also said you still should be allowed that choice. Oklahoma followed and chose Christian Siriano's question. I wonder what was going through Christian's head when he was judging. When he was judging he was probably thinking about each delegate as she passed by 'Oh, she's fierce' or 'Oh, she's a hot mess' or 'Oh, she's a tranny' or 'Oh, she's a fierce, hot tranny mess'... With a delivery so flaming, you couldn't put out that fire with ten fire extinguishers, he asked 'darling' if she could help one famous person, who would it be and how she would help them. You could really see the gears going in her mind but she just had to go with the obvious... Britney Spears.The audience reacted and she gave this stern, 'Now guys' to calm them down and assert that she would not be the next Lauren Caitlin Upton... absolutely not... Oklahoma said she would help Britney with her self confidence, help her believe in herself and help her get over whatever she was going through right now and move on to the next deal. Her delivery was simply no match for Crystle's and although Oklahoma won both swimsuit and gown, this was where the tables turned and I kind of foresaw this happening which was my reasoning for placing Oklahoma has 4th runner up in my predictions. New Jersey followed and Joey Fatone asked her his question. Some parents raise children without any Internet or television and he wanted to know her opinion. Tiffany stated that it was unfortunate for those children because the Internet and television is not only negative. There are many positive things that can be learned from TV and Internet. It's a great resource as long as it is used wisely and monitored properly by their parents. She thought that was bad. At this point, I was smacking myself for not including Tiffany in my list because she really impressed me with this great answer and I felt she suddenly became Crystle's closest threat. Mississippi concluded this round with Kelly Carlson's question. Has being a beautiful woman given you any special opportunities in your life and if so how have you used it in a positive and constructive way? Leah responded saying absolutely and that she was here right now and her beauty has helped her get there but also her intelligence. She won her state title (sounded like tahtle, there's that Southern accent comin' out y'all!) and she got to help other girls learn self confidence and have a positive self image so it has definitely helped her.

So after Rachel Smith said her farewell, we got to hear the results of Pennsylvania as 4th runner up, Oklahoma as 3rd runner up and New Jersey as 2nd runner up and then for the first time in history, when it got down to the final two, they cut to commercial! Oh, the suspense! I'm sure they got that idea from American Idol so they could subject us to what probably were the highest priced advertisements of the night. When it was down to Texas and Mississippi, I must say I was surprised about Mississippi. She just flew under the radar the entire night to get to that level but Leah Laviano does fall under the category of 1st runner ups at Miss USA that I just didn't quite get, like Danielle Lacourse in 2007, Tamiko Nash in 2006, Brittany Hogan in 2005, and Bridget Vezina in 2000. But the pearly gates opened and the heavenly choir chanted at the glorious moment when Crystle Stewart was proclaimed Miss USA! Crystle Stewart shares the same initials as Miss Universe 1995, Chelsi Smith (C.S.) and one can only wonder if this is going to become even more prophetic as Crystle competes for the title of Miss Universe in Vietnam. We'll have to look in our Crystle ball to see what happens. Until then!