June 17, 2013 at 11:26 AM ET
Miss Utah glided elegantly through the Miss USA competition on Sunday night before taking a stumble — during the Q&A.
The question came from celebrity judge NeNe Leakes, who asked Marissa Powell, 21, about why women make less money than men in America.
“I think we can relate this back to education and how we are continuing to try to strive to…figure out how to create jobs right now,’’ she answered. “That is the biggest problem, and I think especially the men are seen as the leaders of this, so we need to try to figure out to create education better so that we can solve this problem. Thank you.”
The 5-foot-8 brunette soon became more famous across social media for “to create education better” than for her looks.
Though Powell blanked on the big stage, she is no stranger to performing in front of crowds: She has sung the national anthem in front of 10,000 people at a soccer game and was an All-State volleyball player in high school.
“We’ve been in that position where we’re in the middle of saying something and you kind of go blank, and then it’s like that hot flash starts in the middle of your back and heads up the back of your neck, which only makes matters worse,’’ Matt Lauer said on TODAY Monday. “I feel for her.’’
Powell finished as the third runner-up. The winner was Miss Connecticut, Erin Brady, 25.
Powell’s cringe-inducing response brought back memories of Miss Teen South Carolina, Caitlin Upton, whose famous response at the 2007 Miss Teen USA competition — when she was asked why a fifth of Americans can't locate the United States on a map — was a ramble for the ages.
“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh, people out there in our nation don’t have maps and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future,’’ she said.