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Miss Utah USA's botched answer makes her a star

Published June 19, 2013 10:23 am

Miss USA • Marissa Powell didn't win, but she's the one everyone is talking about.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Marissa Powell didn't win the title of Miss USA on Sunday, but she did make quite an impression en route to being named third runner-up.

Not necessarily a good impression, but certainly one that is unforgettable. When asked what it says about society that women continue to earn less than men, the Salt Laker stumbled and bumbled her way through an answer that went viral on the Internet:

"I think we can relate this back to education and how we are continuing to try to strive to figure out how to create jobs right now. That is the biggest problem. I think especially the men are seen as the leaders of this, so we need to figure out how to create education better so we can solve this problem."

The ratings for the Miss USA telecast were disappointing, but Powell's answer is all over the Web. #Miss­Utah quickly trended to the top of Twitter. The 21-year-old Westminster College student is maintaining a sense of humor about the incident.

"First rule of an interview — listen to the question before you answer!" she said in a statement released by the Miss Utah USA organization.

Powell has been deluged with interview requests. She's signed an exclusive deal to be on NBC's "Today Show" on Tuesday (7-9 a.m., KSL/Channel 5). She'll head straight from the NBC studios to the syndicated "Inside Edition"; then she's hopping on a plane to California to appear on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (10:35 p.m., ABC/Channel 4).

"She's more in demand right now than the winner," said Miss Utah USA spokesman Brandon Stauffer.

USA Today hit it on the head: "Miss Connecticut [Erin Brady] may have been crowned the winner during Sunday night's Miss USA pageant, but it's Miss Utah that everyone's talking about."

For the most part, media reaction has been rather kind:

• "Sure, it may not have been the smoothest of answers, especially the 'create education better' line, but Powell still made out pretty good in the end." — E! Online

• "Powell walked away with a smile, and so did the Web. ... But the results weren't too harsh for the brunette beauty. She still managed to finish as the third runner-up." — People Magazine

• "Despite the 'create education better' phrase, Powell managed to land in third place overall." — US Magazine

FoxNews.com had a snarky take on that: "Yes, she said 'create education better.' And she still came in third."

Deadspin's Timothy Burke was downright cruel when he evoked Adam Sandler's "Billy Madison": "What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. ... Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it."

Ouch!

There were immediate comparisons to the far more nonsensical answer Miss South Carolina, Lauren Caitlin Upton, gave at the 2007 Miss Teen USA Pageant. But Upton turned that into a series of TV appearances, including a stint as a contestant on "The Amazing Race." And she's still remembered today.

Few can recall who was named Miss Teen USA in 2007.

Powell may be headed on a similar trajectory.

"I'm so overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the support I have received," she said, "and I'm proud to be third runner-up at Miss USA 2013!"

spierce@sltrib.com