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Miss USA 2005
April 11, 2005, Baltimore, Md.

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Brittany Hogan
Miss California USA, Brittany Hogan, tours Baltimore's harbor.

Photo courtesy of Miss Universe L.P., LLLP

The death of Pope John Paul II on April 2, 2005, presented a unique problem for the Pageant News Bureau.

For one thing, PNB is run by working journalists, some of whom must now put aside pageant news assignments to cover the events at the Vatican. This is obviously not the first time world events have affected our staffing. But more importantly, the timing of the death raises a major issue of taste.

The pope is the closest thing in the modern world to an international spiritual leader. The official nine-day period of mourning will be observed by hundreds of millions of people around the globe, including many of our own readers. Some would prefer not to focus on pageant coverage during that time.

As our readers know, that nine-day period is also the run-up to the Miss USA Pageant, which we are committed to covering. To show our respect but preserve our tradition of full coverage, we have decided to continue to report and write, but to suspend publication of new material until the mourning period is past. This decision was made by senior board members, none of whom is Roman Catholic. We wish to all our readers peace and comfort during this difficult time.

Mighty, mighty Miss USA

A half-century ago, the Miss USA Pageant was a struggling infant. Its umbilical cord had not even been cut: It was a U.S. preliminary still staged jointly with Miss Universe. The Miss America Pageant, which had recently forsworn its reputation as a "beauty contest" -- and inadvertently sparked the founding of Miss Universe -- was beginning its epic reign as a powerhouse of American television.

Twenty years ago, Miss USA was a modest success. Most people had heard of it, and many had seen it. But it still operated in the shadow of Miss America, which derided the more glamour-oriented contest as a "skin show" for voluptuous underachievers.

Today, how things have changed! On the American pageant scene, Miss USA is the only superpower, while Miss America struggles even to remain televised. The "skin show" is more beauty-oriented than ever, but the "bimbo" label is long forgotten. Doctors and lawyers compete for the Miss USA crown, and aren't ashamed to wear it.

Sociologically, America has become a Miss USA country. But there is more to the change than that. Miss USA would not stand so triumphantly astride the land if not for Miss Universe Inc.'s flamboyant co-owner, Donald Trump.

Trump is such a familiar figure that sometimes we forget how remarkable he is. He has moved from the quintessential "hard business" of real estate to the center of show business. America, not coincidentally, has moved in the same direction. Maybe he is leading, maybe he is following. Maybe he is just riding the wave. But this is a man who knows where he's going. PNB salutes him.

Will the world go the way of America? That's a bigger question. The rejuvenated Miss World Pageant, based in Britain and forging close ties to China, is braced for global competition with the American-based Miss Universe. It even promises to build a viable presence on U.S. soil, something it has never managed to do so far.

When that battle is joined, we will cover it. Meanwhile, let's all enjoy the Battle of Baltimore, Miss USA 2005.

Brittany HoganMore than dreamin'

There are probably more former Miss USAs living in California than anywhere else. In some ways, Miss USA is the very embodiment of the "California Girl." But the Golden State, although it has far more women than any other state, has never been dominant at Miss USA. It has never had two winners in succession, and its most recent winner was more than a decade ago.


This year's Miss California USA, Brittany Hogan, is the woman who could change that so-so record. Don't people say that every year? Yes, but if we don't believe it, we don't print it, and this year we're printing it. This is someone to watch.

Keylee Sanders-Hochberg, the new co-director of Miss California USA, couldn't contain her enthusiasm. "She's what we call the real girl," she said of Ms. Hogan. "Anyone can see she's beautiful, but when people watch her at Miss USA, they'll also see how personable and amazing she is."

Ms. Sanders-Hochberg, whom you probably remember as Miss Teen USA 1995, is originally from Kansas, but she now lives in, yes, California. That proves our point about the attraction of the Golden State. A lot of beauty queens wind up in California, but Ms. Sanders-Hochberg wants to see them start out there. And this year, she has reason to hope.

Photos courtesy of Miss Universe L.P., LLLP

Brittany Hogan

Jessica TinneyThe right note

Jessica Tinney is no diva. She's more unspoiled than she realizes, still unabashedly thrilled about being in such a glamorous position. She was almost apologetic when we asked if she had a nickname. "Nothing creative. But some friends call me 'Jess.' "

Her title is what matters, of course. She's Miss Alabama USA. Though she comes from a traditional family where no one cared about pageants, and though she didn't compete at all until her teens, she worked extremely hard to get this crown.

She was a runner-up at the state pageant year after year, which can really grind a girl down. But she kept her cool and finally won.

Some women in the Miss USA system already have two feet in show business, but Ms. Tinney is concentrating on her studies. She's plans to become a nurse anesthetist, and she wants to work at a children's hospital in Nashville, the city where she spent part of her childhood.

But don't think this beauty's future is all about ether and operating rooms. Nashville is Music City, and even though she's no diva, Ms. Tinney dreams of becoming a country singer. She has worked as hard on her voice as she has at becoming a beauty queen. People who have heard her say she's good.

She has a good heart, too. When we mentioned that most female singers these days have to be gorgeous to find success, she replied, "That's sad but true." But if anybody shouldn't have to be sad about that, it's Jessica Tinney.

PNB note: Ms. Tinney's previous experience with Maryland was a family trip to Ocean City as a young girl. She was impressed by its famous bathing beauties. Today, they would be impressed with her.

Photos courtesy of Miss Universe L.P., LLLP
Jessica Tinney

Amanda Lee MitteerGliding along

It's springtime in Vermont. Snowy hillsides give way to greenery. People put away their skis and reach for their . . . gowns.

We were chatting with Miss Vermont USA, Amanda Lee Mitteer, when her Miss USA gown arrived at her home. She's a well grounded young woman, but her excitement was unmistakable as she headed for the door. "I've been running the whole time," she said, excusing herself.


Ms. Mitteer looks lovely in that gown, and in her swimsuit, too, thanks partly to her cross-country skiing. She likes cross-country, she says, but not downhill skiing. Cross-country is hard work, but it also allows for more control. Ms. Mitteer has a kind of Yankee self-discipline that we admire.

She's very deeply involved in the fight against fibromyalgia, the disease that affects her mother. Some beauty queens take up causes because such things look good on a press release. But Ms. Mitteer is different. Her sincerity is obvious in everything she says.

Anyway, she doesn't need to prove anything. At 26, she has already excelled in two careers, modeling and municipal law. Now she wants to get more involved in the larger entertainment field, even if that means spending more time outside Vermont. She has a title that can take her a long way, and she wants one that will take her even further.Amanda Lee Mitteer
One of Ms. Mitteer's ancestors helped create the sexy cartoon flapper Betty Boop. Big eyes and unbelievable curves. There's something about Betty Boop that makes her unforgettable. And the same can be said for Miss Vermont USA.

Photos courtesy of Miss Universe L.P., LLLP

Sadé AiyekuIdaho accent

We decided to kid around with Sadé Aiyeku, so we asked her if her ancestors were Idaho pioneers. She thought that was very funny. We really enjoyed her laugh, which is as warm and genuine as her smile.
Her father is originally from Nigeria, and her name reflects his Yoruba heritage. (Her mother is from Washington state.) The name "Sadé," which in its full form means "worthy of the crown," is probably familiar to you, because of the sultry British singer known only as Sade. The singer is also half-Yoruba, but doesn't use the accent mark.

If Ms. Aiyeku's ancestry seems a bit exotic for Idaho, she herself does not. She comes across as the small-town Western girl that she really is, enjoying life, making big plans. Talking to her is like talking to an old friend.

Sadé Aiyeku
She's kind of an overachiever, almost a prodigy, from what other people have told us. But she didn't tell us about all that stuff. She talked instead about how proud she was to be representing her state, and how she owes it all to "beginner's luck."
Sadé AiyekuThe first time she tried out for Miss Idaho USA, she was first runner-up and won Photogenic and Congeniality. Her friends were so proud of her that she couldn't pass up another try. And the second time, she won. She feels lucky, but we see the hand of destiny.
She wants to become an entertainment lawyer, and she's well into her legal studies at the University of Utah. She plans to have her own law firm eventually ("maybe just a small one"), and eventually work as a legal commentator in the media.

"If you have a vision," she said, "you have to follow it." We think she's a vision, and we'd follow her anywhere.

Photos courtesy of Miss Idaho USA

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