Utah's Noelia Voigt is Miss USA 2023

It's a second win for Utah but the third Miss USA crown for the beehive state! How so? Well, Utah inherited the crown in 1957 when Maryland's Leona Gage was dethroned as Miss USA 1957 when it was discovered that she was a married mother of two who lied about her age but those rules changed this year and married women with children can compete as of 2023 and as of 2024, any adult woman aged 18 and over who wins her state title can compete for Miss USA or her national title and after winning that, compete for Miss Universe! Leona's crown then went to her 1st runner-up, Utah's Charlotte Sheffield. Utah would then win Miss USA in 1960 with Linda Bement who went on to win Miss Universe 1960 as well. Now, a whopping 63 years later, Utah has claimed the Miss USA crown again thanks to Noelia Voigt who statehopped after placing as 1st runner up at Miss Alabama USA 2023 won by Sophie Burzynski who also placed among the top 20 for Miss USA 2023 but Noelia would rise above her by hopping to Utah, winning Miss Utah USA 2023 and now Miss USA 2023! It turns out Noelia has hopped all over the place as she was also the 1st runner up at Miss Alabama USA 2022 and Miss Florida Teen USA 2018 and was 4th runner up at Miss Florida Teen USA 2017 (she was born in Florida) and Noelia has competed in a number of pageant systems previously holding the titles of: Miss Teen Florida United States 2018, Miss Collegiate Alabama 2020, and Miss Connecticut Collegiate America 2021 so all that extensive pageant experience certainly paid off for Noelia! She is also a published author having written a book entitled "Maddie the BRAVE" that honors the memory of a 9-year-old girl who tragically took her own life due to bullying. She is the daughter of former professional baseball player, Jack Voigt and Jackeline Coromoto Briceño from Maracaibo, Venezuela. As the first Miss USA of Venezuelan descent on her mother's side, Noelia displayed a powerful performance (as Venezuelans are known for in pageantry) and with her strong speaking skills, she had conducted interviews with the locals in Reno as she seemed to really want the job by showing she is ready for it and the judges have now awarded her that prestigious job! Now, Noelia is on her way to Miss Universe 2023 in El Salvador with the pressure of representing the country of the reigning Miss Universe and only Venezuela has won successive Miss Universe crowns (2008 and 2009) so can Noelia pull it off?? Noelia will be 24 when she competes for Miss Universe on November 18 as Noelia's birthday is November 1, 1999 so although she is close, we have yet to crown a Miss USA born in the 2000s but it's probably coming soon (or maybe not given that the age limit has been removed as of 2024)!

Laylah Rose Loiczly2023 marked the first year under the directorship of the new owner of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, Laylah Rose Loiczly who had previous pageant directorship experience under the Miss Earth USA system and running so she had me singing, 'Got me on my knees, Laylah! I'm beggin' darlin' please, Laylah! Darlin', won't you ease my worried mind??' and Laylah actually handled it very well given the time crunch as it was announced that she would be the new director on August 1 and it was indeed a last minute scramble to put it all together as directorship changed hands from Crystle Stewart-Miss USA 2008 who temporarily had ownership of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA for 2021 and 2022. The two pageants have been held concurrently since 2018. The Coronavirus rocked the world in 2020 and that year’s Miss USA pageant aired on a smaller channel called fyi. In 2015, the Miss USA pageant aired on the Reelz channel which is another smaller channel not available in all states and Canada, just like fyi and this shift from the major network NBC to Reelz occurred when a certain former owner of the pageants decided to run for president and make some disparaging comments in the process leading to NBC dropping the 2015 Miss USA pageant and the original hosts and judges followed suit but knowing the established tradition of Miss USA, Reelz stepped up to broadcast the pageant and new hosts stepped in including Todd Newton, who color commentated for Miss Universe 2001 and a former contestant, Alex Wehrley-Miss Wisconsin USA 2009 and the judges were replaced by former titleholders in the Miss Universe organization. The following year, FOX would take over to broadcast Miss USA from 2016 to 2019, then fyi from 2020 to 2022. Max Sebrechts and Crystle StewartCrystle Stewart’s directorship started for 2021 but ended in 2023 after some contestants made allegations that the win of Texas’ delegate, R’Bonney Gabriel appeared to be predetermined and it felt like the cards were stacked in her favor. Apart from that, there were other allegations that Crystle’s husband, Max was acting inappropriately towards some of the contestants that didn’t win appearing to want to console them…if you know what I mean. The New York Times Presents aired a documentary called ‘How To Fix A Pageant’ on the FX channel on the same day as the Miss USA pageant (September 29) which managed to get a more available network (the CW) to broadcast it and this documentary featured interviews from contestants that spoke about what went on behind the scenes. One of these contestants is Taylor Hale-Miss Michigan USA 2021 who went unplaced at Miss USA 2021 but won Miss Congeniality and would go on to win the 2022 U.S. edition of the hit reality show competition, Big Brother. Taylor spoke in this documentary about the allegations. I was expecting more pageant talk after September 29 but media week for Miss USA and Miss Teen USA was relatively scandal free with the ladies talking about how both winners happened to be published authors. The president of the Miss Universe organization, Paula Shugart announced to the other 2022 Miss USA delegates that there was no wrongdoing found after an investigation was conducted and R’Bonney would stay as Miss USA 2022 and as we all know, R’Bonney would go on to win the Miss Universe 2022 title as well allowing the runner-up, North Carolina’s Morgan Romano to inherit the Miss USA title. The Miss Universe organization temporarily took back directorship of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA while the investigation was conducted and Crystle and her Miss Brand business amicably parted ways with the Miss Universe organization and the directorship of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA was then given to Laylah Rose Loiczly who had been directing the Miss Earth USA pageant to select the American representative at another Filipino-based international pageant called Miss Earth and she also runs VIP Pageantry. Although things appeared to be very slapped together at the last minute with dates up in the air, at least the venue was secured already last year as Reno, Nevada already signed a three-year deal to host Miss USA 2022 to 2024 but it looks like Laylah and her team managed to work out a deal to broadcast the Miss USA pageant on the CW much to the delight of many as this channel is more widely available and even in Canada! Miss USA was easily the CW's highest rated show pulling in an estimated 811,000 viewers which was more than double their second highest rated show being 'The Chosen' pulling in approximately 384,000 viewers so things are looking up ratings-wise. However, Miss Teen USA had still been relegated to a webcast on the CW app or and for the first time in history but I'm hoping this changes next year since is blocked in Canada. I'm sure the CW can spare 2 hours to air Miss Teen USA as well. Miss Teen USA has only been webcast since 2008 after its last year on NBC in 2007. Miss Teen USA was held on September 28 and Miss USA was held on September 29 with the preliminaries on the day before for each so pageant week seemed to be a lot more rushed this year. There was a joint Miss/Teen state costume show on September 27 and the delegates started arriving in Reno a few days prior. For the longest time, the date was announced as ‘the week of September 25’ which led to a lot of confusion of people planning flights and booking tickets for the pageant so Laylah definitely ‘got us on our knees’ begging for some clarity but details were confirmed just in time. Having to deal with the CW and Grand Sierra Resort in Reno was likely no easy task but Laylah pulled it off and I commend her for her efforts. This is the first time in a long time though that the preliminaries were held the day before the final pageant which gave people very little time to finalize their predictions, especially me but I pulled an all nighter and got it done. Hopefully, they will space it out better in the future. At least we got a webcast for Miss USA Preliminaries but the Teen preliminaries weren't livestream but were posted later on Youtube. When I started posting my predictions prior to each pageant in 1999, all I had were press photos of the preliminaries to make my predictions off of and as the internet became more video-friendly over the years, we got video clips of each delegate in 2008 and full-on Miss USA preliminary webcasts in 2010. We have entered a bold new era of pageantry and Miss USA has chosen the slogan ‘The definition of pageantry’ which is a slight variation from Crystle’s slogan ‘Pageantry redefined’ and there are more changes coming as the 2024 edition of Miss USA will welcome women over the age of 18 with the age limit now removed and as of 2023, women who are or have been married and have children can compete. 2023 only saw one married contestant and that was Maine's Juliana Morehouse-Locklear who happens to be a legacy delegate as the daughter of North Carolina's Lynn Jenkins-Morehouse who was 2nd runner up at Miss USA 1994. Juliana unfortunately did not place but I'm sure she is happy to start her married life with her husband Taylor Reed Locklear. Juliana won the title of Miss Maine USA 2023 on November 20, 2022 but her wedding to her now husband was already planned and scheduled for April 29, 2023 so the wedding happened and Juliana competed on September 29 for Miss USA as a Mrs. Even the upcoming 2023 Miss Universe pageant will see two contestants that are married with children and they are Guatemala's Michelle Cohn and Colombia's Camila Avella. Will there be many more women who are or have been married and/or have children competing for 2024? We shall see!

Now on to the pageant itself in the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada. The ladies entered the stage through the aisles and in the stage itself with a light walking pattern coming out to Dua Lipa's 'Dance the Night' (perfect song choice given the popularity of the recent Barbie movie). I wasn't expecting heavy choreography this year given how much of a time crunch there was to put it all together and she also was at the mercy of the CW and the Grand Sierra Resort but it all came together nicely with the ladies wearing very nice outfits as they all took their place as a woman doing a voiceover said their names and states. Then we met the hosts, entertainment reporter, Keltie Knight and Adrienne Bailon-Houghton of E! News and they were decent. They didn't take away too much from the ladies and made sure the focus was on them. I also liked the segments of the ladies doing various activities in Reno like gambling, bowling and seeing the sights and it was nice to see more attention given to the true stars of the show. Laylah also had a segment to introduce herself as the new CEO/president of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA and as a fashion designer herself who has long been involved with pageantry, she does appears to want to develop the brand so it looks like we're in good hands. It was interesting that she brought back the Miss USA scepter as that hasn't been used since 1975 and the Miss USA creed was reincorporated for the first time since 1990! Throwbacks to those minor but significant historical aspects delight long-time followers like me!

Vivica A. Fox, Countess Luann de Lesseps, Nicole Miller, Noelia Voigt, Laylah Rose, Emina Cunmulaj Nazarian, Patrick StarrrThis year's judges were: Emina Cunmulaj Nazarian (model), Nicole Miller (fashion designer) who also judged Miss Universe 2002, Vivica A. Fox (actress) who also judged Miss Universe 2011, Patrick Starrr (beauty entrepreneur and the only male panelist) and Countess Luann de Lesseps (TV personality). They also announced special award winners as: Best State Costume - Hawaii – Savannah Gankiewicz, Miss Congeniality - Alaska - Jordan Naylor, Miss Photogenic - Massachusetts - Annika Sharma, Best in Interview - Hawaii – Savannah Gankiewicz, Best in Evening Gown - Pennsylvania – Jasmine Daniels, Best in Swimwear - Texas – Lluvia Alzate and the Impact Award - Mississippi - Sydney Russell. This year's color commentators were Miss USA 2022-Morgan Romano and Jordan Kimball from the Bachelor in Paradise. Someone needs to this tell guy to watch and learn from how Chelsi Smith speaks and not make it sound like you're reading from a teleprompter and deliver scripted material naturally and conversationally and be more engaging.

Then, it was time to announce to top 20 (an increase from last year's top 16) featuring 19 delegates selected by the judges plus 1 delegate who won the online vote. In terms of my predictions, I was quite delighted to see that I picked 14 of the actual top 20 plus 2 alternates (Wisconsin and Washington), 1 was in my next tier which was Maryland but the 3 I missed entirely were: Alabama, Arkansas and the winner of the online vote: New Mexico. The 6 ladies in my list that missed the cut were: New York, Kansas, North Dakota, Kentucky, Nebraska and Louisiana. What happened to my ladies that didn't place? Well, New York was an early favorite and she won one of the most competitive state pageants. She is a former ballerina who stopped due to an injury so she has a great body and a look that one of my friends says compares to Anne Hathaway. I think preliminaries may have been the cause of the fizzle as I noted when posting my final predictions that she needed to exude more warmth and her evening gown performance seemed to lack the magical train delivery that Pennsylvania's had. She lowered the cape from her shoulders to her elbows and showed off the train as she turned around but there was just something flat about this performance but I didn't think they would take her out entirely but it happened. Kansas was next on my list with a great body but a unique look because she is the daughter of Miss Thailand-World 1989, Prathumrat Woramali-Berger who placed in the top 10 at Miss World 1989 so she inherited some great genes and it was interesting that she follows Formula One racing which is kind of unusual for a pageant contestant but I guess she wasn't the sure thing I thought she was. Next up was my Monni's fabulous 'fro!!! North Dakota crowned their first black delegate and she sported a disco-diva afro hairstyle as was popular in the 70s and I thought she was fit and fabulous but I don't know if the judges saw her 'fro as a gimmick but I thought she was worthy of a placement. Kentucky was giving me sincere warmth and had a heartbreaking story of losing her mother to an overdose (similar to Texas losing her mother to ALS) and she looked amazing in preliminaries so I have no idea what happened here. Nebraska was an early favorite looking a petite version of Shandi Finnessey-Miss USA 2004 but then I saw that monstrosity of a Garden of Eden gown with vines wrapped around her neck and a two-piece that looked too tight in the chest and clearly it was that gown that led to her downfall. Finally, Louisiana didn't seem to look her best in preliminaries and her presentation could have been better and it's almost ironic that she didn't place whereas the delegates from Nevada, North Carolina and Arkansas did place and those three ladies have all competed at either Miss Louisiana USA or Miss Louisiana Teen USA! As I pointed out in my first round prethoughts, they're going back someday, come what may to Blue Bayou (because they're all from Louisiana!)



Winner=Utah-Noelia Voigt

Winner=Pennsylvania-Jasmine Daniels*

1st Runner Up=Hawaii-Savannah Gankiewicz

1st Runner Up=New York-Rachelle Di Stasio

2nd Runner Up=Wisconsin-Alexis Loomans

2nd Runner Up=Illinois-Samantha Elliott*

3rd Runner Up=Pennsylvania-Jasmine Daniels

3rd Runner Up=Kansas-Haley Berger

4th Runner Up=Texas-Lluvia Alzate

4th Runner Up=North Dakota-Monni Nyaribo

FINALISTS (alpha'l):


Alabama-Sophie Burzynski

Nevada-Josie Stephens*

Arkansas-Mackenzie Hinderberger

North Carolina-Jordyn McKey*

California-Tianna Clark

California-Tianna Clark*

Connecticut-Karla Aponte Roque

Florida-Caroline Dixon*

District of Columbia-Cassie Baloue

Texas-Lluvia Alzate*

Florida-Caroline Dixon

Utah-Noelia Voigt*

Illinois-Samantha Elliott

South Carolina-Kirby Self*

Maryland-Savena Mushinge

Virginia-Ashley Williams*

Nevada-Josie Stephens

New Jersey-Derby Chukwudi*

New Jersey-Derby Chukwudi

Kentucky-Madalyne Kinnett

New Mexico-Bianca Wright §

Nebraska-Mimi Wood

North Carolina-Jordyn McKey

Connecticut-Karla Aponte Roque*

South Carolina-Kirby Self

Hawaii-Savannah Gankiewicz*

Virginia-Ashley Williams

Louisiana-Sylvia Masters

Washington-Samantha Gallia

District of Columbia-Cassie Baloue*


ALTERNATES: Rhode Island, Wisconsin*, Missouri, Ohio, Washington*


HONORABLE MENTIONS: Georgia, Oklahoma, Idaho, Tennessee, Indiana

§ = won online vote

* = made actual top 20

I know a lot of people commented that a cut from a top 20 to a top 5 seemed a bit drastic but Miss Teen USA has normally been a top 15 or 16 then cut to 5 for a long time and I actually was okay with this because this way, we get to see all of the top 20's gowns and all of them in swimsuit as well. There have been disappointments in the past when a delegate with a great gown didn't advance to the top 10 swimsuit round and people aren't really missing out on anything this way. Previous years have shown triptakes with the delegates saying something when called into the semifinals and that wasn't done this year so we didn't really get to know the top 20 and we only really got to hear the top 5 speak which was more of a beef for me this year than the cut from top 20 to top 5 so maybe they will incorporate more of that next year when there isn't such a time crunch. Lots of extreme closeups when the top 20 were announced too which we haven't really seen in a while. I also thought it was interesting that the Louisiana girls were called back to back in the top 20: Arkansas, Nevada and North Carolina. They know!! I liked that they also incorporated all the delegates in their state costumes. Captions would be helpful here even though I knew they were shown in alphabetical order.

For the swimsuit competition, I liked the song choice of 'Flowers' by Miley Cyrus and they also used the song 'To The Moon' by JNR Choi and Sam Tompkins. I actually like the concept of the swimsuits almost looking like fish scales but I didn't like the ones where the scales were hanging loose over the ribs. I later learned these are actually butterfly designs and not fish scales but what effort was put into handpainting them! Ema Savahl was the designer for these handpainted swimsuits. I liked the transparent capes too but the bows tied over the arms were a bit too big and distracting. Illinois came out first and as one of my top contenders, she looked incredible. She has that long, lean body and strong overall look. I think she should have kept smiling as I think she stopped smiling at the wrong times but I think she probably would have done better in the Trump era. District of Columbia was next as she was well liked by others. Somehow, she reminds me of the Chipette, Brittany but yes, DC has been doing suspiciously well in recent years placing 6 of the last 8 years with 2 of those placements being consecutive wins in 2016 and 2017. Texas followed looking very fit. Originally, I thought her legs were more on the stumpy side but she won best in swimsuit so shows what I know! California followed and looked fine. Then here comes Pennsylvania working that cape with her amazing body sporting the unique look of the bob hairstyle and her dimpled smile and used those amazing catwalk skills. Connecticut followed and I'm glad I was able to eye her as one of the surprises because I was impressed with her speaking skills in the videos I saw of her so I knew she would place. Karla is of Puerto Rican descent and works as a nurse and she looked great in swimsuit and I liked the little shimmy she did. Hawaii followed and has a nice feminine physique and she is an exotic blend having a Polish-Vietnamese father and a Filipina mother and I know the wildfire situation in Lahaina and Maui came up in interviews so I should have noticed she would place high. New Jersey followed and she was another surprise I called as Derby actually speaks incredibly well and I could see judge Vivica A. Fox liking her. She is of Nigerian descent although she was born in Dallas, Texas and raised in Nigeria and she attended college in Kentucky. My friend Jeff tells me Derby attended Berea College where his mom won a beauty title in 1953! Derby now lives in Hoboken where she is an Investment Strategist within the Global Investment Strategy Group at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. I felt like Derby has a smaller upper body but wider below but she carries herself with supreme confidence so I put her in my list coming off a Miss Teen USA win for New Jersey just the day before! Florida followed and sweet Caroline sure showed us that good times never seemed so good! Alabama was next and my assumption for her placement would be associated with the fact that R'Bonney Gabriel crowned Morgan Romano as the new Miss USA during the Miss Alabama USA pageant which Sophie won with Noelia Voigt placing as 1st runner up before the hop to Utah that resulted in her winning the Miss USA crown. Virginia followed and I was thinking of dropping her from my list due to a lackluster interview I saw online but then she showed up in preliminaries and her look just screamed semifinalist material so I knew to put her in my list after prelims. Her distinctive hair with the curls almost reminds me of the late Tina Turner who passed away on May 24 earlier this year and Ashley is a cheerleader so that certainly keeps that body fit. Next up was South Carolina who was previously 1st runner up at Miss Teen USA 2018 and even though I felt she blew her final answer at Miss South Carolina USA, she won anyway as Kirby is very accomplished and her placement at Miss USA was no surprise and we jinxed the pattern! During my first round prethoughts, I pointed out that all the delegates that placed as 1st runner up at Miss Teen USA and then competed at Miss USA have either placed in the top 3 at Miss USA or didn't place at all and by pointing it out, I mentioned that Kirby would probably place somewhere in the middle and that's exactly what happened! She made top 20 but not top 5! Of the previous ten Miss Teen USA 1st runners-up that competed at Miss USA, half made the top 3 (ND-Caitlyn Vogel-2019/2021, ND-Audra Mari-2011/2014, NJ/CA-Alyssa Campanella-2007/2011, TX-Nicole O'Brian-2000/2003, IN-Kelly Lloyd-1993/2002) and the other half didn't place at Miss USA (SC-Tori Sizemore-2013/2018, IL-Lexi Atkins-2010/2014, GA-Brooke Fletcher-2009/2015, NY-Gloria Almonte-2001/2007 and GA-Meredith Young-1991/1999). Utah followed and I think what kept her out of my top 5 was her more petite frame but she looked great as a winner should. Now, here comes the Louisiana trio not representing Louisiana! Arkansas came out and I didn't think the judges would go for her as I remember seeing an interview of the Miss and Teen together online and I thought the Teen outshined the Miss but it turns out the Teen didn't place but the Miss did so that was unexpected! Nevada followed and Josie was my winner for a long time up until preliminaries as the lead up to the pageant gave me the impression that she didn't really want this even though she was 1st runner up at Miss Louisiana USA three times before the hop to Nevada on what was almost her last year of eligibility until the age limit lifted for next year and as gorgeous as she is, I was just getting low energy vibes causing me to rearrange my list after preliminaries. North Carolina concluded the holy Louisiana trio as Jordyn was 2nd runner up at Miss Louisiana USA 2022 but I felt like she conducted a stronger energy and vibrance. Next up was the Doctor, Washington placed for the first time since 2004 so kudos to Samantha for ending the drought. I felt like her preliminary performance was somewhat too much so even though I put her as an alternate, I understood why she placed. Wisconsin followed and she was decent. I wasn't expecting her to make top 5 considering that she didn't place at Miss Teen USA 2018 but we have seen this kind of opposite placement at Teen and Miss before and I guess she had more of a non-intimidating appeal. Next up was Zambia...I mean Maryland! It's true that she was Miss Zambia for Miss Supranational 2022 going unplaced there but I guess she wouldn't be denied a placement at Miss USA and it probably helped that she had a very loud cheering section in the audience during preliminaries. Finally, New Mexico concluded the competition showing us the miracle of the online vote in the only one-piece of the semifinalists. Following this, we got a segment featuring the titleholders that were there: Morgan Romano-Miss USA 2022, Faron Medhi-Miss Teen USA 2022, Emily Shah-Miss New Jersey USA 2014 and semifinalist at Miss USA 2014 and Ruth Zakarian-Miss Teen USA 1983 who went unplaced at Miss USA 1984. It was especially exciting to see Ruth seeing that she won the first Miss Teen USA crown 40 years ago! We also learned that it was her brother who sent in her application to run for Miss New York Teen USA. They also talked about the friendships that develop with your pageant sisters. After that, Morgan Romano and Jordan Kimball talked to Chris Persky who had just co-hosted Miss Teen USA 2023 and showed off some pageant knowledge quoting the years that a former Teen contestant held the Miss USA title and of course, you all know I can rattle off this kind of info too and of course, I was listening closely and he was correct! The years that a former Teen contestant held the Miss USA title were indeed: 1995, 96, 97, 99, 2000, 03, 05, 06, 07, 11 and 18. Shanna Moakler and Brandi Sherwood inherited their Miss USA crowns in 1995 and 1997 respectively when Chelsi Smith and Brook Lee won Miss Universe.

And now, the gowns! Illinois was up first and she looked exceptional. She has definitely perfected her overall look. The cuffneck illusion gown with the red, orange, yellow jewels in new semi-circular patterns was exquisite and her perfect overall look just put her over the top. DC followed wearing a nude-colored gown with silvery-white floral appliqués adorning it and it suited her very well. Did you notice there was no shoe sponsor this year so the girls were free to wear whatever shoes they chose and there were a lot of the platform tippy-tops to give the girls more height. Texas followed in a different gown than what she wore in preliminaries. Note that the delegates were not allowed to wear a different gown for preliminaries and finals so at first, I was confused when Texas didn't come on stage in her Colombian-tribute emerald-adorned gown but Texas had an emergency situation as she mentioned during the telecast, where her original gown ripped and there was a last minute frenzy backstage where someone even dared to ask for a stapler! Fortunately, Alaska's rep who didn't place came to the rescue as she had a backup gown in case as her original gown might have been deemed a little too cooch-flashy but those gowns are actually like swimsuit gowns with the fabric of the skirt covering the underwear part so when the girls walk, you could see the high-slit but a dark-colored underwear underneath so it gives the illusion of the reveal. California also wore a cooch-flash gown but you could see the black underwear and it was simple yet elegant with mainly black material on one side with the other side having one breast covered with silver sparkles. Next up was the sensational Pennsylvania and Princess Jasmine certainly showed us why she won Best in Evening Gown and topped my predictions list after preliminaries because her performance was pure magic. She emerged with her highlighter yellow gown and lit up the stage starting with part of the train over her head like a hood and she let it fall back and worked that flowy train as she turned around and it was just a transcendent performance and I was in awe. I love it when delegates step their game up like this. It reminded me a bit of Nana Meriwether's gown performance at Miss USA 2012. Connecticut followed in a yellow gown (yellow was quite a popular color this year) with a high-slit and she looked confident. My friend said he could see the control top pantyhose lining at the top of the slit. Hawaii had a green illusion gown with crystals adorned in wave-like designs and it was quite lush and made me want to do some gardening. New Jersey followed in a hot pink cuffneck gown with silver designs adorning the bust, neck and lower back and Derby carried herself in a very queenly manner. Florida followed in a glistening shades-of-gold gown with intricate wave designs with her hair being long and straight and she looked opulent. Alabama followed in a white lace gown with one strap over the shoulder and the other off-shoulder with a thin train coming over the shoulder. It was simple and elegant. Virginia followed in a gown that was giving me a watermelon sugar high with a green side train but Ashley's overall look is what sold it. There were some other disastrous green gowns like Maine and Nebraska but Ashley knew how to work it. South Carolina had a white glistening illusion gown with a more unique structure with extended ruffles at the hip and shoulder and it was a very sophisticated look. Utah followed in a caped, yellow illusion gown with bolder yellow glittery appliques almost like flames and our winner Noelia certainly was on fire! The cape removal was also done well. Arkansas followed in a more typical pageant gown which was glittery and pinkish-purple and it was decent. Nevada followed in a black illusion gown with wavy designs and one sleeve having glittery black bands going down the arm and of course, Josie looked amazing. North Carolina followed in a silver gown with beaded fringe coming off the skirt and blue outlined cutouts on the bodice with blue earrings to match the outline and Jordyn looked sensational and I liked that she kept the consistent smile and showed she was happy to be there. Dr. Washington followed with a metallic turquoise gown with the bodice with a gradient to the skirt with illusion material adorned with crystals covering the legs and she did carry herself with extreme confidence. Wisconsin followed in a silver and black gown with the skirt being sparkly silver with black strips to cover the bust going vertically up to a silver neckline with a silver strip down the middle and she wore floral earrings that went up the side of her ear which is rare and she had slicked back Zuleyka Rivera-ish hair. This was a rather unconventional look but she clearly knew it worked for her. Zambia...I mean Maryland followed in a white illusion gown with pleated capes coming off the shoulders and it was angelic. Finally, New Mexico came out in a yellow number with orange swirls and I'm glad she decided not to hold the orange blankie for finals like she did in preliminaries since it just looked wrong and reminded me of Linus from the Peanuts cartoon holding his blankie but yes, she clearly won the online vote.

Top 5Then it was time to make that drastic cut from 20 to the top 5 and they were: Wisconsin, Texas, Utah, Hawaii and finally my winner, Pennsylvania. The suspense was killing me but she was called in last of the top 5. Did you notice the representation matters movement seemed to have influenced the top 5's of both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA this year? For Miss USA, we had one blonde (Wisconsin), one black contestant (Pennsylvania), one Asian (Hawaii), one Latina (Texas), and one half-Latina (Utah). And the night before, for Miss Teen USA, we had one blonde (New York), one black contestant (Texas), one redhead (Pennsylvania), one Asian (Ohio), and one Latina/Asian (New Jersey). I wonder if this will crossover to Miss Universe where we are used to seeing Latina domination and if this pattern will continue in future USA pageants. It was now time for the top 5 to answer two questions. One for fun, "How's your spirit? How are the nerves?" and the final question, "As the brand ambassador for Miss USA, what will be your contribution to the organization?" Wisconsin answered to the first question, "Honestly, I have not been nervous this whole competition because I have just been so excited and prepared and coming from a small town in Wisconsin to being on the Miss USA stage, I'm just glad that I can set an example for others to do the same." To the final question, Wisconsin answered, "My contribution to the organization will be proving that anyone can defy age limiting opportunities. As one of the youngest contestants here, I have paved the way for myself from being 15 years old and starting my platform 'Catwalk for a Cause' towards now being successful in the industry as a free agent, I have done that for myself. Pageantry creates a foundation not just to implement change but to do it yourself and I have been able to do that so with the Miss USA organization, I think that I align with the goals and I am ready to get to work tomorrow morning." Next up, Texas answered the first question, "Hello! Hi, everyone! I'm feeling so good. I actually just had the craziest moment backstage where my dress, uh, ripped and so but I'm here and I'm so excited to be here in the final five! It's so exciting!" To the final question, Texas replied, "Well, I'm here in honor of my mom. She passed away back in December due to ALS and one thing I learned is to always have hope and be resilient and never give up and that's what I'm doing today here is not giving up on myself, not on my dreams and that's the m...that's the message I want to share with everyone to not give up on yourself and continue to fight for your dreams because we only have one life to live so we need to make the most out of it." Next Utah answered the first question, "I am feeling so at peace right now. I have been working for this moment for years and years and I'm just so grateful to be here. I'm more excited than anything." Utah then answered the final question, "I believe the ability to connect with people is an incredibly important asset that a Miss USA should have. The United States of America is an incredibly diverse country probably one of the most diverse in the entire world so being able to connect with everybody is important. As a bilingual Venezuelan-American woman, I plan to connect with that community of people because the United States of America is a diverse country and a Miss USA needs to be able to represent every community no matter their background, their race, their ethnicity, anything and I would like to be that Miss USA." Hawaii answered the first question, "Ooh, you know. I always have Hawaii in my heart so I'm just bringing the Aloha spirit on the stage tonight!" For the final question, Hawaii answered, "Well, I am a program director for a non-profit called 'What Makes You Feel Beautiful' and it's my passion to be of service, to uplift the younger generation to teach them the importance of cultivating self-love and I believe as Miss USA, I can reach the whole nation to show kindness, be a lending hand in this society and believe in yourself. Mahalo!" Finally, Pennsylvania answered the first question, "I feel surprisingly very calm right now. I feel so grounded in who I am and I'm so proud to be up here representing my state!" Pennsylvania's answer to the final question was, "I think for me, my greatest contribution is to give back to young women specifically women of color who may feel like they are excluded from this world. I think that it's really important standing here as a black woman in the top 5 of Miss USA that I be the face of representation for the Miss USA brand moving forward and that is something that I intend to do." Of these answers, I think Utah just had a firm, strong way of speaking that set her apart and I sensed that she was winning this after hearing all the answers. Hawaii had more of a fun and flirty style kind of like Puerto Rico's Joyce Giraud-2nd runner up at Miss Universe 1998. Texas probably needed to show more emotion when talking about the passing of her mom and I was hoping for a little better from Pennsylvania's answer which probably needed to be less about race and maybe be more encouraging. I was somewhat neutral to Wisconsin and this was a case where others liked her but I didn't really see it but she was fine.

I'm glad they gave some airtime to the newly crowned Miss Teen USA, New Jersey's UmaSofia Srivastava. Miss Teen USA hasn't been on television since 2007 so I wonder if many teens today even know it exists so this was great use of a cross-promotion opportunity. Then it was time for the final walk and here was where we got the delegates' pre-recorded segment. Wisconsin said, "Winning Miss USA will allow me to actively uphold and promote the organization that has made the biggest impact on my life. Not only do I know how to market myself but I know how to market a brand. I align with the positive progression of Miss USA and will use the platform to set an example of defying age-based limitations as I am one of the youngest contestants and the first Wisconsinite to win." Texas said, "Winning the Miss USA crown to me would be the American dream and a story of courage, victory and honor. I moved here to the United States with nothing more than my siblings and my mother to whom which I had to be a full-time caregiver after her ALS diagnosis four years ago. Unfortunately, she passed away this last December but I want to carry on her legacy and to honor and share my story of hope with others and let them know that if you don't give up on your dreams, no matter how hard life may get, you can achieve greatness." Utah said, "Winning the Miss USA crown for me would mean ecstatically assuming the position that I have been preparing for for seven years and showing people the true definition of pageantry. Yo soy una (mujer) Americana-Venezolana bilingüe. I am a Venezuelan-American bilingual woman who fervently advocates for dating violence awareness and prevention as well as the rights of those who are searching for the American dream. I believe it is very important for Miss USA to be a symbol of unity and I believe that I am that as well as a transformational leader and a force for good." Notice the incorporation of the Miss Universe buzzwords (transformational leader) and (force for good). Noelia certainly did her homework! Hawaii said, "Winning the Miss USA crown would be an unforgettable experience. It's something that I would take with me through this life journey and it also means I was able to turn my vision for myself into reality. My crown and sash has given me an amplified microphone to raise awareness of my home island of Maui and the work I do with my non-profit and that is what is universally needed." Finally, Pennsylvania said, "Winning the Miss USA crown would be a huge honor and not only that, a responsibility as a young woman of color to be a representation of both struggle and success. I was born to teen parents and from the beginning, I've had to defy the odds but now, I'm here with a unique opportunity to serve as the next Miss USA."

As Morgan Romano did her farewell, we had a video segment of her acknowledging that she was originally first runner-up but without saying the name, R'Bonney but rather Miss USA went on to win Miss Universe and that she stepped into the role of Miss USA after that with the clip of her doing her first walk as Miss USA after Miss Universe, R'Bonney Gabriel crowned her during the preliminaries of the 2023 Miss Alabama USA pageant where the eventual Miss USA winner, Noelia Voigt placed as 1st runner up before the hop to Utah that changed her destiny forever. Morgan's farewell walk was not accompanied by a voice-over like usual with cutaways of her mother in the audience. I guess they heeded the words of those who didn't want as much speaking in pageants. Morgan read the Miss USA creed reincorporated for the first time since 1990. "We, representing the states of the United States in the Miss USA pageant in order to further the cause of peace, justice and mutual understanding do solemnly dedicate ourselves to the highest ideal of sportsmanship, friendship and goodwill among all the people of the United States." Morgan said the wording hasn't changed but it actually has over the years. When Gretchen Polhemus read it in 1990, it has some words like 'justice' and 'sportsmanship' taken out and even in the 1970, Wendy Dascomb's reading had 'representing the people' instead of 'representing the states' but you get it, it's nice to have a little piece of tradition reincorporated. And then we learned the results with the 4th runner up being Texas, 3rd runner up was Pennsylvania, 2nd runner up was Wisconsin and the 1st runner up was not acknowledged as Hawaii (which they probably should do) but they said the new Miss USA is...Utah!

In conclusion, it would have been nice to see a tribute to the late Bob Barker who passed away on August 26 at age 99 as he was the longest serving Miss USA and Universe host from 1967 to 1987 but it might have been a scramble to get footage and Bob Barker being affiliated with a rival network, CBS might have not won the approval of the CW but they will probably do something at Miss Universe. Our new Miss USA, Noelia is the fourth latina Miss USA titleholder succeeding Texas' Laura Martinez Herring (1985) of Mexican descent, Tennessee's Lynnette Cole (2000) partially of Puerto Rican descent and Massachusetts' Susie Castillo (2003) of Puerto Rican descent but Noelia is the first of Venezuelan descent on her mother's side. Noelia is actually very striking and she has beautiful blue eyes that she got from her daddy so let's see if she can mesmerize her way and possibly get a successive Miss Universe crown on November 18 in El Salvador for the land of the free and the home of the brave, the USA!

Miss Teen USA 2023-UmaSofia Srivistava, Miss USA 1994-Lu Parker, Miss USA 2023-Noelia Voigt

The Prethoughts - Miss USA 2023