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North Carolinian Crowned Miss USA

Michael, you're only 19. Are you a little overstimulated?

Phelps blushed sweetly. A yes, perhaps.


Chelsea Cooley has reason to smile about after winning Miss USA 2005. (Chris Gardner -- AP)

_____From The Post_____
Charm School (The Washington Post, Apr 11, 2005)

The show began with the announcement of the 15 finalists, winnowed from a field of 51, one from each state and the District of Columbia. To help generate buzz, the public was able to vote online after Wednesday's preliminary competition to help determine who made the cut.

The names of 14 finalists had already been called when Miss Maryland, Marina Harrison, was added to the list. She was the only local contestant to make the cut and the home-state audience cheered wildly.

After the swimsuit competition, the cheers turned to groans when Harrison didn't reach the final five.

The show featured plenty of standard pageant video spots, contestants talking about their goals and challenges as well as shots of Baltimore attractions, including the Peabody Conservatory and Great Blacks in Wax Museum.

And then the final five randomly selected questions written by other contestants before the night's judging began and extemporized on the characteristics of a hero or the most challenging problems young women face.

Cooley, asked what famous person her personality most resembled, didn't miss a beat. Oprah Winfrey, she said, because she extends herself and goes after what she wants.

It was a solid performance for a contest that rested as much on beauty as it did on poise.

Well, maybe not exactly as much.

It takes something extra to walk across a brightly lit stage followed by hundreds of sets of eyes. "All they are doing is using this avenue of competition to pave their way for a dream," Paula Miles, a Miss USA state pageant director for 25 years, said last week of the contestants. "Walk in their shoes before you judge them."

After the pageant, surrounded by a crush of reporters and photographers and dozens of people who helped make the magic happen, and hugged by Trump, Cooley was asked what she'd say to old boyfriends.

She just giggled and said, "Look at me now." Asked about the charms of Charm City, she gushed, "It's wonderful. The state of Maryland has just welcomed us with open arms."

Miss USA for less than 10 minutes and already the dream work had begun.


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