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!




Queens Corner: Miss Black Illinois USA 2016 - Brittanie Brooks

I met Brittanie back in 2015. At the time, we were each modeling in an annual runway show for a reputable Chicagoland prom and pageant dress boutique. She enthusiastically entered the room with such an infectious smile and introduced herself with an ease of grace and confidence. Personally, I'm a huge fan of a genuinely nice girl, as I'm sure that we've all come across some Regina George's in our lifetime.

Upon discovering that she attained her Bachelor's of Arts degree in Broadcast News from EIU and her Master's degree in Pubic Affairs Reporting from UIS, I have dubbed her the Olivia Pope of the pageant world. She keeps her Twitter followers up to date on current political affairs, while making a name for herself as an influencer. Oh, and she does it all in six inch heels! Okay... maybe not in a pair of Tippy Tops, but I bet she could! What can't this girl do?! Therefore, it's no surprise to me that she was selected to represent our home state of Illinois at the national Miss Black USA 2016 pageant this summer!

Thankfully, I scored the chance to get in touch with the busy beauty queen, landing an exclusive interview to learn all about her and her endeavors. Enjoy!


BJ: Let's start at the beginning, how long have you been competing in pageants?

BB: I entered my first pageant in 2009 competing for the title of Miss Illinois Teen USA. So my journey began 7 years ago!


BJ: What was your motivation to compete in your first pageant?

BB: I have always been drawn into the modeling and acting world.  Therefore, I began taking acting/modeling classes in middle school and walked in a few mall and church fashion shows. I knew that pageantry would open the doors for me to walk on more runways and meet people in the entertainment and modeling industry.


BJ: Girl, how does it feel to be the newly crowned Miss Black Illinois USA?!

BB: It’s awesome, I was chosen out of 16 other young women to represent Illinois at the national Miss Black USA competition in August! The reality of being a beauty queen and public figure didn’t really hit until I attended a Vision Board party for girls aged 7-12 years old. One girl was completely shocked when I walked in the door. I was asked if I was a princess and the girls took turns wearing my crown. It really opened my eyes that they’re seeing a black female who was in their shoes and someone they can look up to and that alone is an awesome feeling.



BJ: You're very involved in the community, what do you hope to accomplish throughout your reign?

BB: My platform is to raise awareness for ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer. In November, I began to raise awareness by opting out of wearing pants and only skirts and dresses using the hashtag #NoPantsForOvarianCancer, I did it for a month until my birthday on December 20th. People were sending me messages of support and praise saying they too were sufferers so I think it was mildly successful.

I’m launching round two of my campaign again in February wearing no pants, even whenever I make appearances in honor of the disease.

Also, after the Vision Board party, I’m more drawn to encourage young girls of color to achieve their dreams and to truly go after what they want. When I was younger I was a complete nerd to the definition and spent a lot of my time reading and in the library. One of my personal goals was to receive my Masters’ Degree like my mother. I saw her studying for it when I was younger and I was able to follow in her footsteps last May, so I want to serve as the Nerd Ambassador and promote education for young women.


BJ: Between us, can you share what your talent you will be bringing to the Miss Black USA stage?

BB: Piano – I’ll keep it a mystery as to what song I’m performing but here's a hint: It’s by the King!


Its really been trending lately, What does #BlackGirlMagic mean to you?


BJ: We all have them, name the pageant essential that you can’t live without!

BB: Eyelashes – I went without them once for a fashion show and now I always keep them with me!


BJ: You can only choose one! What is your favorite and go-to beauty product?

BB: Mascara- Currently I coat mine twice with Covergirl’s Lash Blast Volume and Covergirl’s Flamed Out Mascara


BJ: As a pageant girl, what is your favorite moment in pageant history?

BB: Miss America publicly apologizing to Vanessa Williams and allowing her to be the head judge back in September was awe inspiring!! I loved it, it really brought her reign to a full circle. Plus to do it in front of millions instead of behind closed doors was perfect! There’s no better way that moment could have been done.


BJ: How has pageantry influenced you as a person?

BB: Pageantry gave me poise and a sense of purpose. I love competing and what better way to work on myself than practicing the piano, working out, and looking gorgeous! Pageantry also allowed me to explore myself so I can present my best representation to the judges. The months spent preparing for competition, I always write down my future goals, accomplishments, and reflect on the woman I want to portray to the judges. I didn’t really understand this concept until my last pageant. There’s so much more than walking on stage and I worked with some pretty amazing coaches who allowed me to define Brittanie.


BJ: Any words of advice to readers and future competitors?

BB: Be prepared and know yourself! Know who you are and who you want to be. And don’t be scared, nerves are visible on stage so check them backstage.

Connect with Brittanie

Twitter/IG- @BrittanieNikki

Facebook - Miss Black Illinois USA 2016 - Brittanie Nikki

The Miss Black USA Scholarship Organization is a national scholarship competition that celebrates young women of African decent.


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.

"I'm not going to take your mansion." -Miss Colombia

All of the delegates have returned to their native countries, and the excitement has finally calmed. The Miss Universe 2015 competition will undeniably go down in pageant history! However, at the heart of that history are three individuals who were placed in considerably awkward situations.

After announcing the incorrect winner at the annual international beauty pageant, Steve Harvey has been seeking the opportunity to sit down with Miss Colombia Universe Ardriana Gutierrez in order to sincerely apologize to the South American beauty.

Recently, on his show, Steve finally received his chance to sit down with Ardriana, who expressed that she thought the comedian was attempting to tell a joke Oprah style, "You are Miss Universe... YOU are Miss Universe... EVERYONE IS MISS UNIVEEEERSE!!!!"

It was amazing to see her displaying some lighthearted humor throughout her interview. She even briefly touched on the potential law suits presented to her against Harvey by various lawyers in the same humor. "I'm not going to take your mansion.", she jokes. Thankfully, Ardriana has digested all that has occurred, and believes that her destiny has greater things in store for her future.

Although an unfortunate situation, it is one that sets her up for various opportunities in the future. No one anticipates being the first runner up, and not achieving their dream of winning the crown. But as of right now, Ardriana is the most memorable and infamous first runner up in pageant history! This bombshell isn't going away anytime soon, and we'll be watching every moment of her success.