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Reporter who is Miss Kentucky wins ‘wokest’ Miss USA pageant featuring first openly trans contestant

A reporter who is Miss Kentucky won the ‘wokest’ Miss USA pageant that featured the first openly trans contestant and a PTSD suffering Air Force officer. 

Miss Kentucky Elle Smith said she had wanted to compete in pageants since as a 15-year-old she saw a girl from her high school win a local teen title.

And in a stunning display on Monday night, she took the crown at the national contest held in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

She beat out 50 other contestants in Miss USA’s most diverse pageant yet- including Kataluna Enriquez -the first openly-transgender competitor, Amanda Torchia, the first Afghan woman to win Miss Connecticut USA and Miss Maine Veronica Iris Bates, a Air Force veteran who struggled with PTSD.  

Broadcast journalist Elle Smith, who has dreamed about becoming a pageant queen since she was just 15 years old, has won the Miss USA title at Monday night’s pageant in Tulsa, Oklahoma (pictured)

Smith beat out Kataluna Enriquez (pictured)-the first openly-transgender competitor, who failed to crack to top 16 before she was eliminated

Smith beat out Kataluna Enriquez (pictured)-the first openly-transgender competitor, who failed to crack to top 16 before she was eliminated

27-year-old Kataluna Enriquez. Miss Nevada, was the first openly-transgender competitor in a Miss USA pageant

27-year-old Kataluna Enriquez. Miss Nevada, was the first openly-transgender competitor in a Miss USA pageant 

The win comes after a long wait for Smith, who said she had put off applying for contests until she had her 'big girl job' as a news reporter. Pictured: Smith doing a live report for WHAS11 on the government's mask mandate

The win comes after a long wait for Smith, who said she had put off applying for contests until she had her ‘big girl job’ as a news reporter. Pictured: Smith doing a live report for WHAS11 on the government’s mask mandate

The wide variety of contestants are part of the the pageant’s new push for diversity after Miss USA changed their slogan to ‘Pageantry Reimagined,’ NBC News reported. 

Before she took the stage representatives from Enriquez’ home state expressed their pride in the groundbreaking contestant.  

‘Kataluna represents the best of her community and our state and when she takes the stage, she’ll make history!’ Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted on Monday night.

Much to many people’s disappointment though, Enriquez failed to crack to top 16 before she was eliminated. 

Smith also beat out Miss Maine, who joined the United States Air Force after graduating high school, where she worked as a Security Forces member, guarding important assets and training military working dogs. 

After spending a year stationed in South Korea when she was 19 years old, Bates was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and now works as an advocate for other veterans with the disorder, helping to raise awareness.

‘Being a veteran, I was unfortunately diagnosed with PTSD, and that’s something I want to look more into,’ she said. 

‘I want to continue to advocate for my fellow veterans who have PTSD. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m trying to put my foot down and overcome it, and I know some people aren’t as lucky as I am,’ she added. 

Smith, a University of Kentucky graduate will now go on to represent the USA in the Miss Universe pageant set to be held in Israel in December.

The win comes after a long wait for Smith, who said she had put off applying for contests until she had her ‘big girl job’ as a news reporter so that she could afford it. 

Smith graduated from UKY last year where she majored in Broadcast Journalism.

She has since been working as a news reporter for Louisville’s WHAS11 station, with her colleagues sending her congratulations on the title win. 

Last week she spoke to colleague Hayley Minogue about the contest, revealing that it had been a dream for her since high school.

‘I’ve been thinking about it since I was 15 when I girl from my high school won the teen title and she was everything to me,’ Smith said.

‘She was smart, she was beautiful, she was involved in everything from cross country to band and musicals. So I wanted to be exactly like her.

‘But I waited until I had my ‘big girl’ job because that’s when I could afford it, so I waited.’

Smith, who competed with 50 girls from across the nation, put her hands over her mouth to hide her shock as she won the Miss USA crown as the pageant celebrated its 70th year.

Cassidy was diagnosed with PTSD after leaving the Air Force, having spent a year stationed in South Korea - and she now works as an advocate for other veterans battling the disorder

Cassidy was diagnosed with PTSD after leaving the Air Force, having spent a year stationed in South Korea – and she now works as an advocate for other veterans battling the disorder

Veronica Iris Bates, 21, currently attends American Military University, which is based in Charlestown, Virginia, where she is studying health science and criminal justice

Veronica Iris Bates, 21, currently attends American Military University, which is based in Charlestown, Virginia, where she is studying health science and criminal justice

27-year-old Kataluna Enriquez (pictured) -the first openly-transgender competitor in a Miss USA pageant, made history on Monday night when she took the stage

27-year-old Kataluna Enriquez (pictured) -the first openly-transgender competitor in a Miss USA pageant, made history on Monday night when she took the stage

After graduating with a major in broadcast journalism, Smith took a job with ABC affiliate station WHAS11. Pictured: Smith reporting on a farming community helping out a widowed Indiana farmer

After graduating with a major in broadcast journalism, Smith took a job with ABC affiliate station WHAS11. Pictured: Smith reporting on a farming community helping out a widowed Indiana farmer

Elle said her participation in pageants doesn't take away from her professionalism as a journalist. Pictured: Smith reports on the first Covid vaccinations in southern Indiana this year

Elle said her participation in pageants doesn’t take away from her professionalism as a journalist. Pictured: Smith reports on the first Covid vaccinations in southern Indiana this year

Smith, who competed with 50 girls from across the nation, put her hands over her mouth to hide her shock as she won the Miss USA crown as the pageant celebrated its 70th year

Smith, who competed with 50 girls from across the nation, put her hands over her mouth to hide her shock as she won the Miss USA crown as the pageant celebrated its 70th year

She not only stood out during the swimsuit and evening gown competition, but received a roar of applause from the audience when she explained how businesses can be more environmentally conscious. 

ABC-affiliate station WHAS11 shared congratulations following Smith’s win last night in a post, writing: ‘WOW!!! This is quite the accomplishment!! Our Elle Smith is your new MISS USA!’

Smith is the second Miss Kentucky winner to go on and take the Miss USA title. Tara Conner won the crown in 2006. 

Smith will now represent the US in the Miss Universe pageant on December 12 in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, Israel.

ABC-affiliate station WHAS11 shared congratulations following Smith's win last night in a post, writing: 'WOW!!! This is quite the accomplishment!! Our Elle Smith is your new MISS USA!'. Pictured: Smith wearing her Miss Kentucky USA sash

ABC-affiliate station WHAS11 shared congratulations following Smith’s win last night in a post, writing: ‘WOW!!! This is quite the accomplishment!! Our Elle Smith is your new MISS USA!’. Pictured: Smith wearing her Miss Kentucky USA sash

Last week Smith gave an interview to colleague Hayley Minogue (pictured together) about the contest, revealing that it had been a dream for her since high school

Last week Smith gave an interview to colleague Hayley Minogue (pictured together) about the contest, revealing that it had been a dream for her since high school

Israel’s Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov has said the pageant will go ahead despite the imposing travel restrictions to try to stave off the Omicron coronavirus variant.

On Saturday the country announced it would ban foreigners from entering the country, lengthen quarantines for citizens and residents returning from abroad and reinstate controversial cellphone surveillance designed to track infections.

However, Razvozov on Sunday said that Miss Universe participants would be granted waivers while possibly undergoing PCR testing every 48 hours and other precautionary measures.

‘This is an event that will be broadcast in 174 countries, a very important event, an event that Eilat, too, is very much in need of,’ he told reporters before the weekly cabinet meeting.

‘We will know how to manage this event. So, by using the waivers committee, we will have events like this, to which the country already committed itself and cannot cancel.’ 

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