Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Miss Rhode Island Olivia Culpo waves to the audience after being crowned Miss USA during the 2012 Miss USA pageant, Sunday, June 3, 2012, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
20-year-old Rhode Island cellist wins Miss USA

By CRISTINA SILVA

The Associated Press

First Published Jun 03 2012 10:12 pm • Last Updated Jun 03 2012 10:16 pm

LAS VEGAS • A 20-year-old cellist from Rhode Island won the Miss USA crown and will represent the United States in this year’s Miss Universe pageant after voicing support for transgender beauty queens.

Olivia Culpo topped a field of 51 contestants on Sunday to take the title at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. She strutted across the stage in a lilac bikini and a purple evening gown adorned with a sparkly belt.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

In the dreaded final question round, Culpo was faced with the most difficult question of the night: "Would you feel it would be fair that a transgender woman wins the Miss USA title over a natural-born woman?" Culpo never stumbled as she embraced the Miss Universe Organization’s recent decision to admit transgender contestants. The question came from a pageant follower on Twitter, a first for the competition.

"I do think that that would be fair but I can understand that people would be a little apprehensive to take that road because there is a tradition of natural-born women, but today where there are so many surgeries and so many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life, I do accept that because I believe it’s a free country," Culpo said.

Culpo said she was short and chubby as a girl, but blossomed after a growth spurt. She spent her summers at band camp after learning to play the cello in second grade. Her parents are also musicians, and her love for music saw her perform at Symphony Hall in Boston and Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Culpo is a 2010 graduate of St. Mary Academy Bay View, an all-girls Catholic school in Riverside, where she was a member of the National Honor Society. She is a sophomore at Boston University.

"Beauty is found in the way you treat others," she told pageant officials.

Rounding out the top five contestants were first runner-up Nana Meriwether of Maryland, second runner-up Audrey Bolte of Ohio, third runner-up Jade Kelsall of Nevada and fourth runner-up Jasmyn Wilkins of Georgia. As Meriwether and Culpo held hands waiting for the winner to be announced, Culpo bit her lip and cringed with anticipation.

Culpo demonstrated an outgoing personality throughout the competition, blowing a kiss and shimmying across the stage during the opening number. She cited starlet Audrey Hepburn as her source of inspiration, noting her many years of volunteer work.

"She was beautiful on the outside but also beautiful on the inside," said Culpo, whose favorite movie is "Funny Face."


story continues below
story continues below

Pageant officials also noted that Culpo "can tie a cherry stem with her tongue."

Miss Iowa USA Rebecca Hodge was named Miss Congeniality, and Miss Oregon USA Alaina Bergsma was named the most photogenic. They both won $1,000, but didn’t make the top 16.

The pageant at the Planet Hollywood casino on the Las Vegas Strip had three competitions: swimsuit, evening gowns and interview question. Midway through the contest, pop band Cobra Starship performed as the beauty queens modeled their string bikinis. Singer Akon performed during the evening gown competition. Culpo had one of the more modest dresses of the contest, with many of the beauty queens wearing more revealing dresses with bare backs, high slits and sheer fabric.

The judge’s panel included Chef Cat Cora, TV personality Arsenio Hall, singer Joe Jonas and reality TV star Rob Kardashian. Andy Cohen and Giuliana Rancic stepped in to host. Miss USA 2011 Alyssa Campanella crowned Culpo her successor at the end of the night.

She’ll represent the United States at the 61st Miss Universe pageant later this year. An American has not been named Miss Universe since Brook Lee won the title in 1997.

The first-ever transgender contestant to compete in the Miss Universe Canada pageant made it to the penultimate round before losing her bid to win the title last month. She was initially denied entry to Canada’s pageant because she was not born female. Donald Trump, who runs the Miss Universe Organization, subsequently overruled that decision.

Miss Universe publicity director Brenda Mendoza has said transgender competitors are now welcome at all of its pageants around the world.

The competition is not affiliated with the Miss America pageant.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.