Fifty-one beauty queens from around the country planned to smile and strut before a panel of judges and a live audience in Sin City on Sunday night to determine the country’s next Miss USA.
The winner will replace Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih, and be America’s representative at the Miss Universe pageant in Brazil in September.
Fakih, an Arab-American from Michigan who was born in Lebanon, overcame a near-stumble in her evening gown to win last year. This year’s contestants hope to avoid missteps and shine in swimwear, evening gown and interview competitions at the Planet Hollywood Resort&Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Wynn Las Vegas oddsmaker Johnny Avello tabbed auburn-haired Miss California Alyssa Campanella the 8-1 favorite of the competition in just-for-fun odds.
The pageant is celebrating its 60th anniversary, growing from its roots as a bathing revue in Long Beach, California, in 1952 to a made-for-TV spectacle owned jointly by mogul Donald Trump and NBC, which will air the pageant live to East Coast viewers.
Separate from rival pageant Miss America, Miss USA has been known in recent years for having judges at times ask somewhat sticky questions, challenging contestants to reveal more about their opinions than they might want.
This year’s panel of judges includes several well-known celebrities, including Dallas Maverick center Tyson Chandler, chef Rocco DiSpirito, actress Mariel Hemingway, magician Penn Jillette, rapper and producer Lil Jon, “Real Housewives of New Jersey” reality TV housewife Caroline Manzo and OPI beauty products founder Suzi Weiss-Fischmann.
The show will be co-hosted by Bravo’s Andy Cohen and E! News Anchor Giuliana Rancic.
A performance by British rapper Tinie Tempah and Eric Turner is planned during the evening gown competition.
Fans were putting one contestant into the semifinals through online voting at the Miss USA and NBC websites, with votes accepted through Saturday.