By Josh Howard
For the past two weeks, our city has been taken over by a heat wave. We aren’t just talking about the notorious June temperatures, for beauty queens from all over the country have been in town for this year’s Miss USA competition.
On Sunday, June 8, those 51 contestants (a representative from each state and the nation’s capital) competed in swimsuit, evening gown and an interview round in order to take the crown from Erin Brady, the current Miss USA.
So, who won? At the end of the three-hour competition held at the Baton Rouge River Center, the battle for the crown came down to two girls who were searching for history. Miss Nevada USA, Nia Sanchez, won the sash, flowers and tiara over Audri Mari, Miss North Dakota USA. Both women represent states which had never won the title of Miss USA.
Sanchez, who is now poised to compete against women all over the world in Miss Universe in the fall, is a Fourth Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and has trained over 12 years.
She is also the first Latina from the state of Nevada to have won the state crown. Ironically enough, this is the first time in five years the pageant was not held in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“I am so excited to represent the great state of Nevada…I can’t believe I’m going to Miss Universe. I’m so excited!” said Sanchez.
When asked about her position as a positive Latina woman in the community, Sanchez hopes she represents a dream fulfilled by persistence.
“Never give up on your dreams. You can achieve it if you don’t give up,” Sanchez said.
To begin the night, the 51 contestants were dwindled down to just 20. This list was determined from the preliminary events in swimsuit, evening gown and interview earlier in the week. Those 20 included representatives from Virginia, North Dakota, Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee, Florida, California, Alabama, Nevada, Maryland, Minnesota, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and our very own, Louisiana.
“There’s just a great energy here in Baton Rouge. Great city.” – Donald Trump
Those 20 strutted in their swimsuit to the country licks of Florida Georgia Line and Nelly to make the next cut of 10. The top 10 contestants from Florida, North Dakota, Maryland, California South Carolina, Georgia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Nevada twirled and strolled to the Latin band Camila in evening gowns. During this portion of the competition, fans were able to tweet #SavetheQueen with the name of their chosen state to keep one of the 10 contestants not selected by the judges, in the competition. The lucky recipient was Miss Iowa. She was joined by Miss Nevada USA, Miss North Dakota USA, Miss Louisiana USA, Miss Georgia USA and Miss Florida USA.
The contestants then moved on to a difficult interview portion. They answered questions ranging from self-defense, the recent political
Our hometown favorite Brittany Guidry did not get the crown, but she did walk away as third runner-up.
Country duo Florida Georgia Line with special guest Nelly, local singer-songwriter Marc Broussard, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Horns and Latin Grammy award-winning Camila performed throughout the presentation.
Though this was not the first time Miss USA stopped in Louisiana (the event was held in Shreveport in 1997 and 1998), it was the first time held in Baton Rouge. When asked why our city was chosen as the place for the 63rd annual Miss USA Pageant, owner of the Miss Universe Organization, Donald Trump, had nothing but positive things to say.
“There’s just a great energy here in Baton Rouge. Great city and it sold out immediately,” Trump said.
The broadcast continually boasted for Baton Rouge, calling it a “city of culture, style, sophistication. And parties.”
For Sanchez, it was a city where dreams came true.
“I will always remember the hospitality of Baton Rouge…I’d love to come back to visit,” Sanchez said. While in Baton Rouge, the 51 contestants visited several local staples such as Tony’s Seafood, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, Nottoway Plantation and more. The girls even made time to visit some awesome kids at the Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. Through various segments, all of Baton Rouge (including our Southern charm) was on display last weekend for Miss USA.
The economic impact of the pageant remains to be seen, but Visit Baton Rouge CEO Paul Arrigo estimated 3,000 to 4,000 additional hotel rooms would be booked because of the event. Add in all the dining, leisure, and other spending – plus the free publicity – and its clear Sanchez wasn’t the only winner this weekend.
“Baton Rouge shined really bright,” Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer told The Business Report Monday. “It shows we can compete with anybody. The preparation was first class. Everybody handled this thing so professionally. The long-term effect is 10-fold. We can now compete in the big leagues.”