BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Miss Iowa Carlyn Bradarich got a second chance at the Miss USA title Sunday night when the viewing audience gave her the most votes on Twitter in the pageant's first-ever "Save the Queen" option.
Bradarich will compete with the judges top five picks of home state beauty queen, Miss Louisiana Brittany Guidry and women from Georgia, Nevada, Florida and North Dakota. All were competing in the interview portion of the contest.
Making the top 20 was Miss Pennsylvania Valerie Gatto. She made headlines this week when she said she was the product of rape. During a taped segment that aired when her name was called, Gatto said her mother was 19 when she was attacked leaving work in Pittsburgh and became pregnant.
Gatto said she is living proof "that your circumstances do not define your life."
Besides interviews, the top contestants were judged in swimsuit and evening gown competitions with the winner of the 63rd Miss USA title will represent the U.S. at the Miss Universe competition later this year.
Rounding out the top 5 from judges were Miss North Dakota Audra Mari, Miss Georgia Tiana Griggs, Miss Florida Brittany Oldehoff and Miss Nevada Nia Sanchez.
The field was narrowed from 51 women from every U.S. state and the District of Columbia. Reigning queen Erin Brady, of South Glastonbury, Connecticut, is set to relinquish her crown when her successor is chosen during the three-hour telecast from the Baton Rouge Civic Center.
Contestants entered the stage on a glitzy float as Louisiana native singer-songwriter Marc Broussard sang the New Orleans hits "Iko Iko" and "Hey Pocky Way" to kick off the 2014 contest. The women introduced themselves while holding Mardi Gras masks in their hands as purple, green and gold confetti fell in the background.
The pageant also included musical acts by the country music duo Florida Georgia Line, rapper Nelly and Latin pop band Camila.
Celebrity judges walked a red carpet in evening gowns and tuxedos before the start of the show, posing for pictures and talking about the qualities they would be looking for in the beauty they crown the winner.
"It's very important that she has confidence," said Barbara Palacios, Miss Universe 1986 and a coach and judge for the new Telemundo reality show, "Miss Latina Universo." ''The right attitude and perseverance are also very important."
"It's all about the eyes," said Lance Bass of the pop singing boy group NSYNC. "I just want to see a girl that is just really having a good time up there."
Others who walked the red carpet were former NBA star Karl Malone; actors Ian Ziering, Melissa Peterman and Rumer Willis; pageant show host Jeannie Mai; and Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe Organization, which includes the Miss USA pageant.
Brady recently told The Associated Press that she has worked hard during her tenure to break stereotypes about pageants and the women who compete in them.
A graduate of Central Connecticut State University in finance, Brady said that after the end of her reign she plans to return to New York to pursue a job that can use her knowledge to serve a global market.
"We're very intelligent women with great personalities," she said recently.
Contestants have been in Baton Rouge, Louisiana's capital city, for more than a week. During that time they have taken part in preliminaries and also done some sightseeing. They have visited the Louisiana governor's mansion, tasted local cuisine and relaxed by singing karaoke.