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06.17.13

Miss Utah Marissa Powell’s Face-Palm Moment During the Miss USA Pageant

Miss Utah stole the show at the Miss USA pageant with her rambling, incoherent answer. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Marissa Powell—the next Miss Teen South Carolina.

Oh dear.

During Sunday night’s Miss USA pageant, which was broadcast on NBC live from Las Vegas, Miss Utah, Marissa Powell, took the stage and, flanked by co-hosts Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers and Giuliana Rancic of E! News, picked a card from a fishbowl. She drew “Judge No. 3” to answer a question from NeNe Leakes, star of the Bravo reality series The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

“A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?” asked Leakes.

Powell, a stunning 5-foot-8 brunette sporting some serious diamond earrings, proceeded to unleash one of the most rambling, incoherent, brain-cell-killing responses in the history of the contest.

“I think we can re ... relate this back to education and how we are ... continuing to try to strive to ... [smiles] ... figure out how to create jobs, right now. That is the biggest problem in ... I think, especially the men, are, um ... seen as the leaders of this, and so we need to try to figure out how to ... create education better so that we can solve this problem.”

We need to try to figure out how to create education better.

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#MissUtah immediately became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter, surpassing both the NBA finals and a stellar halftime commercial courtesy of Samsung revealing that  Jay-Z’s upcoming album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, will be released July 4. Powell’s answer immediately brought to mind Caitlin Upton, who, as Miss South Carolina Teen USA, delivered the best (read: dumbest) response in the history of the pageant back in August 2007. Asked why a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a world map, Upton responded:

“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh, people out there in our nation don’t have maps, and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future [for our children].”

The video became a viral sensation, racking up tens of millions of views on YouTube, and Upton was invited to the Today show.

But who is Marissa Powell?

The 21-year-old was crowned Miss Utah on October 27, 2012, at the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts in Ogden, Utah. She’s the daughter of Jim and Shannon Powell of Salt Lake City. After the birth of her younger sister, her parents adopted a son, who has both congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which forces the body to age at an accelerated rate, and an inoperable brain tumor in his hypothalamus.

According to Powell’s bio, she is an aspiring singer who has performed with her group, Geniveve, all over Utah. She also sang the national anthem in front of an estimated 10,000 people at the Rocky Mountain Cup for the American soccer club Real Salt Lake. And Powell, along with her sister, was chosen to be one of the “children of light” during the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in her native state. She was also a standout volleyball player in high school and earned Deseret News First Team All-State 5A Defensive Special of the Year in 2009, in her senior year. She later played volleyball for Westminster College before transferring to Brigham Young University.

In addition to singing and athletics, Powell appeared on a news segment for local news affiliate ABC4 titled, “Testing Utahns: What Would You Do?” Powell played a glamorous shoplifter at a ski shop who went around plucking items off racks and soon discovered that other shoppers not only would fail to report her actions—presumably because she is so beautiful—but were even helping her steal. Powell has modeled for various publications, including Fitness magazine, and appeared in some commercials. She’s also big into community service, having volunteered for Primary Children’s Medical Center for the past five years and serving as an ambassador for the foundation Healing Hands for Haiti.

Miss Connecticut Erin Brady, 25, ended up winning the competition and was crowned Miss USA. But Miss Utah stole the show.

And Powell had this to say on her Miss Universe profile page:

“It’s not all about winning. It’s about examining yourself, improving and striving to showcase your individuality.”

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Can't get enough of the best flubs and faux pas from beauty pageants past? Here's a compilation of the most embarrassingly entertaining moments.