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Review Of Miss USA 2023 Telecast: Laylah Rose's Vision Comes To Life

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     Noelia Voigt, a 23-year-old interior design student and a published children's book author from Park City, Utah was crowned Miss USA 2023 at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada on September 29, 2023. Voight's victory marks the second time Utah has won the coveted title, which does not count Charlotte Sheffield's promotion to Miss USA 1957 after the original winner, Leona Gage of Maryland, was dethroned for being married with children. In 1960, Utah's Linda Bement won Miss USA and was crowned later as Miss Universe. Voigt also makes history by being the first Venezuelan-American to win the title. 

      Voigt's court includes 1st runner-up Savannah Gankiewicz of Hawaii, 2nd runner-up Alexis Loomans of Wisconsin, 3rd runner-up Jasmine Daniels of Pennsylvania and 4th runner-up Lluvia Alzate of Texas.

     Rounding up the top 20 were the contestants from Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico (voted to the top 20 through online vote, "People's Choice"), North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. Of the 51 contestants, 13 were former state titleholders in either the Miss America system or Miss Teen USA system. 

     Special awards were given to the following: Jordan Naylor of Alaska (Miss Congeniality);  Annika Sharma of Massachusetts (Miss Photogenic);  Savannah Gankiewicz of Hawaii (Best State Costume, Best in Interview); Lluvia Alzate of Texas (Best in Swimwear); and Sydney Russell of Mississippi (Impact Award).

     This is the first Miss USA show produced under a new ownership by Laylah Rose, who is the CEO of VIP Pageantry network and owner of Laylah Rose Couture. Rose took over the Miss USA/Miss Teen USA organization in early August after its former CEO and President Crystle Stewart handed in her resignation due to allegations that the Miss USA 2022 contest had been rigged.  For the first time since 2019, the telecast was broadcast live via a commercial network, the CW channel. The show was co-hosted by Keltie Knight and Adrienne Bailon-Houghton while Miss USA 2022 Morgan Romano and reality star Jordan Kimball provided the backstage commentary.

     The judging panel consisted of five celebrities from the fashion, beauty and entertainment industry: designer Nicole Miller, actress Viveca A. Fox, beauty entrepreneur and social media influencer Patrick Starr, model Emina Cunmulaj Nazarian, and television personality Luann de Lesseps. Compared to the previous editions, this year's edition did not have entertainment.

     The two-hour show ran smoothly without any hitch, thanks to the fine orchestration by the two co-hosts. The stage was enormous, and the huge backdrop enhanced the majestic flair of the show which began with the presentation of all 51 contestants as they were introduced by a female voiceover. I was hoping that each contestant could introduce herself so the viewers could hear her voice (the last time this was done was back in 2016). In fact, the only voices we hear, besides the presenters and the female voiceover, are those of the top five as they were asked the final question. Next year, bring back the old self-intro format where the girls proudly scream their names and states as it adds to the theatricality of the pageant.

      This year, four additional spots were added, increasing the total to 20 spots, which was a wise move considering that this year's group of contestants was highly competitive. A new element was introduced: the top 20 semifinalists had to compete in swimsuit and evening gown - which was a brilliant idea because it compelled the girls to work extra hard to impress the judges and to make the top five. It also  gave generous airtime to the girls. 



     In the swimsuit round, the girls that caught my attention were Utah, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Texas, Florida, Nevada and Washington. In the evening gown round, the girls that tickled my fancy were Utah, Hawaii, Maryland, North Carolina and Washington. Only one contestant, New Mexico's Bianca Wright, opted for a one-piece. I like that current popular hits sung by the original artists were used as background music, such as Miley Cyrus's "Flowers" in the swimsuit competition. Notice that I have Washington, Dr. Samantha Gallia, in both rounds; I was quite dismayed that she did not advance to the top 5 considering that her performance had been flawless. The fact that she has "Dr." before her name is intriguing; never in the history of Miss USA, at least not to my knowledge, that a professional title has been added before the name of a contestant. I'm not sure if this is necessarily a good idea because it could promote elitism or feelings of underachievement in others. Imagine next year when some contestants - all above 25 years of age - have "Atty." or "Justice" or "CEO" before their names - and competing against younger women barely in their teens and have not even started college. If I were one of these youngsters, I would probably feel inept, dumb and not-so-beautifully confident. 

     I do share the sentiment of many fans who think that eliminating fifteen girls after the evening gown competition was rather drastic. In 2022, there were 16 semifinalists who were reduced to 12, then to the final 5 - which was ideal because it elevated the level of suspense. I would have preferred a 20-10-5 format because it's traditional and more climactic. But at the end of the day, I guess it doesn't matter what the format is as long as the the judges pick a great winner. And they did.


     There were memorable moments worth mentioning: Laylah Rose's heart-warming speech on women empowerment and positivity and posing with the Miss USA crown made by Mouawad Jewelry, a video montage of the current and former titleholders (including Miss Teen USA 1983 Ruth Zakarian who judged Miss Teen USA 2023, looking youthful still) sharing their experience while competing in their respective pageants, a video montage of the contestants in their state costumes, the presentation of the bubbly new Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivasta who was crowned the night before, Morgan Romano's emotional final walk and speech (she looked every inch a queen in her beautiful yellow ballgown), and... drum roll please... the return of the Miss USA Creed! 

     Yes, folks. The Miss USA Creed (Miss Universe had a similar one), was a set of beliefs or aims which guide someone’s actions. The Creed was read in the 1960s and 1970s, but had been retired since then. Imagine my surprise when it was revived during the 2023 finals! I’m not sure of the reason behind the revival, but I’m guessing that older pageant fans, longing for nostalgia, succeeded in persuading the show’s producers to yield to their request of bringing it back. Or that Laylah Rose wanted to incorporate old elements with a modern twist. Whatever the real reason is, the Creed has never been more relevant than now, especially in an industry that has been marred by all sorts of scandals in the last half-century. Seriously, I think every Miss USA contestant should be required to memorize the Creed and apply it in their daily lives. Oh, and one more thing... the scepter is back as well! The younger generation of fans probably wouldn't know what a scepter is, but to us older fans we remember that the queens of the past were awarded a scepter to symbolize their sovereignty. The only thing missing to complete the sovereign look is the cape that used to adorn the winners during their coronation. Who knows? Maybe it will appear next year! Oh, and maybe the throne, too, and a nice photo of the winner sitting in her throne and surrounded by her court! 

     Overall, the production was good and fast-paced. I like that the final question was not political. As Laylah Rose herself stated: "The final question is going to be really catered to them as an individual. It won't be a political question, I want to highlight them as individuals, and I really want them to shine within themselves and who they are, because that's exactly how Miss USA is chosen." This is certainly a wise decision. In the olden days, questions asked to the girls revolved around their background and not on complex issues. In this age of social media, artificial intelligence, and deep fake videos, a beauty queen should no longer be a potential subject of ridicule if she fails to answer hard-hitting political or controversial questions, but rather should be encouraged to cultivate her God-given skills and talents to further promote peace, justice, mutual understanding, sportsmanship, friendship and goodwill as stated in the Creed. Sorry, trolls. I guess you'll have to go someplace else to play your silly games because Miss USA ain't playin' with you.

     In my stories of my Instagram account @criticalbeautyofficial, I took two polls following the telecast. In the first poll, I asked my followers if they like the new Miss USA, Noelia Voigt. A whopping 86% of them said yes. In the second poll, I asked my followers how they would rate the show from paired scales: 1 - 4 (low to below average), 5 - 6 (average, slightly above average), 7 - 8 (above average), 9 - 10 (very good, outstanding). As you can see from the results below, the combined percentage of scales 7 - 8 and 9 - 10 added up to 79% - which means that a good majority of my followers liked the show. Surely, you cannot please everyone, but there is always room for improvement and I am convinced that Laylah Rose, a reasonable and approachable leader, will welcome any constructive critiques to make the next edition bigger, brighter and better. For the time being, let's embrace our new Miss USA and let's support Laylah in her mission to transform young women into formidable forces for good. #thedefinitionofpageantry


 

By Rafa Delfin, October 4, 2023


If you missed the show, you can watch it here:






     




 



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