The Miss USA pageant returns to Planet Hollywood on May 16, marking its third year on a Las Vegas stage.
Fifty-one glamorous women from every state and the District of Columbia -- including Miss Nevada Julianna Erdesz -- will compete for the diamond-encrusted tiara and the honor of representing the United States in the Miss Universe pageant.
They're also competing for a lot of swag, including a shoe wardrobe from Nina Footwear, a scholarship from the New York Film Academy, hair care products, evening wear, luggage and a yearlong salary, among other prizes.
So far, the marriage between Sin City and the beauty pageant is going well, says a Miss USA spokeswoman.
"We're ecstatic," says Lark-Marie Anton, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Miss Universe Organization, which owns and runs Miss USA. "The (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority) and Planet Hollywood have been great partners. I think Las Vegas is just such a sexy city, and contestants have a great time. For the fans, it's a great destination for them to visit, and the feedback we've gotten is part of the reason we keep coming back."
If you're a would-be fan who's finding it difficult to sort out all these pageants, keep in mind that Miss USA contestants are judged on evening wear, swimsuit and interviews. There is no talent competition as there is in Miss America. This also is the pageant, under the Miss Universe organization, that is co-owned by Donald Trump.
Last year, Miss California Carrie Prejean became a household name when she caused a stir during the pageant with her answer to a question about gay marriage. She came in first runner-up. Eventually, she was stripped of her state crown, but Prejean went on to model and write a memoir about her Miss USA controversy, proving a contestant doesn't have to win to build name recognition. Or to land a book deal.
Helping Miss USA reach her goals is part of the organization's mission, Anton says. While Miss USA will raise money for breast cancer research during her one-year reign, she also gets to work on her career, whatever it may be.
"My job, our job, is to facilitate and foster their goals," Anton says. "Our reigning Miss USA wants to be in broadcast journalism, and we've been helping with that."
Contestants arrived May 3 and set out on a media blitz and several public appearances. They hosted a pool party at Caesars Palace, sang karaoke at a sushi restaurant and did fundraising. They also have been rehearsing for the upcoming preliminaries and the pageant.
The preliminary show, with swimsuit and evening gown preliminaries, is scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Theatre for the Performing Arts at Planet Hollywood, 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. South. It's open to the public. Tickets are $44 to $57.75.
A dress rehearsal will be at 10 a.m. May 16, with tickets costing $26.25. The finals will be presented at 4 p.m. May 16, with the show airing locally by tape delay on NBC (KVBC-TV, Channel 3 at 7 p.m.). Tickets to the finals are $84-$162.75. To purchase tickets, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@ reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564.