THOUGHTS OF MISS USA

2012

THE PRETHOUGHTS

THE RESULTS (June 3, 2012)


Congratulations to Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island, Miss USA 2012! Rhode Island captures the crown for the first time in history! As mentioned when revealing my predictions, Olivia reminds me a lot of Miss USA 2007, Rachel Smith with a hint of Kate Middleton mixed in there but she was a bit lower on my list due to her height but in spite of being the shortest member of the top 5, Olivia became a crowd favorite when she successfully answered the much anticipated final question submitted via twitter regarding the issue of transgendered participants in Miss USA referring to the Jenna Talackova story that made headlines around the world. As you can see, I correctly picked 10 of the 16 semifinalists and had 2 honorable mentions. The 4 that escaped my list were Colorado, Maine, South Carolina and Arkansas (the winner of the Internet vote). Colorado was the most shocking for me in the top 16 but her name was mentioned by a few people after preliminaries. For the first time since I've been posting my predictions back in 1999, the woman I chose as the winner did not place among the top 16. That amazing woman was South Dakota's Taylor Neisen. Just like in Miss Universe 2010 with the gorgeous Miss Russia, I feel that a low energy presentation in the preliminaries did it but I was hoping the judges would be appreciate the natural beauty that she is but I considered her absence a total loss for the organization and the viewing public. South Dakota hasn't placed since 1974 and I was hoping for her to give them a big comeback. The other ladies in my list that didn't place were: California (who won the most competitive state title for 2012 as Miss California USA had more contestants than any other state) so it was quite shocking to see her excluded as well, Illinois who was also a heavy favorite but I thought was a little softspoken missed the cut as did Indiana, New Mexico and Minnesota. My full commentary on the pageant will be posted on June 11.


ACTUAL TOP 16

MY PREDICTIONS

Winner=Rhode Island-Olivia Culpo

Winner=South Dakota-Taylor Neisen

1st Runner Up=Maryland-Nana Meriwether

1st Runner Up=Texas-Brittany Booker*

2nd Runner Up=Ohio-Audrey Bolte

2nd Runner Up=Maryland-Nana Meriwether*

3rd Runner Up=Nevada-Jade Kelsall

3rd Runner Up=Georgia-Jasmyn Wilkins*

4th Runner Up=Georgia-Jasmyn Wilkins

4th Runner Up=California-Natalie Pack

FINALISTS (alpha'l)

FINALISTS

Alabama-Katherine Webb

Alabama-Katherine Webb*

Colorado-Marybel Gonzalez

Nevada-Jade Kelsall*

New Jersey-Michelle Leonardo

Michigan-Kristen Danyal*

Oklahoma-Lauren Lundeen

Rhode Island-Olivia Culpo*

Texas-Brittany Booker

Ohio-Audrey Bolte*

SEMIFINALISTS (alpha'l)

SEMIFINALISTS

Arkansas-Kelsey Dow

Illinois-Ashley Hooks

Louisiana-Erin Edmiston

Indiana-Megan Myrehn

Maine-Rani Williamson

Louisiana-Erin Edmiston*

Michigan-Kristen Danyal

Oklahoma-Lauren Lundeen*

South Carolina-Erika Powell

New Mexico-Jessica Martin

Tennessee-Jessica Hibler

Minnesota-Nitaya Panemalaythong

 

ALTERNATES:Arizona, Utah, North Carolina, Kansas, Virginia

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:New Jersey*, Oregon, Missouri, Delaware, Tennessee*

 

* = made actual top 16

THE PREDICTIONS (June 1, 2012)


And here we go again, folks! So after a lot of studying of each delegate and writing and rewriting lists, I have finally settled on my predictions for this year so here they go!


TOM'S FINAL PREDICTIONS FOR MISS USA 2012

Winner=South Dakota-Taylor Neisen

Are you as surprised as I am that South Dakota (a state that hasn't placed since 1974) ended up topping my list? So here's my reasoning. I was torn between South Dakota and Texas for my winner but in the end, I just feel like the judges will warm up to South Dakota. When I look at her pictures and I see her smiles, there's a glow that just beams from that beautiful face. In fact, I would even call her THE face of the pageant. She just seems right for the job as her look comes across as very approachable, genuine, friendly and warm. Add to this, that she is already a Ford model and she is quite flexible as she demonstrated on Live with Kelly. I just find Taylor to be the most universally likeable.

1st Runner Up=Texas-Brittany Booker

Of course, I've been impressed with Brittany ever since she was crowned Miss Texas USA winning on her first try which is quite rare in recent decades. Everything about her look is spot on. Brittany has an incredible body, face and overall look but is she too obvious a choice for Miss USA? Maybe in an older era, Brittany would have swept this competition but I'm not sure that she will win the modern-day judges over when it comes to the final question so I ended up putting her in second place on my list but would not be surprised to see her take it all.

2nd Runner Up=Maryland-Nana Meriwether

May all the naysayers bow to the fierceness that is Nana Meriwether! I think when the delegates first arrived in Vegas, a lot of people were feeling underwhelmed with Nana but in the preliminaries, she really turned out the energy and worked that stage like nobody's business. Nana has fought to get to the Miss USA stage after placing in the top 5 at Miss California USA 2010 and 2011 and she really delivered here.

3rd Runner Up=Georgia-Jasmyn Wilkins

Jazz has long been a favorite and she had a very strong performance during the preliminaries. Her body looks excellent. She carries herself very well and her gown has a great level of sexiness. A lot of people seem to compare her to Crystle Stewart, Miss USA 2008 so we'll see if Jazz can live up to the expectations.

4th Runner Up=California-Natalie Pack

Natalie should certainly be up there as she has that great model body and honed those skills and proved herself during the preliminaries. She also competed on an edition of America's Next Top Model and also won the state pageant with the most delegates. I think it also helps that she looks a bit like Madonna. She also came across as quite articulate during the online web interviews so I'm looking for Natalie to have a strong showing.

FINALISTS

Alabama-Katherine Webb

SHe has a really nice body so she is strong in swimsuit and has a great gown. In some pictures, some have said she has a bit of a resemblance to Nicole O'Brian, Miss Texas USA 2003.

Nevada-Jade Kelsall

Jade reminds me a lot of Guiliana Rancic who is co-hosting this year's pageant so I would be interested to see the two of them on stage together because I think they could pass as sisters. Nevada hasn't placed since 2007 even though they have been the host state every year since then so I think it is time for Nevada to make a comeback. Jade has a great body, gown and interviews very well. Couple that with some support from Miss USA 1995, Shanna Moakler who is working with the Nevada team after leaving the California team and we have us a contender.

Michigan-Kristen Danyal

This one has a nice body, hair and gown and that youthful look that I think will carry her far. Also, it helps that she could pass for a Kardashian sister and this may win her points as Rob Kardashian is one of this year's judges. That's not creepy, right??

Rhode Island-Olivia Culpo

Another one of the favorites this year. In some pictures, she has a similar facial structure to Miss USA 2007, Rachel Smith. She had a good performance as expected during the preliminaries. She has a smaller frame though so it might be hard for her to advance to a higher level than this.

Ohio-Audrey Bolte

Well, Audrey certainly has a great body and a fabulous hairstyle. The gown may be her undoing although it is rather interesting and she actually carried it quite well during the preliminaries. Sometimes I wonder if she could use a little more polishing or refinement though.

SEMIFINALISTS

Illinois-Ashley Hooks

I think she has a really nice look and the gown is an eyecatcher. I wonder if she might be a bit too soft-spoken after watching her online interview but other people seem to feel good about her so I'm giving her a spot in my list.

Indiana-Megan Myrehn

A former Teen USA semifinalist who has grown into a strong Miss contender with a great body and I love the liquid beaded gown and she seems to have a lot of confidence.

Louisiana-Erin Edmiston

Very fit with really great abs and well put together so I think she is packaged well enough to get a spot in the semis. Like Indiana, she seems very confident.

Oklahoma-Lauren Lundeen

I just like her. She just seems really nice and sweet with a unique quirky style and she does have a fit body. The Carly Rae Jepsen bangs-down hairstyle seems to give her a distinct look so perhaps it will get her noticed. I think she surprised us all when she actually pulled her hair back for the gown competition but it really showed us the natural beauty that she is so I'm quite pleased with Lauren.

New Mexico-Jessica Martin

Her name has been thrown around by a few people but I passed on even considering her because I thought she was too short. But after preliminaries, I looked at how fit she is and yet she has a nice curvaceous figure and she made me think of Miss Guatemala 2010 and just like that, I ended up putting her in my list! It's amazing how preliminaries can change everything!

Minnesota-Nitaya Panemalaythong

For my final spot, I'm going to gamble a bit and go with a surprise delegate so I decided to go with Minnesota for my last spot just because her type seems to be one that could win the Internet vote but aside from that, she's refreshingly unique and I think some may find her to be intriguing being that she is of Laotian descent.

ALTERNATES

Arizona-Erica Frantzve

I think she could pull it off but I'm not positive about the gown and her face is a bit square to me but she could be up there.

Utah-Kendyl Bell

Her face has a bit of a more mature look. She makes me think of Lynn Jenkins, Miss North Carolina USA 1994. She does have a very curvaceous body but perhaps not as toned but the gown was decent. Her online interview didn't really impress me as much though. Her words were a bit slurry.

North Carolina-Sydney Perry

She was in my list for the longest time but just fell out. This is another one that I just feel gave a strong performance in all competitions but her body could have used more toning.

Kansas-Gentry Miller

She was in and out of my list so many times but in the end, I ended up placing her as an alternate because I just wasn't sure. I think her look might be more suited for Teen than Miss.

Virginia-Catherine Muldoon

I know a lot of people liked her initially but to me, she looks too thin. Her nose appears a bit too prominent and some also commented on how she had to hold her gown throughout her entire presentation in the preliminaries so I put her as an alternate because I just don't see it happening.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

New Jersey-Michelle Leonardo

She has her fans but her body didn't quite look up to par to me and she still seems quite young to me.

Oregon-Alaina Bergsma

At 6'3", Alaina is this year's tallest delegate which equals long legs but that isn't necessarily a guarantee into the semifinals these days. Her hair looks a bit limp and she could have toned the midsection a bit more and boosted the bust.

Missouri-Katie Kearney

Her teeth probably distract me the most but I did have her in my list at one time but after picking each delegate apart and looking at other's general thoughts, this is where I decided on putting her.

Delaware-Krista Clausen

I think a lot of people want the Delaware curse to be broken since Delaware is the only state that has never placed in the history of Miss USA. She has a nice face but her height seems to have hurt her as it detracted from her stage presence so I don't see her placing but it was interesting to learn that she lost 55 pounds in a year.

Tennessee-Jessica Hibler

Hmmm... Tennessee is traditionally a powerhouse state at Miss USA but this year's delegate, I just don't get. She's okay overall but I just don't see her making enough of an impact.


Other delegates I might mention include: South Carolina who I'm sure interviews well but I felt she needed a lot of firming up of the midsection when it came to swimsuit. Pennsylvania was a strong oddsmakers pick for some reason but I find her look to be more mature, almost Real Housewives-ish. Others have mentioned Alaska, Maine and Mississippi but none of them performed up to my expectations and there could always be some surprises that no one saw coming!

So there's my list for this year so let's see what happens on June 3!
Watch Miss USA 2012, June 3 on NBC at 9 p.m.


Update on Miss Universe Canada 2012

Sahar Biniaz crowned Miss Universe Canada 2012Jenna Talackova This year's highly publicized Miss Universe Canada pageant was finally won by someone outside of the province of Ontario! Sahar Biniaz, who I have met before and is from my city of Vancouver, captured the coveted Canada crown this year! She won the crown on May 19. Sahar is quite the story because she has been competing in various pageants since 2003 and finally won on her last year of eligibility. I was there filming the Miss Canada Universe-British Columbia regional 2003 pageant back on November 24, 2002 where Sahar was selected as one of the top 6 chosen to compete at Miss Universe Canada 2003. Also among those 6 was Nazanin Afshin-Jam who placed 4th at Miss Universe Canada 2003 but later that year, would win Miss World Canada 2003 and placed 1st runner up that year at Miss World 2003! I posted a picture I scanned from the program book I have from the Miss Universe BC 2003 pageant:

Here you can see Nazanin and Sahar in the program book for Miss Universe BC 2003 back then and also pictured here is Rosette Sharma who sings a song I love called "Fire" by the group Sunloverz which received a lot of Canadian radio airplay and I provided a link to the music video which can be seen by clicking here.

Sahar competed again for Miss Universe Canada 2008 where she placed 1st runner up to Samantha Tajik and now this year, she came back and won it all on her last year of eligibility. Sahar was born in India. Her family shortly after moved to Iran and eventually settled in Vancouver and Sahar has appeared in various TV shows and has had other acting gigs and many people think she is one to watch at Miss Universe this year. But this year's pageant was highly publicized due to the controversy of having the first transgendered contestant, Jenna Talackova, compete in a pageant that used to be for those who were born female. After getting lawyer Gloria Allred involved, Jenna was reinstated in the Miss Universe Canada pageant after she was disqualified due to the rule that a contestant had to be born female. Jenna, who was born Walter Talacko and is also from my city of Vancouver, is now legally recognized as a female. Jenna placed in the top 20 at Miss Universe Canada 2012 and while competing in the swimsuit competition, she impressed the audience with a neat scarf catch similar to Miss Colombia did at Miss Universe 2010 and Jenna then advanced to the top 12 where she competed in the gown competition. Jenna did not make the top 5 though and some feel she was eliminated because her gown made it appear like her gut was sticking out when watching it in action so perhaps it wasn't the best choice for her. Some also thought her catwalk needed a bit of work but I was actually okay with Jenna's performance. I think it also didn't help that Jenna was called out first of the 12 semifinalists. Jenna's story may get her a book deal and she has also expressed interest in being a Victoria's Secret model. Who knows? She might even try again for Miss Universe Canada next year. Sahar said she was proud of Jenna for bringing awareness of the pageant as Canadian pageantry doesn't have as big a following as some American pageants.



FIRST ROUND PRETHOUGHTS (May 10, 2012)

Miss USA 2012 contestants with reigning Miss USA, Alyssa Campanella appear on the Today Show on May 8

Here come the first round prethoughts to give you an idea of who I've got my eye on for this year's Miss USA crown! Also followed by some other interesting pageant world tidbits.



Everything's Booker in Texas!

Brittany Booker, Miss Texas USA 2012

Brittany Booker, Miss Texas USA 2012 Texas is being represented this year by the practically perfect Brittany Booker who is also one of the elite few Miss Texas USAs in recent years who won Miss Texas USA on her first try. Most recently, this feat was accomplished by Miss Texas USA 2010, Kelsey Moore, who somehow didn't place at Miss USA. Christine Friedel took the Texas crown on her first try in 1994 as did Katie Young in 1992 so as you can see, it is extremely rare for a newcomer to take it all at Miss Texas USA so if she does, she must be someone really special! Texas has captured the Miss USA crown 9 times which is more than any state and the 1995 winner, Chelsi Smith, went on to become the only Texan to win Miss Universe.

California comes in 2nd with 6 Miss USA crowns. Texas was last crowned Miss USA in 2008 thanks to Crystle Stewart and the reigning Miss Teen USA, Danielle Doty is also from Texas. This brings me to another trend that no state has the captured the Miss USA crown right after winning the Miss Teen USA crown. It almost happened when in 1995, Keylee Sue Sanders of Kansas won Miss Teen USA and then in 1996 at Miss USA, Danielle Boatwright also of Kansas dominated the preliminaries only to have to settle for 1st runner up to Miss USA 1996, Ali Landry of Louisiana. Danielle would later go on to win a season of the reality show 'Survivor' and walk away with a million dollar grand prize. Since the Miss Teen USA pageant began in 1983, no Miss USA winner has come from the state of the reigning Miss Teen USA but can Brittany Booker change all that or will this work against her?



Nana Meriwether, Miss Maryland USA 2012Oh Nana! What's Her Name?
Oh Nana! What's Her Name?

"Baby, you got me... and ain't nowhere that I'd be..." Another delegate to keep your eyes on is the tall, ebony princess Nana Meriwether who is representing Maryland this year. Nana's quest for the Miss USA crown has been a storied one. Nana previously competed for the 2010 Miss California USA crown finishing 1st runner up to Nicole Johnson and then Nana would have a highly publicized nose job and would then try again for the Miss California USA 2011 placing 4th runner up to Alyssa Campanella who would go on to win Miss USA 2011. Then, Nana went back to her home state of Maryland where her dreams were fulfilled and she won the Miss Maryland USA crown finally giving her the opportunity to compete at Miss USA.


Hoop Earring Dreams

Jazz Wilkins, Miss Georgia USA 2012 Basketball seems to be a big part of Jasmyn Wilkins' life seeing how her father, uncle and brother all played basketball professionally so will that same competitive spirit that runs in her family cross over to the pageant world? Georgia is one of those states that has come so close to the Miss USA crown but has yet to capture it. In 1993, Erin Nance placed 1st runner up for Georgia which is their highest placement to date and they have 4 2nd runner ups: Tami Tesh (1986), Donna Rampy (1988), Tiffany Fallon (2001), Lisa Wilson (2006). Will this pageant be a slam dunk for Jazz and can she become the sweetest Georgia peach of all and capture the Miss USA crown?



Natalie Pack, Miss California USA 2012And who else could get a coveted semifinalist spot at Miss USA? The reigning Miss USA is from California and that always puts pressure on the successor. This year's Miss California USA pageant (like last year's) had the most entrants of any other state pageant and it was won by Natalie Pack, who previously competed in Cycle 12 of America's Next Top Model and a lot people seem to think she bears a bit of a resemblance to Madonna. Will California be able to capture back to back crowns (A feat that hasn't been accomplished since Texas captured 5 consecutive Miss USA crowns from 1985 to 1989)? Standing at 6'3", Oregon's Alaina Bergsma is this year's tallest contestant which could work in her favor if she carries herself well on stage. Many seem to like the fresh look of Rhode Island. South Dakota is a Ford model and hasn't placed since 1974 so could it be time for South Dakota to return to the semifinals? Delaware is a state that people consistently have their eyes on because it is the only state that has never placed in Miss USA history. South Carolina's Erika Powell previously competed and represented placing in the top 10 at Miss America 2006. There are also some notable former Miss Teen USA delegates crossing over to Miss USA this year. Virginia's Catherine Muldoon placed in the top 10 at Miss Teen USA 2004 while representing New York. Kansas' Gentry Miller placed in the top 10 at Miss Teen USA 2006, Indiana's Megan Myrehn placed in the top 15 of Miss Teen USA 2008 representing Virginia. Michigan's Kristen Danyal placed in the top 15 at Miss Teen USA 2009.



Jenna Talackova or Genitalia Cover?

Gloria Allred and Jenna Talackova hold up her passport at a press conferenceThe pageant world had an interesting shake-up this year when Jenna Talackova chose to compete in the Miss Universe Canada pageant on May 19 to have the opportunity to represent Canada at Miss Universe 2012. Originally, Jenna was accepted as a contestant and was posted to the Beauties of Canada website only for it to come out that Jenna was actually born male under the name of Walter Talacko but as a high school student began taking hormones and went by the name of Page Talacko after reaching adulthood became a transsexual having sex reassignment surgery and is now legally recognized as a female. Because the Miss Universe organization had the rule that in order to compete in their pageants that contestants had to be born female, Jenna was temporarily disqualified. Elodie Gossuin, Miss France 2001 This rule was implemented and clarified in 2001 when there was controversy surrounding Miss France 2001, Elodie Gossuin who was rumored to have been born male. At the time, the reigning Miss Universe, Lara Dutta stated that the Miss Universe contract at that time stated that a contestant had to be a natural female citizen of her country which could be read in many ways. However, the rumors about Elodie were completely false and Elodie placed in the top 10 of Miss Universe 2001 and later went on to win Miss Europe 2001. Elodie also recently gave birth to twins banishing any doubt that Elodie was ever a male. The Miss Universe Canada organization originally removed Jenna Talackova from its list of contestants saying that they wished her well but because of the rule, Jenna would not be allowed to compete. Enter Gloria Allred, popular attorney who was hired and who gave a press conference along with Jenna to demand that the rule that a contestant had to be born female be abolished as she called that rule blatantly discriminatory. During the press conference, Jenna showed her Canadian passport which indicates that her sex is female. In a landmark decision, the rule was abolished and Jenna was reinstated as a contestant for Miss Universe Canada to be held on May 19. Jenna competed for the Miss International Queen pageant for transsexuals in 2010 and placed among the semifinalists. But there has been some suspicion surrounding Jenna. In an interview with Barbara Walters, Donald Trump pointed out the first letters of her name 'Jenna Tal' sound like 'genital' and online many people have commented that her name 'Jenna Talackova' sounds close to 'Genitalia Cover' and it worked rhyming her name with Natalie GlebOVA who won Miss Universe 2005 for Canada. Some also feel that Jenna altered her look to bear a strong resemblance to Donald's Trump daughter Ivanka. In any case, this story drew a lot of media attention and now all eyes will be on the Miss Universe Canada pageant to see the results. This issue also brought questioning of other rules like the age limit of 26 or 27 depending on the date of birth and if divorced women would be allowed to compete as this very issue affected the original winner of this year's Miss Dominican Republic title, Carlina Duran who I considered a very strong contender for Miss Universe but because she was once married, Carlina was dethroned and succeeded by the 1st runner up, Dulcita Lieggi. Some have wondered if Carlina will challenge this decision.



Rest in Peace, Eva Ekvall and Dick Clark

Rest in Peace, Eva Ekvall Rest in Peace, Dick Clark The pageant world recently lost two icons. The first was Eva Ekvall, Miss Venezuela 2000 and 3rd runner up to Miss Universe 2001. Tragically, Eva lost her battle with breast cancer at the tender age of 28. She is survived by husband, John Fabio Bermudez who married Eva in 2007 and the two have one daughter Miranda born in 2009. In February 2010, just months after giving birth, Eva was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, and underwent eight months of treatment that included chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a double radical mastectomy. She wrote about this experience in a book of photographs, Fuera de Foco (Out of Focus), released December 2010. Eva is now at peace and she also spoke about admiring the peace of the Dalai Lama during the Miss Universe pageant and she was also the first Buddhist Miss Venezuela. R.I.P. Eva Ekvall (March 15, 1983 December 17, 2011). Recently, the world also mourned the loss of legendary host Dick Clark who hosted the Miss Teen USA pageant in 1988, then 1991 to 1993, Miss USA 1989 to 1993 and Miss Universe 1990 to 1993. During one of the best eras in the family of Miss Universe pageants, Dick hosted so wonderfully as he did so many other events like New Year's specials and of course, the hit music show 'American Bandstand'. During Dick's time as a pageant host, the first two black Miss USAs Carole Gist (1990) and Kenya Moore (1993) were crowned as was the first black Miss Teen USA, Janel Bishop (1991). Dick's pageant experience was soured however during the 1993 Miss Universe pageant held in Mexico when the raucous audience dared to boo him when he appeared on stage as members of the audience were angry that Miss Mexico did not place among the 10 semifinalists and naturally, Dick did not return the following year. However, Dick then went on to finish his pageant hosting career on a high note at Miss Teen USA 1993 crowning the much beloved Charlotte Lopez who at the time was a foster child lost in the system. After Dick Clark's departure, Bob Goen was an amazing successor hosting the Miss Universe family of pageants from 1994 to 1996. R.I.P. Dick Clark (November 30, 1929 April 18, 2012).




So those are my first round prethoughts for now. After preliminaries, I will fine-tune and then post my final predictions for Miss USA 2012 and then we'll see it all on June 3 on NBC in Las Vegas when the truth unfolds before our eyes. It's going to be exciting!


 

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Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP