After a night of glamour, intensity and expected controversy from the Baton Rouge River Center, Miss Oklahoma USA Olivia Jordan, who said the nation needed to address its racial divides, has been crowned Miss USA 2015.
Jordan, wearing a fuchsia ball gown, was asked what the next hot-button issue that the nation needed to address would be, and the blond, 26-year-old model delivered a confident and concise answer about how the nation needed to become more racially accepting and give all people the same rights and privileges.
Her comments capped off an event that was mired in controversy after Miss USA/Miss Universe owner and presidential candidate Donald Trump made disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants, causing two national television stations to drop coverage, and others set to host or perform at the pageant to drop out.
However, no controversy surfaced during the pageant, and the three-hour program went off without a hitch.
Miss Oklahoma had the opportunity to touch on the controversy when the top five contestants were asked a series of questions about topics ranging from race relations to CEOs’ salaries to political correctness.
Two of the top five — Miss Rhode Island and Miss Nevada — could not answer their questions.
The women were also all asked which female they would like to see on the $10 bill that is being redesigned. Among their answers were Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Oprah Winfrey, Sisters of Mercy Founder Catherine McAuley and whomever is elected the first female president of the United States.
The River Center was lit up with bright colors and sparkle as the field of 51 contestants was winnowed down to the final one standing. Some of the women selected as finalists during the night had ethnic or minority backgrounds, with four Hispanic women making it into the top 15.
Miss Louisiana USA Candice Bennatt advanced to the top 10, marking the second year in a row that Louisiana’s contestant advanced past the preliminaries. After showing off her swimsuit and her body-hugging white, silver and gold evening gown, Bennatt did not advance to the top five in the competition.
Last year’s Miss Louisiana USA Brittany Guidry finished the 2013 pageant as the third runner-up.
Despite the Miss USA pageant losing all of its hosts, performers and most judges, Miss Universe President Paula Shugart said several hours before the show began that she believed this year’s pageant would be the best ever.
Shugart, the president of Miss Universe/Miss USA, also called East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden a hero, thanking him for continuing to support the pageant. She also singled out Reelz channel CEO Stan E. Hubbard for stepping in to air the competition.
“I have known Kip Holden for 10 years now,” Shugart said. “You’ve always been a hero to me. We’ve always had a wonderful relationship. I now want to move to Louisiana so I can vote for him for lieutenant governor.”
Holden also complimented the Miss USA pageant and said the people of Baton Rouge had the heart and tenacity to work against the odds when the pageant became embroiled in controversy.
Trump has continued to take heat for his comments in a presidential campaign speech when he said Mexico was sending drug dealers, rapists and criminals into the United States.
Trump tweeted late Saturday that he would not be attending the pageant because he was campaigning in Phoenix, Arizona.
“Wishing all well!” Trump said in the tweet.
He attended the pageant in Baton Rouge last year.
When Shugart was asked about Trump not attending the pageant, former Miss Universe and Miss USA Brook Lee — who is judging this year’s pageant — began to clap.
Shugart said the focus of the pageant was about the contestants facing off for the crown, despite Trump’s presidential campaign out west.
Shugart assembled a new team of former Miss USA and Miss Universe crown winners to judge the pageant, who referred to themselves as “The Avengers.”
Another new person added to the Miss USA lineup of hosts and performers was former Baton Rouge rapper Master P, who was tapped to appear backstage as the pageant unfolded.
Master P, whose real name is Percy Miller, was born in New Orleans and lived with his family in Baton Rouge for several years in a posh Country Club of Louisiana home.
Miller called Hubbard, of the Reelz channel, a close friend of his, and said he was happy to help the pageant.
“This is not about Donald Trump, this is not about the controversy; this is about the women,” Miller said.