Thursday, June 2, 2016 | 2:57 p.m.
2016 Miss USA prelims
The 52 contestants of the 2016 Miss USA Pageant glided as golden goddesses onstage at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday night for their preliminary competition. Fifteen of them will be selected, after today’s one-on-one judges’ interviews, and revealed at the start of Sunday’s Fox telecast.
Viewers at home have a new app to help determine the winner by voting for their favorite to influence the judges. It would be historic if Alex Miller, Miss 52 USA and chosen by America online, went all the way and succeeded fellow Oklahoma beauty Olivia Jordan.
Alex was runner-up for Miss Oklahoma and faced a difficult choice when Olivia won Miss USA last year in Baton Rouge, La. As runner-up, she could fill Olivia’s shoes and forfeit another attempt at the title or turn it down to compete again.
Alex is an ambassador of Infant Crisis Services of Oklahoma. As godmother and aunt to a child affected by Shaken Baby Syndrome, Alex decided to step into the Miss Oklahoma role to bring awareness to the cause — and under pageant rules disqualified herself from future competition.
However, when Miss USA decided to run an Internet contest to have fans select one woman to compete Sunday, Alex was chosen. She placed first from more than 1,000. Now one of Sunday’s storylines will be to see if she makes Top 15.
If Alex makes the final cut, will she then go all the way to give Oklahoma a repeat win? Taylor Gorton won this year’s Miss Oklahoma title and also represents the Sooner State in this year’s pageant.
Alex, who graduated from Wichita State with a degree in marketing, works as a technical recruiter for TEK Systems and won plenty of cheers during prelims. Our thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue for his photo gallery and videographer Richard Corey for his video posted on YouTube.
“The voting app for fans is up on our website, and the votes have already started coming in,” Miss Universe Organization CEO Paula Shugart told me.” This is a brave experiment to have viewers at home vote and help determine the outcome. I’m happy with the way the Internet search took place, and I’m happy with tonight’s preliminary.
“We have wonderful girls competing, and I’m glad that I’m not a judge. It’s going to be very interesting to see how far Alexandra goes. We have no idea because it’s in the hands of the judges and fans. But it’s the first time it’s been so interactive, and they have a chance to pick the winner.”
My interviews with Paula and Olivia were posted this morning. Producer R.A. Clark, son of the late Dick Clark, told me: “Throughout pageant history, there have been 51 contestants. Normally, there wouldn’t be a Miss USA 52 as part of the program. So this year for the first time with this social activation, the viewers at home will play an important role at each step of the competition.
“Anything could happen and probably will because it’s live television, and we have to adapt on our feet instantly as nothing is prepared. It’s going to add a lot of drama to the production because even we won’t know what the viewers are deciding!”
RAC added: “The action will start right from the top of the three-hour broadcast. You’ll meet all 52 contestants, then we immediately have the first elimination down to 15. We have up to 15 cameras to shoot every aspect of the pageant.
“I’m very excited about bringing our two hosts — Julianne Hough and Terrence “J” — together. They have a good vibe, great chemistry, and from the script read-through, I’m expecting a lot of fun moments.
“Julianne is vivacious and well-spoken. She embodies the philosophies of the Miss USA Pageant and Miss Universe Organization. You will see a lot of Las Vegas in the show.”
Emmy Adams of Henderson is representing our Silver State. You can meet all the contestants at the Miss USA YouTube channel with their incredible stories.
What does it take to keep 52 gorgeous girls looking glamorous under the bright lights of Miss USA? Backstage where visiting hockey teams will one day hopefully use locker rooms, they have become well-equipped beauty salons for Sunday’s 4 p.m. pageant. There are 19 hairstylists working with 19 hair dryers and 12 makeup artists with their pencils and powders.
Check back Friday for exclusive news on a very tasty Wicked Whisper & Racy Rumor! What are Julianne and Terrence trying to cook up with TV personality Steve Harvey, who was involved in controversy at the Miss Universe Pageant at Planet Hollywood in December for announcing the wrong winner.
Olivia’s 52-week reign as Miss USA — she placed second runner-up at Miss Universe behind Miss Philippines and Miss Colombia — ends Sunday. The possible stories of her successor are endless.
Could Oklahoma repeat with Taylor or Alex? Could our Emmy win, following in the high heels of Nia Sanchez in 2014, who became the first-ever Nevada contestant to win the crown, then finished runner-up at Miss Universe?
Could Miss Michigan Susie Lieca, daughter of a Polish immigrant who now works as a spine specialist with orthopedic and neural surgeons, be a finalist? Could California competitor Nadia Mejia, a 20-year-old Christian singer with a mixed heritage of Ecuadorian and Lebanese, sing her way to the top?
Follow us Sunday with our esteemed editor Don Chareunsy’s live blog and my tweets @Robin_Leach. We’ll be back Monday with a report and photo gallery.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.