Miss Kentucky, a news reporter, has won the most diverse Miss USA pageant ever, beating the first openly trans contestant and a PTSD suffering Air Force officer.
Miss Kentucky Elle Smith, who had been wanting to compete in pageants since she was 15, took the crown at the televised national contest held in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Monday.
She beat out 50 other contestants in Miss USA’s most diverse pageant yet- including Kataluna Enriquez -the first openly-transgender competitor, Amanda Torchia, the first Afghan woman to win Miss Connecticut USA and Miss Maine Veronica Iris Bates, a Air Force veteran who struggled with PTSD.
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Broadcast journalist Elle Smith, who has dreamed about becoming a pageant queen since she was just 15 years old, has won the Miss USA title at Monday night’s pageant in Tulsa, Oklahoma (pictured)
This is the moment she was overcome with emotion as she was crowned Miss USA on Monday
Smith, who competed with 50 girls from across the nation, put her hands over her mouth to hide her shock as she won the Miss USA crown as the pageant celebrated its 70th year
Smith beat out 50 other contestants in Miss USA’s most diverse pageant yet on Monday (she is pictured with a friend, right)
The stunning journalist wore a long sparkling dress with a daring split up to her thigh for the competition
The contestants all held hands on stage as they waited to hear who would be the next Miss USA
Smith was congratulated and hugged by her fellow contestants after her name was announced
The overwhelmed beauty gave a wave to the crowd as she proudly wore the winner’s crown and held the bouquet of white roses
The wide variety of contestants are part of the the pageant’s new push for diversity after Miss USA changed their slogan to ‘Pageantry Reimagined,’ NBC News reported.
Smith, a University of Kentucky graduate will now go on to represent the USA in the Miss Universe pageant set to be held in Israel in December.
The win comes after a long wait for Smith, who said she had put off applying for contests until she had her ‘big girl job’ as a news reporter so that she could afford it.
Smith graduated from UKY last year where she majored in Broadcast Journalism.
She has since been working as a news reporter for Louisville’s WHAS11 station, with her colleagues sending her congratulations on the title win.
The win comes after a long wait for Smith, who said she had put off applying for contests until she had her ‘big girl job’ as a news reporter. Pictured: Smith doing a live report for WHAS11 on the government’s mask mandate
Smith, a University of Kentucky graduate will now go on to represent the USA in the Miss Universe pageant set to be held in Israel in December
Last week she spoke to colleague Hayley Minogue about the contest, revealing that it had been a dream for her since high school.
‘I’ve been thinking about it since I was 15 when I girl from my high school won the teen title and she was everything to me,’ Smith said.
‘She was smart, she was beautiful, she was involved in everything from cross country to band and musicals. So I wanted to be exactly like her.
‘But I waited until I had my ‘big girl’ job because that’s when I could afford it, so I waited.’
Smith, who competed with 50 girls from across the nation, put her hands over her mouth to hide her shock as she won the Miss USA crown as the pageant celebrated its 70th year.
27-year-old Kataluna Enriquez. Miss Nevada, was the first openly-transgender competitor in a Miss USA pageant
27-year-old Kataluna Enriquez (pictured) -the first openly-transgender competitor in a Miss USA pageant, made history on Monday night when she took the stage
Bates was diagnosed with PTSD after leaving the Air Force, having spent a year stationed in South Korea – and she now works as an advocate for other veterans battling the disorder
Veronica Iris Bates, 21, currently attends American Military University, which is based in Charlestown, Virginia, where she is studying health science and criminal justice
She not only stood out during the swimsuit and evening gown competition, but received a roar of applause from the audience when she explained how businesses can be more environmentally conscious.
ABC-affiliate station WHAS11 shared congratulations following Smith’s win last night in a post, writing: ‘WOW!!! This is quite the accomplishment!! Our Elle Smith is your new MISS USA!’
Smith is the second Miss Kentucky winner to go on and take the Miss USA title. Tara Conner won the crown in 2006.
This year’s contest was the most diverse in its history.
Contest Kataluna Enriquez represented her state of Nevada as the first openly transgender woman to compete in Miss USA, but failed to crack to top 16 before she was eliminated.
Enriquez said she first began competing in pageants in 2016 while she was working as a model. And while speaking with NBC affiliate KVVU, Kataluna – who was born in the Philippines and moved to the US at age 10 – previously revealed that she is a survivor of physical and sexual abuse.
‘I didn’t have the easiest journey in life. It was a struggle for a moment. I struggled with physical and sexual abuse, I struggled with mental health,’ she said. ‘I didn’t have much growing up. I didn’t have support. But I am still able to thrive and I’m still able to survive and become a trailblazer for many.
Other diverse contestants included Amanda Torchia, 25, is of Afghan and Italian descent – making her the first Afghan woman to win Miss Connecticut USA
Miss Wyoming, Mackenzie Kern is a survivor of assault and often speaks out about it on her blog, in an attempt to empower other women
‘Don’t let your differences determine what you’re capable of. Your differences is anything what makes you unique, and you are capable of anything as long as you believe in yourself.’
The former model now works as a healthcare admin and owns her own clothing line, called KatalunaKouture.
Before she took the stage representatives from Enriquez’ home state expressed their pride in the groundbreaking contestant.
‘Kataluna represents the best of her community and our state and when she takes the stage, she’ll make history!’ Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted on Monday night.
Smith also beat out Miss Maine, who joined the United States Air Force after graduating high school, where she worked as a Security Forces member, guarding important assets and training military working dogs.
After spending a year stationed in South Korea when she was 19 years old, Bates was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and now works as an advocate for other veterans with the disorder, helping to raise awareness.
‘Being a veteran, I was unfortunately diagnosed with PTSD, and that’s something I want to look more into,’ she said.
‘I want to continue to advocate for my fellow veterans who have PTSD. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m trying to put my foot down and overcome it, and I know some people aren’t as lucky as I am,’ she added.
Other diverse contestants included Amanda Torchia, 25, is of Afghan and Italian descent – making her the first Afghan woman to win Miss Connecticut USA. She founded a youth program called Educate to Create, which advocates for equal opportunity within education, fosters animals and has launched a major modelling career, appearing in ads for brands such as Jovani, Terani Couture and Tarik Edi.
Fellow contestant, Miss Wyoming, Mackenzie Kern, 21, is a vocal assault survivor and uses her platform to share her experience and empower other women. She is currently studying at the University of Wyoming and started her own fashion brand and works as a social media manager for numerous businesses.
After graduating with a major in broadcast journalism, Smith took a job with ABC affiliate station WHAS11. Pictured: Smith reporting on a farming community helping out a widowed Indiana farmer
Elle said her participation in pageants doesn’t take away from her professionalism as a journalist. Pictured: Smith reports on the first Covid vaccinations in southern Indiana this year
ABC-affiliate station WHAS11 shared congratulations following Smith’s win last night in a post, writing: ‘WOW!!! This is quite the accomplishment!! Our Elle Smith is your new MISS USA!’. Pictured: Smith wearing her Miss Kentucky USA sash
Last week Smith gave an interview to colleague Hayley Minogue (pictured together) about the contest, revealing that it had been a dream for her since high school
Smith will now represent the US in the Miss Universe pageant on December 12 in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, Israel.
Israel’s Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov has said the pageant will go ahead despite the imposing travel restrictions to try to stave off the Omicron coronavirus variant.
On Saturday the country announced it would ban foreigners from entering the country, lengthen quarantines for citizens and residents returning from abroad and reinstate controversial cellphone surveillance designed to track infections.
However, Razvozov on Sunday said that Miss Universe participants would be granted waivers while possibly undergoing PCR testing every 48 hours and other precautionary measures.
‘This is an event that will be broadcast in 174 countries, a very important event, an event that Eilat, too, is very much in need of,’ he told reporters before the weekly cabinet meeting.
‘We will know how to manage this event. So, by using the waivers committee, we will have events like this, to which the country already committed itself and cannot cancel.’