And The New Miss USA Is... - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

And The New Miss USA Is...

MSNBC.COM/LAS VEGAS - Beating out 50 other contestants, an auburn-haired beauty from California who was a favorite among Vegas odds-markers was crowned Miss USA at the end of the pageant's 60th anniversary contest on Sunday in Sin City.

Alyssa Campanella beat out her good friend, Miss Tennessee Ashley Durham, who was named first runner up by a panel of celebrity judges. The other finalists were Miss Texas Ana Rodriguez and Miss Alabama Madeline Mitchell.

Campanella replaces Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih and will be America's representative at Miss Universe in September.

Among those vying for the crown was Miss New Mexico Brittany Toll, who was put into the semifinals through an online fan vote and then was ranked first in the swimsuit competition by fans voting online.

Wynn Las Vegas oddsmaker Johnny Avello tabbed Campanella the 8-1 favorite of the competition in just-for-fun odds, and contestants from North Dakota and New Hampshire (who were eliminated) were 100-1 long shots.

Campanella, 21, strutted across the stage in a blue bikini with white polka dots and a dark turquoise evening gown with beading on its top.

She also answered a question about legalizing marijuana by saying she didn't think it should be fully legalized as a solution to help ailing economies.

"Well, I understand why that question would be asked, especially with today's economy, but I also understand that medical marijuana is very important to help those who need it medically," she said. "I'm not sure if it should be legalized, if it would really affect, with the drug war. I mean, it's abused today, unfortunately, so that's the only reason why I would kind of be a little bit against it, but medically it's OK."

Miss Tennessee Ashley Durham was the first runner-up, while contestants from Alabama and Texas placed third and fourth.

Campanella, a natural blonde, said she dyed her hair six years ago for a part in a play, for a "fiery" character with whom she found she had traits in common.

"It's really brought out the true Alyssa Campanella, I feel, and that's why I really enjoy being a redhead," she said.

Campanella replaces Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih. The Michigan woman teared up as she walked across the stage for a final goodbye.

The pageant had three competitions: swimsuit, evening gown and interview question.

The contestants were whittled to 16 after the show's opening number, in which the beauty queens introduced themselves one-by-one. The top 16 were picked by preliminary judges through competitions and interviews during the week before the telecast. Celebrity judges picked the top eight after the swimsuit competition and the top 4 after the evening gown portion.

The pageant celebrated its 60th anniversary, growing from its roots as a bathing revue in Long Beach, Calif., in 1952 to a made-for-TV spectacle owned jointly by mogul Donald Trump and NBC, which will air the pageant live to East Coast viewers.

Separate from rival pageant Miss America, Miss USA has been known in recent years for having judges at times ask somewhat sticky questions, challenging contestants to reveal more about their opinions than they might want.

This year's panel of judges included several well-known celebrities, including Dallas Maverick center Tyson Chandler, chef Rocco DiSpirito, actress Mariel Hemingway, magician Penn Jillette, rapper and producer Lil Jon, "Real Housewives of New Jersey" housewife Caroline Manzo and OPI beauty products founder Suzi Weiss-Fischmann.

The show was co-hosted by Bravo's Andy Cohen and E! News Anchor Giuliana Rancic.

British rapper Tinie Tempah and Eric Turner performed during the evening gown competition.

Miss Kentucky Kia Hampton won Miss Congeniality USA, while Miss Arizona Brittany Brannon won Miss Photogenic USA.

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