The group of contestants from six continents was expected to be cut to 16 soon after the start of the show based on preliminary competitions.
Organizers had considered holding the contest in the popular Dominican Republic tourist city of Punta Cana, but Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart said that country’s financial crisis proved to be too much of an obstacle.
The diverse group of contestants spent the past two weeks in Las Vegas, where they posed in hardhats at a hotel groundbreaking, took a painting lesson, and pranked hotel guests by hiding in their rooms.
“I’ve seen them and they are absolutely gorgeous,” said Donald Trump, a co-owner of the Miss Universe Organization. “They’re very nervous and they should be. It’s a billion people (watching).”
On the eve of the pageant, the organization announced it had won a defamation suit against a woman who claimed this year’s Miss USA contest, also owned by Trump, was fixed.
The winner of the Miss USA crown goes on to represent her country in the Miss Universe contest.
Contestants cannot have been married or have children. They must be younger than 27 and older than 18 by Feb. 1 of the competition year.
The pageant started as a local revue in Long Beach, Calif., organized by Catalina Swimwear. It is not affiliated with the Miss America pageant.
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