The women who want to be crowned the next Miss USA on Thursday include a psychological operations expert in the Army reserves, a former NFL cheerleader working to become a surgical nurse and a lawyer who represents some prisoners for free.
There’s also an ex-professional ballerina who worked as a style expert for the Home Shopping Network, a portrait artist with a second-degree black belt in taekwondo and the first woman of Samoan decent to compete for the title.
The 51 contestants from each U.S. state and the District of Columbia will take the stage in Reno, which is holding the event for the first time. Vanessa and Nick Lachey will serve as hosts, and Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve is among the all-female panel of judges.
The field of contestants will be cut to 15 at the start of the two-hour broadcast based on their performances during preliminary rounds. Three finalists will emerge during the evening gown, swimsuit and interview portions of the competition.
The youngest competitor is Miss Wyoming Addison Treesh, a 19-year-old honors student at the University of Wyoming who’s among several advocating for prevention and treatment of eating disorders.
Virginia’s contestant, Courtney Lynne Smits, joined the U.S. Army at age 17. A fifth-generation military member, she now works in the reserves to reduce veteran suicides.
Mississippi’s Madeleine Overby is an ex-NFL cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints working on her master’s degree in nursing.
Cheslie Kryst, representing North Carolina, earned a law degree and an MBA at Wake Forest University before becoming a civil litigation attorney who does pro bono work to reduce sentences for inmates.
Pennsylvania’s Kailyn Marie Perez recently graduated from law school after her gig at the Home Shopping Network and hopes to become a political correspondent or host her own talk show some day.
New York’s Florinda Kajtazi, the artist who does taekwondo, has a degree in forensic psychology and is taking prerequisites to become a physician assistant.
Nevada’s Tianna Tuamoheloa, the first competitor of Samoan decent, works for Top Rank Boxing, a boxing promotions company in Las Vegas.
The winner — who advances to the Miss Universe competition — will be crowned by reigning Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers of Nebraska, who won last year in Shreveport, Louisiana.