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Miss California Alyssa Campanella crowned Miss USA 2011

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 Sao Paulo, Brazil, on September 12.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Julie Jacobson / AP

    Image: 2011 Miss US

    2011 Miss USA

    Fifty-one hopefuls were whittled down to one winner after the swimsuit, evening gown and interview competitions.

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    There she is ... -

    Alyssa Campanella, Miss California, is crowned as the 2011 Miss USA by Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih.

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    Friends to the end -

    Madeline Mitchell, left, Miss Alabama, walks away as Alyssa Campanella, Miss California, right, and Miss Tennessee, Ashley Elizabeth Durham learn one of them woujd win the crown.

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  • Image: Miss California Campanella reacts after being crowned Miss USA during the 2011 Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas

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    Pot? Not! -

    Asked about her opinion about legalizing marijuana, Campanella told judges that while there may be some legitimate medical uses, she remains "a little bit against it."

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    Breaking news: You won! -

    First runneer up Miss Tennessee, Ashley Elizabeth Durham looks on as Campanella, her close friend, learns she won the competition.

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    Stage full of beauties -

    Miss USA hosts Andy Cohen, left, and Giuliana Rancic introduce the contestants at the start of the nationally televised pageant.

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    Making the cut -

    Alyssa Campanella, Miss California, second from left, reacts after learning that she was a finalist in the 2011 Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas.

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    Star-studded event -

    Tinie Tempah performs during the evening gown competition.

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  • Image: Contestants react after making the semi-final cut during the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas

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    Moving on up -

    Miss Alabama Madeline Mitchell, Miss Hawaii Angela Byrd, Miss California Alyssa Campanella and Miss Maryland Allyn Rose react after making the semi-final cut.

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    Lady in red -

    Alyssa Campanella, Miss California, is introduced as one of the quarterfinals. She wore a teal, sequine dress during the evening competition.

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    3rd runner up -

    Ana Christina Rodriguez, Miss Texas, adeptly fielded a question inspired by the sexting scandal that brought down a Member of Congress.

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    Fan favorite -

    Miss New Mexico Brittany Toll made it to the quarter finals because of an online vote, and then was ranked first among online fans in the swimsuit compettion. She failed, however, to make it to the semi-finals.

    Miss Universe Organization via AFP - Getty Images / Miss Universe Organization via AFP - Getty Images
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    Swimsuit competition -

    Alyssa Campanella shows off swimwear by designer Kandy Wrappers during the swimsuit competition.

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    Aloha! -

    Miss Hawaii USA 2011 Angela Byrd, shown during the swimsuit competition, made it to the semi-final round.

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    Pageant preview show -

    Contestants perform during the 2011 Miss USA Presentation Show, which was held the night before the televised finale.

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After revealing on the show that she was a "huge history geek" with a special interest in the Tudor and Stuart periods, Campanella added that her favorite monarch was Mary, Queen of Scots, who was beheaded in 1587.

Campanella was born and raised in New Jersey, which she represented at the Miss Teen USA contest in 2007.

She told Reuters that she moved to Los Angeles about 18 months ago, and would like to remain there once her duties were over.

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.

'Medically it's OK'
She won the crown despite giving a muddled answer when a judge asked her whether marijuana should be legalized in California.
"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." Durham, a 21-year-old journalism student who was first runner-up, declared that burning the American flag should not be protected by free speech and that burning religious books was "just a line that you do not cross."

Mitchell, the 22-year-old Miss Alabama, said Internet bullies whose taunts force their targets to commit suicide should be prosecuted.

Rodriguez, the 25-year-old Miss Texas, received loud applause when she said the wives of political figures caught in sex scandals should move on "and find a man who really loves you."

  • Slideshow Photos

    Steve Marcus / X00642

    Image: Miss California Carrie Prejean

    Beauty queen scandals

    They may be beautiful, but the competition can get ugly. From blackmail to sabotage, check out the underside of the pageant circuit.

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    Miss Delaware Teen USA -

    They may be beautiful, but the competition can get ugly. From blackmail to sabotage, check out the underside of the pageant circuit.

    First up: Melissa King, Miss Delaware Teen USA, resigned her crown on Feb. 26, 2013, after a sex video featuring a woman resembling her surfaced online.

    @Melissa_M_King\Twitter / @Melissa_M_King\Twitter
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    Called Miss USA 'rigged' -

    After Miss Pennsylvania 2012, Sheena Monnin, spoke out on Facebook against the Miss Universe organization in June, calling it "trashy" and "rigged," co-owner Donald Trump threatened a lawsuit.

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    Facing DUI charges -

    Former Miss USA Rima Fakih, pictured here on April 11, 2012 as she faces DUI charges in district court in Highland Park, Mich. Fakih pleaded no contest in the case, and on May 9 she was sentenced to probation and community service for driving under the influence and getting pulled over with an open Champagne bottle in her car.

    AP, Reuters / AP, Reuters
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    A transgender Miss Universe? -

    Jenna Talackova, a transgender beauty queen, protested the decision by pageant representatives to drop her from the Miss Universe Canada competition. She was finally given the green light to go by the Donald Trump-led Miss Universe Organization. The 23-year-old will, however, need to prove that she meets the "legal gender recognition requirements of Canada," according to local media.

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  • Image: Shannon Marketic, Miss USA 1992

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    Miss California 1992 -

    They may be beautiful, but the competition can get ugly. From blackmail to sabotage, check out the underside of the pageant circuit.

    First up: Miss California 1992 Shannon Marketic, center, was accused of stealing almost $90 in beauty products from a Target store in August 2010. Marketic, 38, denies stealing the items and says they rolled in the cart and landed underneath her purse.

    AP, Denton Police Department / AP, Denton Police Department
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    Former Miss California USA 2009 -

    Hosts Billy Bush and Nadine Velazquez listen as Miss California Carrie Prejean makes her highly publicized answer to a question from judge Perez Hilton about legalizing same-sex marriage during the Miss USA Pageant in Las Vegas on April 19, 2009. The controversy grew in ensuing weeks when Prejean became the spokesperson for a national group opposing same-sex unions, after which racy photos of her surfaced. Prejean blamed people opposing her views for the release of the photos. She eventually surrendered her crown after pageant officials accused her of missing events, an allegation she denied.

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    Miss Universe 2008 -

    Crowned Miss Universe in July 2008, Venezuela's Dayana Mendoza kept her crown despite risque photos that showed the beauty queen topless, though covering most of her chest. The Miss Universe president said that Mendoza’s photographs had "artistic beauty."

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  • Playboy Playmate Athena Lundberg Celebrates At Hawaiian Tropic Zone

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    Miss Washington 2008 -

    Elyse Umemoto, Miss Washington and second runner-up in this year's Miss America pageant, was shown flipping off the camera while wearing her crown, playing beer pong, posing in her bra and making suggestive hand signs on TMZ.com.

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    Miss South Florida Fair 2008 -

    Jessica Wittenbrink, who was crowned Miss South Florida Fair 2008, says her evening gown was smeared with lipstick during the competition.

    Palm Beach Post via Zuma Press / Palm Beach Post via Zuma Press
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    Miss Puerto Rico 2007 -

    Ingrid Marie Rivera smiles during a beauty pageant in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Rivera beat 29 rivals to become the island's 2008 Miss Universe contestant, despite applying makeup and wearing evening gowns that had been coated with pepper spray, pageant spokesman Harold Rosario said.

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    Miss New Jersey 2007 -

    Amy Polumbo was crowned Miss New Jersey 2007. An anonymous person threatened to reveal "scandalous" photos of the beauty queen, but Polumbo refused to cave in to the blackmail. She took the incident public and revealed the photos herself on TODAY.

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  • Tara Elizabeth Conner

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    Miss USA 2006 -

    Tara Conner, representing Kentucky, won the Miss USA title in 2006 and moved to New York City where she partied in clubs and drank despite being underage. Donald Trump gave her a reprieve, allowing her to retain the title after she agreed to enter rehab and undergo drug testing.

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  • MISS TEEN USA 2007 COMPETITION

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    Miss South Carolina Teen USA -

    Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina, became a Internet sensation with her nonsensical answer to a question during the Miss Teen USA competition in August 2007. The 18-year-old got a chance to redeem herself on TODAY when she was again asked why one-fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a map.

    Miss Universe via AP / Miss Universe via AP
  • Valerie Begue

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    Miss France 2008 -

    Despite racy photos that appeared recently in a gossip magazine, Miss France 2008 Valerie Begue will keep her crown, but will not compete in the Miss World or Miss Universe pageants.

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    Miss Nevada USA 2006 -

    Katie Rees was stripped of her title in 2006 after racy photos of her appeared on the Internet. Some of the photos showed her kissing other young women, exposing her breasts and pulling down her pants to show her thong underwear. Afterwards, Rees signed a two-year, $2 million-plus deal to host a variety show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. In April, Rees agreed to pay fines for five misdemeanor traffic violations in exchange for prosecutors dropping a charge of resisting arrest.

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  • Ashley Harder

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    Miss New Jersey USA 2007 -

    Ashley Harder held the title of Miss New Jersey USA 2007 and was set to compete in the Miss USA pageant before she became pregnant and voluntarily stepped down. Runner-up Erin Abrahamson assumed the title.

    Courier-Post via AP / Courier-Post via AP
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    Miss California USA 2008 -

    Christina Silva, 24, was declared Miss California USA in November only to have her crown revoked days later. Pageant official say a mix-up in tallying the votes led to the wrong woman being crowned. Silva, who is Hispanic, is suing the pageant, alleging rigging and racial bias.

    AP / AP
  • Miss World 2004 Crowned In Sanya

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    Miss Great Britain 2006 -

    Danielle Lloyd was stripped of her title after it was revealed that she had posed nude for Playboy and amid accusations that she was dating one of the judges at the time of the contest. Lloyd went on to star in the British reality show Celebrity Big Brother in 2007 where she and other contestants were accused of bullying and making racist comments about Indian actress Shilpa Shetty.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Bench Warmer Trading Cards Pre-Valentine Day Event

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    Miss United States Teen 2003 -

    Former Miss Oregon Teen USA Kari Ann Peniche was stripped of her title in 2003 after she posed nude for Playboy magazine. Peniche appeared as a patient on the VH1 television show Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew but was involuntarily discharged.

    In 2009, a racy video of Peniche, "Grey’s Anatomy" star Eric Dane and his wife Rebecca Gayheart was leaked. The 12-minute video was said to be shot inside Peniche’s apartment, and within it, Gayheart said she was high.

    WireImage / WireImage
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    Miss Louisiana Teen USA 2008 -

    Miss Louisiana Teen USA 2008 Lindsey Evans was stripped of her crown 10 days before completing her reign. She and her friends skipped out on a $46 restaurant bill, and Evans left behind her purse, which contained a bag of marijuana. The women were arrested for theft and drug possession when they returned to retrieve the purse.

    Splash News / Splash News
  • FEDOROVA

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    Miss Universe 2002 -

    Former Miss Russia Oxana Fedorova was fired less than four months into her reign for missing too many events. She was a law student at the time and complained that being Miss Universe interfered with her education. "I never had any intention of abandoning my university work," she said.

    The pageant president said contestants know Miss Universe is a full-time job and that winners spend 80 percent of their time traveling as goodwill ambassadors.

    AP / AP
  • Vanessa Williams Relinquishes Her Miss America Title

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    Miss America 1984 -

    Vanessa Williams, representing New York, became the first black Miss America. She had to resign when nude photos taken before her beauty contest victories were published in Penthouse. The crown was given to Suzette Charles, who's also black. Williams later became a successful singer with such hits as "Save the Best for Last," and "Colors of the Wind." Some of her movie credits include "Eraser," "Soul Food" and "Dance with Me." She currently plays the scheming fashion editor on "Ugly Betty."

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  • Beauty Queen

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    Miss World 1973 -

    Marjorie Wallace was dethroned about four months into her reign, after she was accused of dating too many high-profile men, including professional soccer player George Best and singer Tom Jones. The organizers said the first woman from the U.S. to win the title hadn't maintained Miss World's reputation. She later became a television host for "Good Morning Los Angeles" and "Entertainment Tonight."

    Everning Standard via Getty Images / Everning Standard via Getty Images


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 Fakih, a Lebanese-born Muslim who was the first Arab-American to hold the title. The Michigan woman teared up as she walked across the stage for a final goodbye.

Celebrity judges
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. (Msnbc.com is joint venture between NBC Universal and Microsoft.)

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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