06:33 AM EDT 10/16/2013

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Miss USA Pageant

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6 Things You Didn't Know About Miss USA Erin Brady

Erin Brady's Wedding Is on Hold – & 5 Other Things About Miss USA

Originally posted 06/19/2013 07:00AM

She turned heads in a gold-embellished gown. And then there was that orange bikini.

But you're going to have to wait to see freshly minted Miss USA Erin Brady all dressed in white.

The Connecticut stunner, 25, who beat out 50 other American beauties, is engaged, but she put her wedding on hold to compete. "I wanted to live out my dream," Sunday's big winner tells PEOPLE.

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Miss USA Judge NeNe Leakes Hopes Miss Utah Learns from Her Fumbled Answer

Real Housewives of Atlanta

NeNe Leakes Hopes Miss Utah USA Learns from Her Answer Fumble

Originally posted 06/18/2013 09:30AM

If anyone feels sympathy for Sunday's mocked Miss USA contestant, it's judge and The Real Housewives of Atlanta star NeNe Leakes, who asked the competitor the now-infamous question that sent cyberspace into a frenzy.

Marissa Powell, 20 – the Miss Utah finalist who didn't win the competition but could easily be the most searched name online from the pageant – was asked by Leakes, 45, what it says about society that women continue to earn less than men even though they are the primary earners in 40 percent of American families with children.

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Relive Miss Utah Botching Her Miss USA Pageant Answer

Miss Utah Marissa Powell Botches Her Answer on Miss USA

Originally posted 06/17/2013 01:25PM

Not since Lauren Caitlin Upton's mangled response in 2007's Miss Teen USA competition has a finalist's answer in a pageant picked up traction like it did on Sunday night.

With six finalists remaining in Las Vegas's Miss USA competition, it was Miss Utah Marissa Powell's turn to answer a question that could make or break her chances of winning the crown.

"A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men," announced one of the judges, NeNe Leakes. "What does this say about society?"

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And the New Miss USA Is ... Miss Connecticut Erin Brady!

Miss USA Is Miss Connecticut Erin Brady

Originally posted 06/16/2013 11:15PM

From 51 to the one and only Miss USA 2013: Congratulations, Miss Connecticut Erin Brady!

Reigning Miss USA Nana Meriwether has relinquished her crown – and the posh New York apartment that comes with it – to her successor.

Brady, 25, will become a spokeswoman for breast and ovarian cancer awareness and travel the world for various charity work. The first runner-up, Miss Alabama Mary Margaret McCord, will take over should Brady not be able to complete her duties.

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Judging Miss USA: What It's Really Like Behind the Pageant Curtains

Behind the Scenes: Inside PEOPLE Editor's Week as Miss USA Judge

Originally posted 06/16/2013 06:00PM

Last week, I had the opportunity to judge the Miss USA pageant. No, I didn't meet The Donald. And, no, I'm not now best friends with Giuliana Rancic – the co-host arrived after Sin City was long in my rearview mirror.

But I did meet 51 amazing young women. Some were competing in their first pageants, others were old pros (even what the industry refers to as state jumpers – you know, when you can't win California, why not try Idaho?)

I spent an entire day interviewing them, breaking them out of their pageant comfort zone and checking out their grace under pressure. It's a big job to represent a worldwide brand, and in all fairness, you do have to be more than just a pretty face.

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Filed Under: Miss USA Pageant
Credit: Darren Decker/Miss USA 2013
Miss USA Contestant Gabrielle Neilan Winning Battle Against Thyroid Cancer

Miss USA Contestant Gabrielle Neilan Winning Battle Against Thyroid Cancer

Originally posted 06/13/2013 01:25PM

In a world where imperfections stick out like sore thumbs, Gabrielle Neilan isn't hiding hers. In fact, she's embracing the subtle scar on her neck.

"It's my strength," she says, before joking, "You can hardly notice it. It's like a fat roll on my neck."

The fact that Neilan, 22, can be so humorous about it is refreshing. It's also shocking, considering she is one of 51 women competing in Las Vegas this weekend in the Miss USA pageant.

Besting the other women is a tall task, of course, but the brunette beauty has been through worse. It wasn't long ago her Miss Oregon USA sash was replaced with a hospital gown and her stage was replaced with an operating table.

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Filed Under: Miss USA Pageant
Credit: Darren Decker/Miss Universe Organization
Miss USA Pageant Kicks Off in Vegas – Vote for Your Favorite

Miss USA Pageant Kicks Off in Vegas – Vote for Your Favorite

Originally posted 06/12/2013 04:00PM

The Miss USA pageant isn't until Sunday night, but the preliminary competition is already in full swing in Las Vegas.

Fifty-one hopefuls – representing their respective states and Washington, D.C. – have converged on the fabled Strip to be vetted by a panel of judges (including yours truly!) tasked with narrowing the field.

The prelims involve interviews as well as swimsuit and evening gown evaluations, all to help determine 15 semifinalists (including one voted in by fans) to be announced during the primetime telecast on Sunday, June 16.

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Filed Under: Miss USA Pageant

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