10 Gowns that Slayed Miss USA 2016

The Miss USA evening gown competition is literally one of my favorite unofficial holidays. It's where we get to see what looks are trending, who had the best gown, and gasp in unison at the looks that we may not collectively understand.

To commemorate my favorite pageant occasion, I have picked my top 10 pageant gowns from the preliminary evening gown competition. My picks are in no particular order!

Hawaii (Favorite Gown) 

Miss Hawaii USA, Chelsea Hardin without a doubt wore my favorite look of the night! This island girl at heart brought the sexy and refined elegance of her state in an evening gown that features delicate applique flowers, which contribute to the nude illusion; thus making her my new favorite flower child. I also credit the fact that she styled this look perfectly by keeping the earrings minimal and her hair in relaxed waves. The dress flowed magnificently on stage and really showcased the bombshell wearing it! In short... she SLAYED!


Miss California USA, Nadia Mejia has successfully branded herself as a true California girl! She effortlessly WORKED this gown on stage which I could picture being blown in the Cali breeze at a chic party near the beach. A girl can easily be lost in a gown with so much material, but this Californian's sass and skill pulled it off without error. I'm also in love with the color selection, which enabled her to look absolutely sun kissed! 

District of Columbia 

Deshauna Barber, Miss District of Columbia USA has been highlighted for having a bold fashion sense, since being crowned in her state winning evening gown. I expected nothing less of uniqueness and risk from this beauty queen, and she did not disappoint! Her beautiful brown skin pops in gold, and she stood out amongst the other contestants who wore gowns that featured organza skirts. In other words... YAAAS QUEEN! 

North Carolina 

Thankfully Miss North Carolina USA, Devin Grant only needed to hem her evening gown to be ready for the Miss USA stage. She was called upon last minute to represent her state at Miss USA, and she did not disappoint! I believe that this is a classic pageant look that we have all seen before, however she shined in that it flatters her perfectly, and looks polished. Who says you can't slay the competition with only a notice of a couple of days?! Kudos North Carolina! 

South Dakota 

Miss South Dakota USA, Madison Mckeown brought us a look that transcends far beyond the Miss USA stage. When this beauty stepped out to showcase her gown, I immediately wanted to see Lupita Nyongo try if for her next acceptance speech. The gown is simple, clean, and enabled the girl to be visible. Very rarely do pageant dresses translate into being appropriate for other events, leaving girls to getting rid of them after the competition.  Madison...keep this gown because I'm sure you'll be needing it to shine once again on a red carpet! In other words, homegirl looked HAUTE!!!

Extra points to South Dakota for seeking out Lebanon based couture designer, Tony Ward. 


I'll try not to show my home state bias here, but Zena Malak, Miss Illinois USA was completely on point with her Miss USA selection. My favorite aspect about her evening gown is that it looks as if this dress was painted on or perfectly contoured for her body! It's risky wearing an aspect of a dress that won the previous year (Olivia's pink ruffled ballgown) but I believe she put her own twist on the ruffles by featuring them on a mermaid silhouette. In short, I AM HERE FOR THIS LOOK!


Come through Miss Louisiana USA!!! No one in the competition this year had anything similar to this gown. Maaliyah is also the only contestant to bring the body suit trend to this year's Miss USA stage. She took a risk of combining three trends (bodysuit, sheer fabric, dynamic organza train) this year, and it was definitely executed well. I would rather have a girl that takes a risk, than one who plays it safe. Way to take a risk Louisiana! 

West Virginia 

Is that Miss West Virginia USA, Nichole Greene, or Jessica Rabbit?! Hey, you thought it, and i said it! I love this sexy homage to old hollywood. The slit is perfectly placed, and the gown fits this beauty like a dream. Extra credit is scored here for the pop of gold provided by her shoes! 


Miss Mississippi USA, Haley Sowers made my list by looking nothing short of angelic in her gown selection. The primary appeal of this dress is the way it flows on stage and how it just comes to life when the stage lights hit it. This dress was made for motion!


I feel like we have definitely seen this dress before; maybe in a former life, or maybe styled differently on various girls. Either way, Miss Wisconsin USA Kate Redeker breathed a new life into this look.  The color popped against her olive skin and enhanced her subtle smokey eye. She looked nothing short of regal and did not even come close to becoming lost in her garment.  

Pageant Swimsuit (Splurge or Save?!)

Photo Cred: Miss Universe Organization (Left to right: Olivia Culpo Miss USA/Miss Universe 2012, Crystle Stewart Miss USA 2008, Pia Wurtzbach Miss Universe 2015)   

Photo Cred: Miss Universe Organization (Left to right: Olivia Culpo Miss USA/Miss Universe 2012, Crystle Stewart Miss USA 2008, Pia Wurtzbach Miss Universe 2015)


Putting together a BOMB competition wardrobe, is one of the most important aspects of preparing for a pageant. Wardrobe styling is imperative for your brand as a delegate, because people naturally form judgements about someone from the initial first impression. Judges, directors, and pageant staff will see your outfit selection before they know that you volunteer your time on the weekends to non profits or that you can binge watch every Miss USA competition starting from the early 90's.

As a competitor myself, I know just how expensive a pageant wardrobe can get. Girls are easily carrying down payments on cars in their pageant luggage! This pearl clutch worthy realization led me to question my own pageant wardrobe.

Where can I save versus splurge in my competition wardrobe?

The only garment involved in the judgement process of a pageant that I feel comfortable enough to save versus splurge on is the swimsuit competition.

WHY?! I'm SO glad that you asked! Swimsuits are garments that are typically made of similar material which makes it easier to find affordable quality. Here, you are splurging for embellishment and enhancement if you choose to invest more. I wouldn't try this mentality with an evening gown. There are too many different fabrics with unique qualities. So if you're looking for a specific gown to fit your vision, you must invest.

Essentially, all you need from a pageant swimsuit are the following qualities:

  • Fits the competition requirements
  • Flatters your body
  • Makes you feel like the (insert a queen of slayage here...mine is Beyonce!).

If your suit answers, "yes" to the above criteria, save the money and get it!

Victoria's Secret and Venus Swimwear

Photo cred: Left-Victoria's Secret, Far right-Venus Swimwear

Photo cred: Left-Victoria's Secret, Far right-Venus Swimwear

Victoria's Secret and Venus Swimwear are my top two brand picks that will benefit your pageant wardrobe and budget. I have seen swimsuits from each designer grace the bodies of many state pageant winners. Both lines offer a variety of coverage and enhancement options to fit the various concerns and body types of each girl. In addition, there is such an array of styles and colors to choose from that you're guaranteed to find something you love!


  • Victoria's Secret average bikini price range, $80-$150
  • Venus Swimwear average bikini price range, $75-$90

Now go werk that swimsuit competition!




What I Wish I Knew Before My First Pageant

My first pageant back in 2011!

Before I finally landed my first state pageant title, I was a beginner just like we all are when we pursue new things. After four years of competing I can confidently say that I have not only grown as a person, but also attained an abundance of information and advice for incoming pageant girls! Below you will find, seven things I wish I knew before my first pageant.


Hey, we all can't be Olivia Culpo, and her story isn't one that occurs often. Pageant coaching isn't a requirement or a prerequisite to compete in your first pageant, however it is a valuable tool to aid in your success. Pageant coaches can assist you with all of the imperative skills needed to land yourself that crown! I walked into my first state pageant without a coach, and won an award for my interview skills. Imagine what else I could have attained if I was coached and trained appropriately.

Your coach should be a person that is easy to communicate with, and one that brings out your best self on stage for the judges. If you come across a coach that isn't invested in you, doesn't offer constructive and helpful criticism, or isn't respected within the pageant community RUN!

I'd LOVE to see MIss Jay as a pageant coach!

I'd LOVE to see MIss Jay as a pageant coach!


Every pageant system has their own taste in what they find stylish and queen worthy. Miss USA loves bold and sexy evening gowns, while Miss America finds the sex appeal in being elegant. Taking note of what the reigning queens are wearing in the system you are interested in will help you find your own style within the organization's aesthetic. I wouldn't have looked so "teen" in my first pageant had I researched more on what gowns and wardrobe selections win. But don't worry, I learned my lesson!


Yes, many systems will feed their girls during pageant weekend. However, it doesn't hurt to bring some healthy munchies to snack on in order to keep your energy up. I have personally seen girls get so caught up in running an opening number that they forget to go grab lunch! Trust me, after a long day of rehearsals and excitement you'll be glad that you have something to satisfy your hunger if needed. Plus, if you come prepared, your family won't have to bring you any snackage (guilty...thanks for the trail mix mom)!


Yes, butt glue is a pageant essential! It will ensure that the focus stays on you, while ensuring that your swimsuit bottoms do the same. There's nothing like jumping out of your swimsuit before the evening gown competition, and consequently having your evening gown get glued to your butt. Trust me when I say that I've learned this lesson so that it doesn't happen to YOU. Do yourself and that Sherri Hill a favor, and wipe off that butt glue!


Pageant weekend is a whirlwind. You spend months preparing for this moment only for it to be over as quickly as it came. You will go through so many different emotions (even pageant pros still get nervous) pageant weekend, and it is perfectly valid and normal. Take a deep breath and remember that at the core of pageant weekend is a new experience holding an abundance of fun.

My personal mantra "Feel the fear...and do it anyway!"


Whether your make up artist gives you a small amount of the lipstick he/she used, or you have your own stash with similar colors, ensure that you have a way to do small touch ups throughout your day. Feathering lips and a shiny T-Zone aren't flattering in pictures, so stay prepared!


You have officially conquered your first pageant! Completing pageant weekend in its own right is a great feat. I think it's important to identify what you consider a loss, win, and a goal accomplishment. Your mindset will determine the severity of how you react to whatever outcome occurs. If your entire goal coming into pageant weekend is to win a sparkling hat, then you have already assumed the wrong attitude. I won't lie, it sucks to lose, and I've experienced that feeling of disappointment before. However I was able to bring myself out of it knowing that I grew as a person, and that I made valuable friends and connections that I wouldn't be able to make elsewhere. Many of the girls that I met during my first pageant are still in contact with me five years later!

I met Chass during my first pageant, we were roomies!

Just please always act as if you are wearing your invisible crown. Even though the pageant is over, you don't want to become infamous for being the sore loser at last year's pageant who didn't walk away in a positive light.