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So I have a connection to Sunday night’s Miss USA winner, Erin Brady of Connecticut.
I judged the Connecticut Miss USA qualifier in 2011. That was Erin’s first try at the Miss USA crown. She placed first runner-up in the competition, and earned a second place vote from me.
Brady was just as beautiful then, but what held her back in my eyes was her inexperience. She admitted she dealt with social anxiety and even on stage told the audience how ridiculously nervous she was. I thought that if she was having a hard time with a local pageant in Hartford, Vegas might be too much at this stage.
Hindsight is 20/20 and I still feel we made the right decision. She would have competed against Olivia Culpo last year, who of course went on to win Miss Universe. I’d like to think that the extra year of going through the pageant system helped Brady move on to the USA crown, but then again, that would be pure speculation on my part.
Olivia Culpo won the Miss USA crown last year, en route to also claiming the Miss Universe title. Her advice to the contestants at this year’s USA pageant is to “work your hardest,” and I’m certain she meant “work” and not “werk.”
“There tends to be a pecking order with the girls behind the stage that nobody really sees,” Culpo explained on “The Ralphie Show.” “You know who the frontrunners are because you know who’s working the hardest.”
Culpo cited examples of what some of the state qualifiers do to catch the judges’ attention, such as never removing their heels, sitting down, or nodding off during rehearsals.
“I never wanted to think of it as that, but I did want to think of it in terms of how hard I was working and I did know that I was working my hardest,” she responded when I asked whether she considered herself a lead candidate last year. “I wanted to work as hard as I could.”
These are big shoes for 19 year-old Brittany Stenovitch to fill. The Cranston, RI-native is from the same town as Culpo and will represent the Ocean State in this year’s competition. The reigning Miss Universe made no bones about the fact that she’s pulling for the contestant that she crowned.
“I gotta keep it real with my ‘Rhody’ peeps!” Culpo insisted.
The Miss USA pageant airs Sunday night at 9 on NBC. The event will be co-hosted by Giuliana Rancic and Nick Jonas. Internet sensation Katherine Webb, who competed last year as Miss Alabama USA, will not judge but will be in attendance. Webb found instant fame earlier this year when ESPN play-by-play man Brent Musburger commented about her attractiveness during the BCS National Championship Game.
“That’s an incredible story,” remarked Culpo. “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer girl.”
Usually if a person strikes celebrity oil and becomes famous, they immediately move out to Los Angeles or New York.
The story of how Katherine Webb gained fame and over 200,000 Twitter followers in 24 hours isn’t exactly your usual story.
Webb became an Internet sensation when ESPN’s Brent Musburger mused over her as cameras caught her cheering on boyfriend and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron during the BCS Title Game on Monday night. The former Miss Indiana USA since commented that she was flattered; Musburger through a network statement apologized for his remarks.
It doesn’t seem other people minded either. Webb’s follower count on Twitter quickly grew to six digits within 12 hours, far surpassing her boyfriend. It seems great for someone who competed for the title of Miss USA just this last June in Las Vegas.
“I’m currently living in Los Angeles and I’m pursuing (modeling),” Webb noted in a phone interview on “The Ralphie Show,” before dropping an interesting piece of news. “Now that me and AJ are dating, I’m pretty sure I’ll probably be moving back home and focusing on our relationship.”
That’s right: the woman that America swooned over Monday night is putting her boyfriend, of only one month mind you, before her seemingly-now-booming modeling career. But Webb is just getting started; she also revealed what she plans to use her new-found platform for.
“My heart and my passion is for being a coach and a leader for the younger generation and for the kids,” she explained – immediately striking a similar tone to the many pageant contestants you’ve heard on TV. Only this time, there was no crown at stake. “I love nothing more than being a good example to kids and just doing good for others.”
Webb also stated that she’ll be even more careful with what she posts for her followers to see. But, she won’t have to worry about LeBron James coming across her tweets in his timeline though. To the curiosity of many, the NBA star followed and then unfollowed the QB’s girlfriend.
“I have no idea, and I have no idea how to answer that question,” Webb said before laughing. “My roommate in California, Miss California USA; I guess Kobe Bryant ended up seeing that LeBron followed me so (Kobe) decided to follow her. I don’t know! I don’t know what’s going on with that.”
The model ended up pulling an all-nighter on Monday, celebrating ‘Bama’s win in the team’s hotel lobby with McCarron’s family and friends before embarking on a rather ambitious round of media interviews. She also received love on Twitter from a few non-sports celebrities, including Donald Trump. The real estate mogul announced that Webb will be a judge for next year’s Miss USA pageant, while perhaps inadvertently confirming that the competition will once again be held in Las Vegas.
For the first time in 15 years, Miss USA has to vacate her crown… to become Miss Universe.
20 year-old Olivia Culpo of Cranston, RI won the 61st Miss Universe pageant during a live, televised broadcast from the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. The middle child of five won’t be moving out of her apartment, much less the city she now calls home, for the next year.
“It’s just a really interesting city,” Culpo told me last month when she visited “The Ralphie Show” on 95.5 PLJ in New York. “I love the culture; I love the different people who come together. It’s just like a giant melting pot of cultures.”
The former Boston University student also joked that New York’s operating hours go hand-in-hand with her nonstop schedule.
“I love it here. Nothing ever closes,” she said. “That’s great for people who don’t sleep like me.”
Matter of fact, Culpo noted that her responsibilities as Miss USA actually put her at a disadvantage against other countries.
“You’d be surprised; for ‘Universe’ there’s such less time to prepare because I have my duties as Miss USA, which are my dedications to philanthropy and other things like that,” Culpo said. “And then on top of that, I have to prepare myself for Miss Universe.”
But in the end, it all worked out for the first-time pageant contestant – Culpo had never attempted to win a crown prior to winning Miss Rhode Island USA at the end of 2011. The Ocean State native won out over 88 other contestants from across the globe in a NBC telecast hosted by Andy Cohen and Giuliana Rancic. Cee Lo Green, Nigel Barker, and Scott Disick served on the celebrity-filled panel of judges.
And as for that vacated crown – Miss Maryland Nana Meriwether, who placed first-runner up in Miss USA, will assume the title and its responsibilities.
She’s been on a strict regimen – waking up at the crack of dawn for workouts and following a rigorous diet. But what is Miss USA to do on Thanksgiving, less than a month away from the Miss Universe pageant?
If you’re 20 year-old Cranston, RI native Olivia Culpo – you might end up counting it as a cheat day.
“You have to treat yourself,” Culpo told me in studio on “The Ralphie Show.” “I think on that one day, I’ll treat myself a little, but I have to stay focused. Otherwise, slippery slope!”
The crown-holder doesn’t buy in to the idea that her Miss Universe entourage would keep her in line – not when she comes from a big, New England-based Italian-American family.
“They like to stuff food down your throat,” Culpo joked. “My mom’s always like, ‘Eat your sandwich!’”
Before anyone partakes in the holiday delicacies, the Culpo family will be in New York to watch Olivia appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Miss USA then plans to head back up to Rhode Island for the remainder of the day, but soon enough she’ll find herself back in New York. After all, the Miss Universe pageant is in just a few weeks. The competition airs on NBC December 19 from Las Vegas at 8 pm. Fan voting is already live at this link.
“You’d be surprised; for ‘Universe’ there’s such less time to prepare because I have my duties as Miss USA, which are my dedications to philanthropy and other things like that,” Culpo revealed. “And then on top of that, I have to prepare myself for Miss Universe.”
Between the daily itinerary and preparations, it leaves the 20 year-old little personal time. Thankfully for Culpo, she lives in the city that never sleeps.
“I love it here. Nothing ever closes,” she noted. “That’s great for people who don’t sleep like me.”
All kidding aside, Culpo revealed that once her term is finished, she’ll look to continue her college education from Boston University at New York University.
Julia Belechak found out that her pageant “big sister” Sheena Monnin vacated the Miss Pennsylvania USA crown the same way many others did: on Facebook.
“I did get a call the very next day from Sheena though, telling me about her resignation and explaining some things,” Belechak revealed in an interview on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “That kind of made up for finding it out on Facebook.”
The Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA title holder had made numerous appearances with Monnin in the six months they that they wore the crowns for the Keystone State. With the vacant title, Belechak will now assume the responsibilities of Miss Pennsylvania USA through December.
“I had a wonderful time getting to know her,” the 18 year-old said of Monnin. “She’s a great person.”
Belechak said that her conversation with Monnin following the resignation consisted of many of the same topics that the former titleholder would discuss with Ann Curry on NBC’s “TODAY.” But despite the incident and some of Monnin’s claims, the teenager has enjoyed her experience thus far with the Miss Universe Organization.
“I wouldn’t give it up for the world,” she said. “It’s been the best six months ever. I’ve achieved my goals as Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA and now I hope to achieve my goal as Miss Teen USA.”
Belechak will have her chance soon enough, as she prepares to fly to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas for the Miss Teen USA pageant. The event will stream live on-line July 28. The Cranberry Township native says that in addition to the competition, she’s most looking forward to the beach.
I joined A.J. Hammer on HLN’s “Showbiz Tonight” to weigh in on Miss Pennsylvania USA Sheena Monnin calling Donald Trump’s Miss USA Pageant rigged. I was a judge for the Miss PA USA pageant, which took place last December in Pittsburgh.
Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart and I joined Isha Sesay on HLN’s “Evening Express” to chat about the resignation of Miss Pennsylvania USA, Sheena Monnin. I was a judge for the Miss PA USA pageant, which took place last December in Pittsburgh.
On WBRE’s “PA Live!” for this week’s “The Ralphie Report,” I talked about my interviews with One Direction’s Niall Horan and Carly Rae Jepsen, plus previewed Justin Bieber’s prime-time special and the Miss USA pageant.