By Josh Howard
In an event slightly marred with political controversy, Baton Rouge was nevertheless covered in confetti and blush as the 64th Miss USA pageant took place at the Baton Rouge River Center on Sunday.
The newly designed crown ultimately went to Olivia Jordan, Miss Oklahoma, a comedic actress from Tulsa. She is the first to ever win from the Midwestern state.
“I had the best time with these women,” Jordan said. “It has been an incredible two weeks, and I wish that we could all stand up here together.”
Jordan, whose credits include Hot Tub Time Machine 2, hopes to leave a rather large legacy.
“I have always said that I have wanted to change the world,” Jordan said. “It’s a small goal, but I do hope to work with the causes that the Miss Universe Organization works with to do just that.”
Daytime Emmy Award-winning TV personality Todd Newton and former Miss Wisconsin and TV host Alex Wehrley—and backstage host Julie Alexandria—emceed the event after original hosts Thomas Roberts, Cheryl Burke, and Jeannie Mai backed out due to the controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s political statements. Despite the drama surrounding the pageant, the contestants held their heads high and competed with passion.
After two weeks of touring the Greater Baton Rouge area and competing in the preliminary competition, 15 contestants made the cut from the 51 women representing the states and our nation’s capital to begin the night in swimwear. Those ladies were Miss Texas, Miss Maryland, Miss Arizona, Miss Michigan, Miss Virginia, Miss Rhode Island, Miss Kentucky, Miss Hawaii, Miss New York, Miss Illinois, Miss Nevada, Miss Oklahoma, Miss Delaware, Miss Alabama, and our home state lady, Miss Louisiana.
The top 10, consisting of contestants from Nevada, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Maryland, Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Delaware and Texas, spun in everything from ball gowns to slim, form-fitting numbers. Of the five from the 15 who were not selected to progress to the evening gown portion, Miss Kentucky won over 40 percent of America’s vote to be saved to continue in the competition.
Miss Texas, Miss Nevada, Miss Maryland, Miss Oklahoma and Miss Rhode Island made up the top five and had to answer difficult questions mainly focused on the recent controversies facing our country, including race relations and social justice issues, from the judges, a series of past Miss USA and Universe winners.
Miss Texas, Ylianna Guerra, was the pageant’s first runner-up.
For the first time in the history of the pageant, two contestants were voted by their fellow contestants as Miss Congeniality—Miss Alaska and Miss Delaware—while Miss Indiana was voted by the public as Miss Photogenic.
Noticeably absent from this year’s pageant was pageant owner and presidential nominee Donald Trump. In a tweet leading up to the pageant, Trump wished the contestants well and made it clear he would not be present in Baton Rouge on Sunday.
“I will not be able to attend the Miss USA pageant tomorrow night because I am campaigning in Phoenix,” Trump said.
When NBCUniversal, judges and other sponsors backed out, the independent network, Reelz Channel aired the entire broadcast.
“We stepped up for the city of Baton Rouge, who all ready rolled out the red carpet for us,” Stan E. Hubbard, president of the Reelz Channel, said.
Similar to last year, the contestants explored Baton Rouge’s finest restaurants and attractions, including BREC’s Farr Equestrian Park and Liberty Lagoon.
The financial implications and return on investment are still yet to be completely determined, but until then, at least the city received another 15 minutes of fame.