20-year-old Cellist Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island Crowned Miss USA

NEW YORK | Monday, June 4th, 2012 3:04am EDT

Olivia Culpo will represent the United States at this year’s Miss Universe pageant later this year.

20 year old Rhode Island Cellist Crowned Miss USA 01

A 20-year-old cellist from Rhode Island won the 2012 Miss USA crown and will represent the United States in 61st Miss Universe pageant after voicing support for transgender beauty queens. Photo: Miss USA/YouTube

Olivia Culpo was crowned as the first beauty of USA on Sunday to take the title at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

She strutted across the stage in a lilac bikini and a purple evening gown adorned with a sparkly belt, writes The New York Daily News.

During final question round, the winner was faced with the most difficult question of the night, sent by from a pageant follower on Twitter: “Would you feel it would be fair that a transgender woman wins the Miss USA title over a natural-born woman?”

“I do think that that would be fair but I can understand that people would be a little apprehensive to take that road because there is a tradition of natural-born women,” said Culpo.

She went on: “But today where there are so many surgeries and so many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life, I do accept that because I believe it’s a free country.”

The audience reaction seemed mixed initially but quickly turned to cheers and Culpo gave two thumbs ups.

The beauty revealed that she was short and chubby as a girl, but blossomed after a growth spurt. She spent her summers at band camp after learning to play the cello in second grade.

Her parents are musicians, and her love for music saw her perform at Symphony Hall in Boston and Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Culpo, of Cranston, Rhode Island, is a student at Boston University. She is a 2010 graduate of St. Mary Academy Bay View, an all-girls Catholic school in Riverside, where she was a member of the National Honor Society.

“Beauty is found in the way you treat others,” she said in an interview with pageant officials.

Rounding out the top five contestants were first runner-up Nana Meriwether of Maryland, second runner-up Audrey Bolte of Ohio, third runner-up Jade Kelsall of Nevada and fourth runner-up Jasmyn Wilkins of Georgia.

As Meriwether and Culpo held hands waiting for the winner to be announced, Culpo bit her lip and cringed with anticipation.

Throughout the contest Culpo demonstrated an outstanding personality, blowing a kiss and shimmying across the stage during the opening number. She claimed starlet Audrey Hepburn to be her source of inspiration, noting her many years of volunteer work.

“She was beautiful on the outside but also beautiful on the inside,” said Culpo, whose favorite movie is “Funny Face.”  Pageant officials also noted that Culpo “can tie a cherry stem with her tongue.”

Miss Iowa USA Rebecca Hodge was named Miss Congeniality, and Miss Oregon USA Alaina Bergsma was named the most photogenic. They both won $1,000, but didn’t make the top 16.

The pageant at the Planet Hollywood casino on the Las Vegas Strip had three competitions: swimsuit, evening gowns and interview question. Pop band Cobra Starship performed as the beauty queens modeled their string bikinis.

The list of judges included Chef Cat Cora, TV personality Arsenio Hall, singer Joe Jonas and reality TV star Rob Kardashian.

The show also featured performances from Akon. Andy Cohen and Giuliana Rancic stepped in to host. Miss USA 2011 Alyssa Campanella crowned Culpo her successor at the end of the night, reports Fox News.

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