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It may well have looked like a day of decadence with drinks, dinner and dancing, but when TV cameras are rolling nonstop, it becomes hard work under the hot lights and 100-degree desert temperatures. The 51 contestants of the 61st Annual Miss USA Pageant that airs from Planet Hollywood on NBC on Sunday, June 3, on Monday began their first day of touring, filming, photography and rehearsals to kick off their two-week visit to Las Vegas.
Before arriving here, 44 of the contestants, including our Miss Nevada Jade Kelsall, were in New York City with pageant owner Donald Trump to promote the competition. While there, Jade took part in a Food Bank charity and appeared on “Live With Kelly” with the other glamour girls.
The rigorous Las Vegas schedule kicked into high gear, and Jade was selected with three other contestants for TV spots at Iron Chef Kerry Simon’s KGB at Harrah’s. Our thanks to Miss USA photographer Valerie Macon for her spectacular shots.
Other Las Vegas segments were filmed at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville casino bar in the Flamingo with 25 of the pageant princesses. Our thanks to contributing photographer Erik Kabik for his photo gallery and videographer Richard Corey for his YouTube video.
Once the glamour girls completed their registration, it was off to hair and makeup consultations and modeling shoots with a new wardrobe and shoes. I loved Valerie’s two shots of Miss California Natalie Pack as she transformed from a regular in rollers to perfect pageant princess.
Valerie also captured during registration and Sherri Hill dress fittings Miss Arizona Erika Lane Frantzve; Miss District of Columbia Monique LaShone Thompkins; Miss Louisiana Erin Edmiston; Miss New Hampshire Ryanne Harms; and Miss Iowa Rebecca Hodge. Also, the behind-the-scenes action with makeup artists and Chi hair experts and the girls posing as goddesses at the Caesars Palace pool: Miss Kansas Gentry Linn Miller; Miss Oklahoma Lauren Taylor Lundeen; Miss Illinois Ashley Hooks; Miss Michigan Kristen Samantha Danyal; Miss Oregon Alaina Bergsma; Miss Texas Brittany Lynn Booker choosing footwear by Chinese Laundry; Miss Utah Kendyl Carol Bell being filmed by videographer Shane Richter; Miss Vermont Jamie Lynn Dragon posing at Caesars Palace; and Miss Texas with an Angelina Jolie show-lots-of-leg photo.
I asked Jade on Monday how the first hours were going: “It is really exciting! A lot of the girls have never been to Las Vegas, so they ask me where all the good spots are -- I love answering their questions and serving as their mini insider guide. Some of them are staying here with their families or boyfriends after they compete, so it is fun telling them where to dine and visit.
“I am a foodie, so I like to gave them advice about all the great restaurants we have on and off the Strip. I’ve also told them fun things to experience like zip lining downtown, the rides at the top of the Stratosphere and Fremont Street Experience. Many of them are surprised at how beautiful and clean Las Vegas is. I tell them that my city has a very green and healthy lifestyle most people don’t realize.”
We’ll have an interview with Jade as the pageant progresses and how she battled a heart problem and underwent surgery three weeks before she won Miss Nevada.
On Monday night, the girls were dancing up a storm for cameras in chef Steve Martorano’s Cafe Martorano in the Rio; it was a sensible way to shed calories after enjoying his meatballs and other dining delights. 2011 Miss USA Alyssa Campanella, who has 12 days left now before she crowns her successor, signed Steve’s celebrity wall and a conga line around the tables. Thanks to Erik Kabik for capturing that party fun.
Alyssa, who will shoot her final glamour portfolio with photographer Fadil Berisha today at Red Rock Report, said she’s booked a Hawaii vacation after the crowning with “Tudors” actor boyfriend Torrance Coombs, who has managed to keep their two-year romance on track despite her world travels. And then? “I go home to California and will resume modeling and then start thinking about possible entertainment career opportunities.”
Vegas DeLuxe will be back each day of their Las Vegas visit with daily reports leading up to the pageant. The winner of the Miss USA Pageant represents us in the Miss Universe Pageant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in August.
On Wednesday, our Day 2 report will have emotional and inspirational background stories of this year’s competitors and the photographs of today’s three-legged race on the Strip.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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