Miss USA 2018 Candidate Review (North Carolina to Wyoming)

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North Carolina – Caelynn Miller-Keyes
She’s improved considerably since representing Virginia in Miss Teen USA 2013 and now even channels a fiercer version of 2014 winner Nia Sanchez in certain angles. In another era, she would have been classified as middle of the pack. But with her compelling story of having experienced sexual assault and now being an advocate herself, consider her placement a lock.

North Dakota – Abigail Pogatshnik
Well, she’s not exactly the next Audra Mari, but she does have striking features.

Ohio – Deneen Penn
Her looks are placement-worthy, even though her preliminary evening gown was polarizing. And it’s not every year that we see a gorgeous contestant who lists “beekeeper” as her occupation.

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Oklahoma – Cheyene Darling
To be quite honest, we find her a wee bit overrated, though she did slay during the preliminaries. Whether or not she can substantiate the hype now depends on whether or not she gave a strong interview.

Oregon – Toneata Morgan
This blonde bombshell is clearly her state’s best shot in years. And while starting a boutique isn’t exactly one’s idea of WME/IMG bait, for anyone to start a respectable business from scratch is already a laudable feat.

Pennsylvania – Olivia Suchko
She’s more photogenic than telegenic. We’re still reeling from her gorgeous predecessor’s unjust non-placement, which probably won’t be vindicated just yet.

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Rhode Island – Daescia DeMoranville
Well, she is cute, but cuteness isn’t a trait we associate with other Rhode Islanders who recently fared well in international pageants, like Olivia Culpo and Anea Garcia.

South Carolina – Tori Sizemore
With the glorious exception of Alyssa Campanella, former Miss Teen USA 1st runners-up who crossed over to this pageant ended up with either lower placements or, worse, not placing altogether. Much as this 2013 alum performed creditably in the preliminaries, we have this gnawing feeling she’ll follow that pattern.

South Dakota – Madison Nipe
Like Nebraska, this Aishwarya Rai look-alike is one of the most facially stunning girls this year. And considering that it’s only been two years since the Mount Rushmore State ended their 42-year placement droughtit’s nice to see them taking a step towards consistency.

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Tennessee – Alexandra Harper
The usually-formidable Volunteer State uncharacteristically missed the cut thrice within the last five years. This striking contender stands a strong chance of not only following through with last year’s recovery, but also making her mother, Miss Tennessee USA 1981 Sharon Kay Steakly, proud.

Texas – Logan Lester
Not everybody’s convinced that Texas can put itself back in contention, which could spell tragedy considering that it never missed the cut for more than two years in a row. Then again, there must be something special about somebody who could manage to beat a former Miss Teen USA to win the state title (Better luck next time, Danielle Doty!). Couple that with her impressive achievements in the real estate field, and perhaps Team Lone Star can still keep the faith.

Utah – Narine Ishhanov
Exactly the same case as Pennsylvania, except this one’s Armenian.

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Vermont – Maia-Jena Allo
She has beautiful eyes, but her facial features are on the sharp side overall.

Virginia – Ashley Vollrath
Well, it appears this state is going through the same fallow period which both Tennessee and Texas went through recently. This girl might still pull a surprise, but it will likely be a huge upset.

Washington – Abigail Hill
It’s been 20 years since this state scored a convincing placement – we say “convincing”, because the 2004 placement was considered a jaw-dropping surprise. This lady’s a last minute favorite, if there ever was one. She may not have been a pre-pageant favorite, but her preliminary performance was definitely one of last week’s most outstanding surprises. Having two former Miss Washington USAs in the selection committee also bodes well.

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West Virginia – Casey Lassiter
She’s a middling contender. Then again, the West Virginian candidates of 2005 and 2016 were considered middling contenders and look where they ended up.

Wisconsin – Regina Gray
Much as her perplexing hairstyle constitutes a styling emergency, her impressive accolades and back story will likely earn her brownie points.

Wyoming – Callie Bishop
At 28, she’s the oldest among all this year’s contestants who previously competed in Miss Teen USA. And like Louisiana, she also benefits from the expanded age limit. Yes, her flimsy catwalk conjures Chelsea Cooley flashbacks, but the fact that she survived a near-fatal infection which required one of her ribs to be removed makes her a potential worthy wild card.

 

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Miss USA 2018 Candidate Review (Louisiana to New York)

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Louisiana – Lauren Vizza
One of the two contestants who benefitted from the recently-expanded age limit (28), also happens to be the host delegate. Yes, she is facially striking, and yes, she’s competing on home court, but objectively speaking, there are other far more solid performers in this batch. Still, a possible placement shouldn’t be discounted.

Maine – Marina Gray
Tiny girl from a tiny state. She works for the military and was once recognized as Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year in her unit. But before you dismiss her as “White Deshauna”, her heart-wrenching back story of having been emancipated from her family at age 16 could earn her more points.

Maryland – Brittinay Nicolette
This redhead serves as Transplant Coordinator for the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland and as an advocate against sexual assault and domestic violence. Apart from that WME/IMG-luring resume, she also looked great in the preliminaries – probably enough for her to end her state’s two-year drought.

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Massachusetts – Allissa Latham
It’s been 20 years since her state won its first title and what a way to celebrate that anniversary. This future healthcare executive stole the limelight from many pre-pageant favorites last week with one of the bounciest catwalks in this bunch. Now, it looks like she’s ready to steal a semi-final spot as well.

Michigan – Elizabeth Johnson
While not a clear-cut frontrunner, this Krav Maga expert is involved in a multitude of relevant causes, apart from being a solid performer. Sash power also might help.

Minnesota – Kalie Wright
She’s actually from Idaho. In fact, she follows the footsteps of her predecessor, who also once competed in Miss America representing a different state and eventually crossed over to this pageant with better results. Looks-wise, she seems deserving of a similar  lofty feat. But with so many other humanitarian factors now being considered in the selection process, it would be a relief to see her at least make the cut.

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Mississippi – Laine Mansour
She’s another preliminary standout and to be quite honest, she’s even more facially striking than another Lebanese who competed in this pageant eight years ago and won. But again, with so many different factors considered in the selection process nowadays, she’s going to need more than a pretty face to advance.

Missouri – Tori Kruse
Last year’s candidate benefitted from the distinction of being this state’s first black representative. This year’s bet doesn’t benefit from such extra mileage.

Montana – Dani Walker
Her Youtube page has more than 10,000 subscribers as of this writing. That may or may not be her key to ranking higher.

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Nebraska – Sarah Rose Summers
Quite easily the face of this year’s pageant and, as her surname suggests, she has an extremely sunny personality to boot. To be fair, she’s now a far more formidable contender than she was in her Teen stint six years ago. But with several other standout preliminary performances last week, will her pretty face be enough?

Nevada – Carolina Urrea
This year’s perceived frontrunners from Florida and Georgia are Puerto Rican and Colombian, respectively. As for this former Nuestra Belleza Latina contestant, she once overcame homelessness at a young age in addition to delivering a fine preliminary performance. Could there be room for a Mexican on top as well? It sure seems that way.

New Hampshire – Michelle McEwan
While her name suggests otherwise, this girl is Thai and, in fact, speaks the language fluently. Now, if only she had the same fierceness as Thai contestants.

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New Jersey – Alexa Noone
This flight attendant of Filipino-Nicaraguan descent has a passing resemblance to Ariana Grande. She’s leagues behind Chhavi Verg (Read: ROBBED), but having identical twin brothers with special needs might be her ticket to a back-to-back placement.

New Mexico – Kristen Leyva
While this mechanical engineer won’t likely be the Latina-of-choice, her “woman-rocking-a-man’s-job” back story means she shouldn’t be dismissed that easily.

New York – Genesis Suero
She aims to be the first Dominican-born Miss USA, as commentated by Erin Lim in the preliminaries, though it’s worth remembering that 2003 winner Susie Castillo is half-Dominican. Now prior to the pageant, Latin fans initially envisioned the Final Two to be between her and her Florida namesake. Alas, that scenario became slightly less conceivable last week. She sizzled in preliminary swimsuit, but the wonky tower-bun she sported in preliminary evening gown might have been too much of a styling risk. It pains us to say this, but among the four perceived Latina frontrunners in this bunch, she now stands the risk of becoming the sacrificial lamb.

 

 

Miss USA 2018 Candidate Review (Alabama to Kentucky)

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Alabama – Hannah Brown
This interior designer seems to have the competitive edge to her state back in the running after its seven-year placement streak was broken last year. But with the new management’s emphasis on achievements and compelling back stories, she might have to fight tooth and claw to secure a spot.

Alaska – Brooke Johnson
The Last Frontier
ended its 27-year placement drought last year, thanks to the gorgeous Alyssa London. Her petite successor may not be a shoo-in, but her interesting looks and polished stage presence make her a worthy dark horse. Being the first female photojournalist of Coastal Television might help.

Arizona – Nicole Smith
Diagnosed with ADD at the age of eight, she is now an entrepreneur who launched her own beauty brand. Right now, she seems to be edged out by other equally-strong candidates, but her solid performance could make her a worthy alternate.

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Arkansas – Lauren Weaver
The daughter of a breast cancer survivor of eight years, this Miss Teen USA alum has blossomed significantly since her 2014 stint. She could easily be touted as a Top Five shoo-in based on looks alone. But with the recently-revamped criteria, her prospects now depend on how moved the judges, sorry, members of the selection committee, are with her back story.

California – Kelley Johnson
In a year where nearly 1/5 of the delegates stand in the 5’4-5’5 range, it’s difficult to miss a 6’2 stunner, even if you try. Followers of Miss America will also recognize her as the 2016 2nd Runner-Up who incorporated her profession into her talent presentation: a monologue about a nurse treating a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease. She also drew mixed reactions for citing Ellen DeGeneres as a woman she wants to put on the $10 bill, which, naturally, led to an appearance in The Ellen Show. Even without that prior exposure, the committee will likely reward her for her solid preliminary performance. The question now is: Can she replicate or even surpass her previous lofty finish, when she was still Miss Colorado? And speaking of Colorado…

Colorado – Chloe Brown
This orthopedic sales assistant doesn’t have the same spark as her Teen counterpart, who scored a surprising 2nd Runner-Up finish last weekend, so it’s unlikely that she’ll replicate that strong showing.

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Connecticut – Jamie Hughes
Her coming from a multicultural family and her involvement with the Make-A-Wish Foundation could earn her some extra nods, but apart from those, she’s in the middle of the pack.

Delaware – Sierra Wright
It’s comforting to know that her state no longer bears the burden of having zero placements, but that breakthrough has yet to be followed through. This one-time American Idol aspirant (which season, though?) may be a long shot, but her pretty face and solid evening gown presentation could make her a worthy shocker.

District of Colombia – Bryce Armstrong
Attention will be directed towards her for patently obvious reasons. Yes, a lieutenant and a scientist are tough acts to follow back story-wise, but this bakeshop owner still delivered a placement-worthy preliminary performance.

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Florida – Génesis Dávila
It’s been a long and arduous journey for this boriqua. She’s taken shots at representing Puerto Rico internationally, having placed 1st Runner-Up in Miss Intercontinental 2012 and had a far less fruitful run in Miss World two years laterIn this pageant, she tried out for Miss 52 in 2016 but was ultimately shut out. And last year, she became the center of a dethronement scandal for using her own make-up team in the state pageant. It’s nice to know that the dust has settled since then, and it’s a thrill seeing her bringing her A- game.  Will she finally end her pageant career with a bang?

Georgia – Marianny Egurrola
With 16 Top Five placements throughout this pageant’s history, it’s hard to fathom why the Peach State has never won the title. But after delivering a fiery performance during the preliminaries, this Colombian-born bombshell might just secure that overdue breakthrough. And, well, with the MUO continuously trying to appease Colombians with consecutive Miss Universe Top 3 placements as of late, crowning her would be a nice additional token.

Hawaii – Julianne Chu
To her credit, this Miss Teen USA 2010 alum looked her best during the preliminaries, but she’ll most probably be overtaken by other favorites.

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Idaho – Téa Draganovic
Bosnian women, albeit donning different sashes, have been recognized by the MUO system before – not bad for a country that has yet to make its Miss Universe debut. This year, a woman of similar lineage has been making a positive impression in Miss USA thus far. While far from being a shoo-in, she could still pull a refreshing surprise.

Illinois – Karolina Jasko
There was early clamor for this photogenic Polish-American to sustain, even surpass, her predecessor’s Top 5 showing last year. However, the buzz dissipated a bit after her rather flat preliminary performance. Her best shot now would be an upset placement.

Indiana – Darrian Arch
Had she competed before the WME/IMG takeover, this Maya Rudolph dead ringer would have easily occupied the cellar. But now, being aspiring doctor who recently established a partnership with the Indiana Donor Network might salvage her chances.

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Iowa – Jenny Valliere
This blogger one of the oldest contestants at 27, but also one of the shortest at 5’4. Among this year’s bevy of strong candidates of Latin lineage, she is the likeliest to trail behind.

Kansas – Melanie Shaner
You never know. She’s a solid contender, and her sister candidate won Miss Teen USA last weekend. Some of the good juju might spread on her.

Kentucky – Braea Tilford
It would be easy to dismiss her as another potential also-ran based on photos alone, but after her impeccable preliminary performance last week, a shock placement is now more conceivable.