Miss USA Pageant Preview: Controversy, New Judges and Online Voting

3:22 PM PST 06/19/2011 by Annie Yuan
Getty Images/Cindy Ord

Donald Trump's Miss USA Organization celebrates its 60th anniversary in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Miss USA celebrates its 60th anniversary tonight at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Bravo's Andy Cohen and E! News' Giuliana Rancic will co-host the affair, which will air live on NBC at 9 p.m. Kelly Osbourne will provide skybox color commentary throughout the evening.

Miss USA: See Who Won the Crown

Fifty-one hopefuls will participate in Miss USA 2011, with the winner set to replace Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih and represent America at the Miss Universe pageant later this year in Brazil.

Already the web is buzzing with concerns about pre-taped interviews with the contestants on the official Miss USA YouTube channel. Many believe some of the questions, which address sensitive issues such as evolution and nude photos, are inappropriate or unfair.

"They witnessed with Carrie Prejean how a firestorm can create a road kill, and nobody wants to be part of a situation like that again," state pageant director Keith Lewis told Fox News. He said the questions in the interviews were inducing panic and anxiety in the contestants.

The Miss USA Organization is familiar with the level of controversy that can arise when beauty queens are asked challenging questions after the Carrie Prejean incident in 2009. Prejean, the 2009 Miss California and a finalist in that year's Miss USA competition, drew a slew of criticism and media coverage when she told judges in her final interview that she believed marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Controversy is also nothing new to Miss USA pageant owner Donald Trump, who was targeted by the media earlier this year when he briefly flirted with the idea of running for president in 2012.

Fittingly, Trump has a history of defending Miss USA against public criticism. He brushed off concerns over sexy promo photos of last year's competitors, saying he had "no problems with it," and has consistently stood by his winners in scandals involving everything from racy pictures to drug and alcohol abuse. No doubt the media mogul will be prepared for any disputes that arise this year.

Much of the excitement of the pageant often lies in finding out how far the judges will push the envelope with their questions. This year's eclectic judging panel will feature Dallas Maverick player Tyson Chandler, chef Rocco DiSpirito, actress Mariel Hemingway, rapper Lil' Jon, Real Housewives of New Jersey star Caroline Manzo and more.

The Miss USA Pageant also introduced an online voting system this year, allowing viewers to cast their votes for who they wanted in the semi-finals for the first time. Another new feature is an interactive viewing system called iPowow, which allows viewers to act the part of a virtual judge as they watch the show from home. The application is available at http://www.nbc.com/missusa.

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