This year was the second time IMG held Miss USA contest after It took over from Donald Trump. There were lot of changes which was expected after seeing the two editions of Miss Universe contest under IMG. The kind of winner IMG look for in a contestant is very different from the days of Trump. IMG wants a woman with overall package but the main thing being the winner has to be a an achiever. Deshuana Barbara is the perfect example of IMG new motto ‘Confidently Beautiful’ The Supermodel aura in a contestant might get them noticed but if she doesn’t have a story of her own, it might not help her.
Miss USA 2017 was held in Las Vegas, Nevada after much delayed in announcing its venue. The event was also short with not much activities except for pre-tapping, interviews and rehearsal. The moment the 51 representatives landed in Las Vegas, they got so busy in rehearsing and shooting for pre-activities, there were not much of fun activities like touring or attending events before the finale. It’s understandable since this is the first time IMG is holding the pageant. I hope next year will be different and much more exciting.
The contest started with Cirque du Soleil performers from Michael Jackson ONE performing on stage to the song of Michael Jackson ‘Black or White.’ The performers used every corner of the stage and it looked like a crowed stage. Talking about the stage, the stage looked like a Victoria Secret runway. Doesn’t have that pageant feel to it. And the introduction of 51 beautiful contestants while the performers were on stage made it a bit unexciting. The introduction of each contestant was so short, it left us wanting to see more of them since there was going be only top 10. The contestants introducing themselves would have been a much better idea giving them more coverage. Again, we would hope for a better edition next time.
The hosts of the evening – Julianne Hough, Terrence J and Ashley Graham, did well. They were enjoyable and sometimes entertaining. The first competition of the night was about to start but before that the 10 semi-finalists were revealed. Some front runners were left out but the overall top 10 wasn’t a surprised since the changes that was happening had already gave us a hint of the kind of contestants they were looking for. Each 10 semi-finalists were achievers in their own right and had something to tell to the world. The 10 was announced with a video of each semi-finalist, talking about themselves and the host asking questions to each one of them. Minnesota was a dancer and talked about working in graveyard to pay for college fees. Though she said the job was not very lively, but when she speaks she is so lively. New Jersey – the fourth Indian American to compete in Miss USA, performed Bharatanatyam talked about her family and the importance of women education. When asked to say “I am going to be the next Miss USA’ in her favourite language, she spoke in Hindi, “Mein agli Miss USA banne wali hu, dekhle na.” Missouri was the first African American to win Miss Missouri. That speaks a lot for her. She had been to all 50 states and 16 countries. When asked which city was her favourite, she replied Paris since they shared the same mantra and she gets tossed by the waves but she never sinks. I love the part she spoke in French and the meaning of the quote. Tennessee wants to encourage more women to take up law and hopes to study Entertainment law to help regulate pay off between men and women in entertainment industry. Her answer to whether being an actress would help her be a better lawyer was very witty. She had said whether in acting or being a lawyer, they share the responsibility of believably relaying a narrative to an audience be they viewers or a jury. California has a very interesting backgound. Her family comes from Western Africa, Scotland, parts of Eastern Europe and parts of South-East Asia. That’s one multi-cultural background. Impressive. She spoke about her height i.e. 6 feet tall in high school might have had its difficulty and not understand the gift she of being so tall and the uniqueness of it. But she understood now and she was more confident and strong about it. District of Columbia was the 6th semi-finalist. She spoke about her role as a nuclear scientist and her outreach program to educate children about math and science. When asked who her favourite scientist was and she said Annie Turnbo Malone who was a mentor for Madam CJ Walker. She mentioned Annie Turnbo Malone was not only a great chemist but also an entrepreneur and a philanthropist who used her wealth to empower women around the world. South Carolina followed, a recent college graduate and a nurse. She explained how meditation helped her in preparing for the contest since the contest wasn’t just about the external appearance but a lot of it being metal preparedness. New York, the 8th semi-finalist was a reporter on race car driving and a motorcycle rider herself. Her confidence comes from being a dancer. We can see that in the video too. She talked about bringing 35 sets of shoes to Las Vegas needing to be prepared for any situation plus. It was fun when she said that a girl can never have too many shoes. So true! Illinois, trained in hip hop, ballet, jazz and so many dance forms. Only if there were talent round we could have seen her dancing. So that wasn’t her first stint on Fox channel. She was on Fox hit series ‘Empire’ for three episodes. Love the message she gave about following your dream no matter what, if it was your calling and meant to be, you’re going to be it. And the last spot was left for Alaska. The video was great. I love Alaska – it’s in my bucket list. She told us about Alaska being multi-cultural with 229 tribes living in the state. It was so beautiful when she pronounced her tribe “Tlingit’ with a sound emphasis on the tribe word.
For the swimsuit competition, the sponsor was a new this time. The 10 contestants wore swimsuits from Yandy. With “Something Just Like This” by the Chainsmokers & Coldplay as the background music, the contestants in their swimsuit took the stage. Then the first three semi-finalist came on stage. Minnesota was first. Meridith Gould looks like Hilary Duff so much that she reminded me of Lizzie McGuire. Meridith is so sweet and beautiful. Love her confidence on stage. She has perfect swimsuit body and when she turned around after posing for a few seconds it was her confidence and stage presence speaking. She started the competition really well. Up next was New Jersey. Chhavi Verg catwalk was different from Meridith. If Meridith’s catwalk was abut enjoying the stage with projecting her sweet personality, Chhavi’s catwalk was about attitude and fierce walk. New Jersey got our attention in what she was trying to project of herself in this round. Missouri followed in a one-piece swimsuit. Doesn’t she remind you of Nicki Minaj in that straight sleek hair? Her catwalk was a bit weak. Tennessee had lean body but it’s sad we couldn’t see much of the catwalk. All we could see of her walking was from the side from a far angle. California came in a pink swimsuit. Her tall stature is definitely an advantage for her. It gave a presence on stage. She looked great in swimsuit with a long, lean body. Her aura is charming indeed. District of Columbia might have been popular because of her scientist background and it might make her strong but she brings her own game in the contest. While I am not a fan on the swimsuit but she knows how to grab people’s attention. Love her turning on stage and the way she faces the camera. It was like a directly connecting to the audience. South Carolina also wore a one-piece swimsuit. Tall and lean body, but her energy was low though her smiling face and calm personality cover up for the missing energy. New York followed and she had one of the best body among the top 10 and her performance was also good. Illinois – I love her jacket. From her catwalk to her body, the performance was delightful. Her swimsuit and the jacket add more beauty to her performance. Like the host said, it was her dancing background that made her look so confident and walk so beautifully. Then it was Alaska who seems a little bit hurried to end the segment. It was just like walking on stage without any soul to it.
The evening gown had a live performance by country singer, Brett Eldredge, singing ‘’ The Long Way” the ladies came out starting with Minnesota, New Jersey and Missouri. It’s always good to see a contestant starting in a good note. Minnesota’s gown was one of a kind. The white organza, tulle and flower applique pants-gown was interesting. The front cut upper part of the gown with neckband and sequined fitted look sexy. With her energy, she gave a performance the other girls had to follow up. New Jersey wore a Sheri Hills gown. The shiny sequined black halter gown was a very safe choice. She could have done better with a gown that makes statement. Her calm and compose personality made her look so divine. Still would have love to see a different gown on her. Missouri followed in a red satin number. Though she said she wanted simple and elegant gown. Did she look elegant? Yes, but the gown was too simple. It was the structure of the gown that was an issue. The pleats on gown was messy. That was the real problem. Up next were Tennessee and California. Tennessee’s sparkling beaded gown was exquisite and very glamourous. She carried it so well like a star. The sequins work on the see through gown was artistic. California wore a gown that made her out of the top 5. Though there are many who says she deserved to be in the top 5 which I think she should but the gown for me wasn’t for her. The full-sleeved gown with silver criss-cross and the tiny waistband didn’t really gave out a personality she is known for. Her tall stature didn’t help her here. After the first five contestants, it was for the remaining five to take their turn. DC wore a gown that was perfectly made for her. The top of the gown had a halter with deep front cut and silver and gold sequins and the lower part of the gown had a long flowing skirt with a side front slit. The way she work the gown – twirling and turning around, she gave a very entertaining performance of the night. That was very pageant patty but worked for her. The royal blue gown of South Carolina was very classic. The flower sequins on the gown was aesthetically appealing. New York had the most revealing gown of the night. The emerald green sequin gown on a nude fabric was very sexy but if her performance had been a fierce one, it would have been a good one. Since the time given to them had been cut short, there’s nothing much they can do in such a short time. Illinois gave a performance that was one of the best. She was bright and exuberant in a golden gown. The gold fringe on the gown which move magically as she walk was absolutely pleasing. Then the one we were hoping for was the last to end the round, Alaska. It was brilliant of her to honour her Native American roots/Tlingit by showing through the gown. But her performance wasn’t as good as the gown.
Honestly, I am not liking the girls coming about in groups. Each one of them worked hard to be in the contest. They need to come out individually and given more time to walk alone to highlight her achievement. This group format in batch of 3 or 2 or 5 draws me to the back to check out the other girls lining up. Hope this won’t happen again in the next edition. The group format is more suited for Miss Supranational.
After the top 5 were announced, it was time for the first question and answer round.
“As Miss USA, you’ll be representing our country worldwide, how would you like the global community to view the United States?”
Minnesota – “The United States is a community full of leaders who are not only held accountable for their actions but are people who are bound together to make sure that we are able to carry out our rights as American citizens. We are a community that is accepting. We are a community that is empowering and we are a group of people that is not ashamed to lift other people up.”
“Advocates of women’s rights have been leading the conversation this year. Which specific issue regarding women’s rights is most important to you?
Illinois – “The most important issue… is being able to be open and speak honestly about your experience in whatever workforce that you are in. Women should be able to speak about their experience without being scared of retaliation for what they have to say and everything that they have to say should be investigated to the fullest extent and both parties, the accused or the accusee should be protected in the process. Thank you.”
“Suicide recently became the second leading cause of death for teenagers. What actions would you take as Miss USA to help struggling teenagers?
South Carolina – “Most of those who commit suicide are people who feel like their voices aren’t heard. Are people who feel like whatever problems they’re going through won’t be overcome. I believe that what we can do to really, really eradicate that is to make sure we’re creating an environment where our teenagers and those who feel that they need help are… their voices are heard and that we are there for them. We need to set up counselling and other resources for these people to have so that we can get rid of those suicide problems.”
“Do you think affordable health care for all U.S citizens is a right or a privilege and why?”
District of Columbia – “I’m definitely going to say it’s a privilege. As a government employee, I am granted, um, healthcare and I see first-hand that for one to have healthcare, you need to have jobs. So therefore, we need to continue to cultivate this environment that we’re given the opportunity to have healthcare as well as jobs for all the American citizens worldwide.”
“Social media allows us to share every aspect of our lives but it can also cause us to be hyper-aware of how we measure up to others. Do you feel that social media is ultimately positive or negative?”
New Jersey – “With social media, I believe it has given us so much power in this world. But with great power comes great responsibility and I’ve seen both ends of social media. For me, it has been one of the most empowering experiences because I’ve met so many empowered women. But at the same time, I’ve also been a victim of cyber-bullying like many of the contestants with me standing on this stage. Social media is again a privilege. It’s something that you have to be careful of. You can’t just say anything just because you’re anonymous and once when we realize that, that’s when we can truly live in a better world for everyone.”
This round confirms that the one who answer the best will advanced to the next round. Minnesota, District of Colombia and New Jersey were the top 3 finalists. They were asked a common question.
“What do you consider feminism to be and do you consider yourself a feminist?”
District of Columbia – “So as a woman scientist in the government, I’d like to lately transpose the word feminism to equalism. I don’t really want to consider myself… I try not consider myself like this like die-hard, you know like, aw, I don’t really care about men but one thing I’m going to say is though. Women, we ARE just as equal as men when it comes to opportunity in the workplace. And I say first-hand, I have witnessed the impact that women have in leadership in the medical sciences as well as just in the office environment so as Miss USA, I would hope to promote that type of leadership responsibility globally to so many women worldwide.”
Minnesota – “Modern day feminism is not only about supporting other women. It is about being any gender in this entire country, in this world and not being afraid to lift those up around you. It is about being unapologetically yourself. In this pageant, we have incredible representatives of what it means to be a woman whether they are on this stage, hosting this pageant with us or judging the contestants on this stage.”
New Jersey – “Feminism is striving for equality and I do consider myself a feminist. I think it’s a misconception when people believe that feminism is women being better than men but it’s really not. It’s a fight for equality and we need to realize that if we want a stable society, a better future for every single individual, we need to be equal and that’s why I advocate for education for women because women are still held back in places of the world. They still don’t have that right to their independence, that right to their equality. All because of education and once we do take that step, I believe that an equal world will be a better world.”
For the final top 3 look, Pitbull’s performed a very upbeat and energetic song, Don’t stop the party and Fireball. The performance with Stephen Marley had ‘’Options” as the top 3 came on stage. DC got escorted on stage while Minnesota and New Jersey had to walk alone. The song choice were more suited for swimsuit round. The girls should have been serenaded just like the final top 3 look in Miss Universe 2015 and 2016. It was like the top 3 were more of a prop for the two singers. I hope next time, the final look be a serenade or a slow ballad with a song that describe the girls journery. And the girls should be given more time to walk on stage as they have worked hard to reach this stage.
After the final look, it was announced that Minnesota was 2nd runner up as expected, but New Jersey’s 1st runner up placement was a surprised. But we know why District of Columbia won. Her answers about Healthcare and feminism might not have been the way people expected but her answers weren’t wrong either. Her educational background was another thing to be considered. Besides, her immense stage presence can’t be ignored.