17-year-old Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff of Kansas City, Missouri was crowned Miss Teen USA 2017, at the Phoenix Symphony Hall in Phoenix, Arizona on July 29. During her Top 5 interview, the Girl Scout Gold awardee discussed the importance of sustainable projects and revealed that she had been working with her state’s legislators to “change the lives of adults with developmental disabilities“. With her win, Sophia is now the Show Me State’s second Miss Teen USA titleholder, after Marissa Whitley in 2001.
It’s interesting to note that, while last year’s final five was dominated by blondes, this year’s was ethnically more diverse. 1st Runner-Up was Vanessa Mathison, who was close to capturing Oregon‘s fourth title. Completing the court were Nevada’s Alexis Smith, 2nd Runner-Up; Indiana‘s Paige Robinson, 3rd Runner-Up; and California‘s Jaanu Patel, 4th Runner-Up and her state’s first Teen USA candidate of Indian descent.
Rhode Island won the Miss Congeniality award for the second year in a row, this time by Alexa Papigiotis. Meanwhile, New Jersey‘s petite Briahna Reinstein reportedly won Miss Photogenic.
Completing the Top 15 were Arizona‘s Karly Riggs (a teen clone of Beverly D’Angelo), Iowa‘s Carley Arnold, Maryland‘s Taylor Spruill, New York‘s Isabella Griffith, Oklahoma‘s Baylee Ogle, Texas‘ Kirby Lindley, Utah‘s Rachel Bell, Vermont‘s Kelsey Golonka, West Virginia‘s Olivia Hutchison, and Wyoming‘s Autumn Schieferstein.
It’s a pleasant surprise to see Vermont, a state not normally associated with pageant success, placing for the third year in a row. However, fans were displeased over the exclusion of preliminary favorites like Georgia‘s Taylor Ward, South Carolina‘s Alexis Johnson (though their respective namesakes did advance in their place), and Hawaii‘s Lauren Teruya, whose preliminary performance was considered among the most entertaining. Miss Teen USA has always been known for its mercurial selection process. With MUO’s revamped criteria, expect this pageant to be more even unpredictable.
This was the pageant’s first year in the state of Arizona. The event was hosted by celebrity personal trainer Heidi Powell and E! correspondent Erin Lim, with special appearances by Miss USA 2017 Kara McCollough and Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittanaere and a guest performance by Mexican pop-star Jorge Blanco. The judging panel comprised of Miss Teen USA 2014 K. Lee Graham, entrepreneur and Wander Beauty co-founder Divya Gugnani, dancer/actress/model Kalani Hilliker, businesswoman Tamaya Petteway, and news anchor Syleste Rodriguez.
This year marked the pageant’s first decade off the airwaves. Since 2008, it has only been available through live streaming, with Facebook, XBox Live, and Youtube being the most frequent platforms. This year, Mixer and Playstation Network were added to the mix.