Last night’s pageant crowned its first Muslim winner and showcased the contestants dancing in bikinis—and a feisty Joan Rivers. Watch the most memorable highlights (and lowlights). Plus, view our gallery of past beauty queens gone bad.
51 Bikinis Dancing in Unison
This year’s Miss USA beauty pageant was, like so many guilty pleasures, full of empty calories, and the show’s producers thankfully let us start with dessert: the swimsuit competition. After a bit of wriggly choreography set to a live performance by indie pop band Boys Like Girls, the contestants were introduced individually in pink and orange bikinis, attempting their best “crown-winning swimsuit strut,” in the words of co-host Curtis Stone. Later, Joan Rivers and her daughter Melissa provided a bit of instant replay commentary. Their code word for hotness was “poise,” and a handful of women demonstrated a lot of it.
Behind the Lip Gloss Lies an Iron Will
We took a shine to Miss Michigan—half-Christian/half-Muslim Lebanese immigrant Rima Fakih—early on. She struggled just getting to the pageant, with financial troubles forcing her to sell her Ford. (“We still buy American,” she assured the crowd.) Then, during the evening gown competition, she tripped on her dress. It’s hard not to see Miss Michigan’s troubles as a metaphor for her home state, hit hard by the recession. We silently urged the raven-haired beauty to keep her chin up and win one for Detroit.
Victory Makes Miss Michigan Hungry
And then she did! The Michigander pulled through, against all odds, to capture the Miss USA 2010 crown. How does she feel? “Ask me after I have a pizza.”
The Fashion Police Never Let Up
Miss Michigan wasn’t the only contestant who struggled at the pageant. Two other contestants offered cringe-worthy moments: Miss Missouri with a sartorial choice that reminded Joan Rivers of a certain nuclear waste-colored sports drink, and Miss Maine with her flubbed response to the rather simple question: “How tall are you?”
Beauty Queens Mimic Performing Pup
The contest was soaked in commercial sponsorships, and while most corporate shout-outs simply included shots of various Vegas hotels and restaurants, the promo for Flip camera was extra special. The show provided this mildly degrading video without context. Note Miss Nebraska’s expression afterward—was her look of discomfort related to the clip? The world may never know.
Miss Oklahoma Takes a Stand! Kinda.
The Office star Oscar Nuñez asked Miss Oklahoma her thoughts on Arizona’s controversial new immigration law, which requires cops to stop anyone they suspect might be an illegal immigrant. (The crowd booed the question.) “I’m a huge believer in states’ rights,” Miss Oklahoma said, adding that Arizona was right to make the law. But the crowd’s roar was perhaps a cue that she had taken too strong a stand, as the beauty queen then walked back her statement, saying she opposed racial profiling, so she could “see both sides.” Miss Oklahoma ultimately came in second—just like 2009’s Miss California, Carrie Prejean, whose “opposite marriage” stance on gay marriage garnered similarly raised eyebrows.
Paula Deen Plays Hardball
All of the contestants played it politically correct last night, making Southern chef Paula Deen’s question seem especially hard-hitting. Should BP pay the whole cost of cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf? Miss Virginia hedged. Once the Q&A was over, Melissa Rivers had to rein in her mom, who lightly scolded the Virginian for her reticence to stick it to the oil company. “Smart girls!” the elder Rivers said—though not quite sincerely.