May 30, 2012
TUESDAY IN LAS VEGAS
Tuesday the complexion of the Miss USA 2012 experience changed as after over a week of fun it’s time to get down to the business of competing for the tiara. Today began the preliminary competition as the delegates had their Interview Competition this afternoon. The judges meet all fifty-one (51) of the delegates in a panel style session as this is the first time ballots were marked as we whittle the field down to the top-16 you will see this Sunday evening. This was preceded by a “review” of the entire cast in swimsuits and evening gowns as it was a fashion show for the judges before they got down to the work of the day.
This evening the ladies have a rare night off as the order of the remained of the week is all about rehearsals and preparations for the preliminary competition Wednesday at Planet Hollywood’s Theater for the Performing Arts. Then it will be all work and no play for our ladies as they have their eyes set on the prize. So look for unique pictures and blogs when tomorrow we will begin reporting live from the desert. The prelims are the first glimpse of the contestants in their gowns, swimsuits, dresses and dance numbers so look for pix on www.flickr.com/missfloridausa early Thursday morning and an inside review of the competition only on your favorite blog from the desert.
LAS VEGAS RECAP
The partying is over! Now it’s serious. The 51 Miss USA Pageant contestants have kept up a relentless schedule during their first week in Las Vegas, but now it’s all about the actual pageant as rehearsals begin with a vengeance. As the Memorial Day Weekend arrived, the glamour girls transitioned from the TV cameras filming their fun and games, nightclub dancing and sightseeing attractions to the main mission. Wednesday is the first preliminary competition, and Sunday is the main event airing on NBC from Planet Hollywood’s Theater for the Performing Arts, and that means the dance routines, fashion walks, swimsuit and evening gowns, makeup and hair had better all be perfect.
2011 Miss USA Alyssa Campanella, who will turn over her crown to the new winner Sunday night, traded her sash and crown for Gordon Ramsay’s chef coat when she took on the role of a secret chef at his new Gordon Ramsay Steak in Paris Las Vegas. While contestants were enjoying dinner, they had no idea that Alyssa was in the kitchen making sticky toffee pudding under the direction of chef de cuisine Kevin Hee. Teen contestants enjoyed a decadent four-course meal, including the girls’ favorites of beef Wellington and Caesar salad with Scotch eggs. Near the end of the dinner, the double doors of the private dining room opened to reveal Alyssa with the toffee treat, and she joined them to check out her culinary skills. She said: “Don’t mess with me when I’m in the kitchen. My dessert was a hit. I played mystery chef and completely surprised them. They loved the sticky toffee pudding with creamy brown sugar sauce and brown butter ice cream.”
The girls got one last chance to enjoy the pool, where the tallest girls in the pageant measured up one another. Then it was time to enjoy nightlife at Strip nightclubs with stops at VooDoo lounge in the Rio; Chateau Nightclub & Gardens in the Paris; and the debut of Sky Blu’s residency “Who Came to Party?!” at Pure in Caesars Palace. Sky Blu, one half of LMFAO, and his Party Rock crew took the town by storm with double duty at Wet Republic at MGM Grand; fellow Big Bad artists Mark Rosas, girlfriend Chelsea Korka and BVillain joined Sky Blu. Pure was packed was transformed into a performance artist’s haven complete with a custom-built stage, a massive LED screen, a catwalk, confetti cannons, go-go dancers and strobe lighting. Sky Blu took over the DJ booth at midnight with Alyssa, and Miss USA hopefuls cheered as he shuffled down the catwalk performing “Party Rock Anthem” created with his uncle Redfoo, the other half of LMFAO. The contestants joined him on the catwalk and danced as he performed “Sexy and I Know It.” The Miss Teen USA fashion show and bash at Tao in the Venetian on Monday marked the changeover from smiles to serious. Dancers from “Jubilee!” at Bally’s joined Miss USA girls for a morning-long match-up with Best Buddies to teach a routine to perform onstage, volleyball and artistic fun. Best Buddies creates opportunities for friendships and provides jobs and leadership development for adults and teens with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Caesars executives were so knocked out by this year’s Grecian goddess-themed fashion shoot by Fadil at Garden of the Gods that they turned the unveiling into a high-roller’s event. The new Diamond Lounge at Augustus Tower became an exclusive photo gallery to display the 51 portraits by the New York-based Albanian American lens master. Once the partying was over, rehearsals began full blast. The contestants learned their fashion walks, introductions, backstage hair and makeup logistics, quick-change wardrobe areas and the surprise show-opening dance in the form of a Sherri Hill fashion show.
SKY BAR SUNDAY
Miss North Carolina USA 2012, Sydney Marie Perry; / Miss Utah USA 2012, Kendyl Carol Bell and Miss New York USA 2012, Johanna Sambucini,
arrive at Pure Nightclub at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday, May 27, 2012.
Miss West Virginia USA 2012, Andrea Rogers; and Miss Missouri USA 2012, Katie Kearney; dance during a performance by SkyBlu
Alyssa Campanella, Miss USA 2011 dances with SkyBlu
GETTING TO KNOW: MISS FLORIDA USA
On June 3, somewhere inside Las Vegas's glittery Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, Karina Brez will be standing - in very high heels - at one end of a very large stage. On the other end is a beautiful crown and a sash proclaiming the title "Miss USA." That crown, that title and a trip to represent the entire nation in the Miss Universe pageant will, she hopes, be at the end of the journey for Brez, the 24-year-old Ukrainian immigrant turned Wellington gemologist and Miss Florida 2012. But if that shiny headwear and title aren't in the cards for Brez, it's certain that at least one thing is. "Nutella," she says dreamily, speaking from her hotel room in Vegas last week, the day before a non-stop series of photo shoots, preliminary competitions and appearances begins. "Chocolate mousse cake from the Cheesecake Factory. A pizza with lots of cheese. A hot dog with lots of relish and ketchup. A Krispy Kreme doughnut. And a lot of ice cream." Yes, as one might imagine, the road to Miss USA is not paved with a lot of delicious carbs - "No carbs," Brez clarifies - but it is filled with strict diets, endless travel with no breaks, lost luggage, long workouts, days that sometimes end at 2 or 3 a.m., longer sessions with trainers that guide everything from the way she walks in those heels and the way she answers questions, to her hair, her dress and the way she holds her head in pictures.
Her journey, which started last year when Brez, then Miss South Florida, was named Miss Florida at Davie's Bailey Concert Hall, has taken her throughout the state representing the pageant system and Horses Healing Hearts, a local charity that uses equine therapy to help young children of addicts. And in the past two months, she's checked in with The Palm Beach Post from many of the far-flung places she's been as her quest to be Miss USA has intensified, including Berlin, where a cousin was fitting her for her pageant evening gown; a tour bus in New York City where she and the other contestants were introduced during Media Week; her Wellington home, where her trainers put her through her well-ordered paces; and now Vegas. It's been a long road for Karina Brez, G.G. (graduate gemologist, Gemological Institute of America), whose family left the Ukraine, moved to America and settled in Palm Beach County when she was in grade school, and where her parents still run a jewelry business in Boca Raton.
But she's ready.
"I'm not nervous whatsoever," Brez says talking on Skype, balancing her iPad on her lap. "There were little things that went wrong here and there, but I think I have lost that nervousness. My adrenaline has been rising. This is something I want to do, to embrace it. I already feel so humbled to be at this stage. Only one girl from Florida gets to be here, and I happen to be that girl. I've already won in my heart, no matter what I face here."
Schmoozing with Kelly
Since she won Miss Florida in July, Brez has juggled a busy schedule of appearances as well as operating her jewelry appraisal business. But a few months ago, her preparation for Miss USA began kicking into high gear. She began that diet, which at home involves fresh-delivered meals by Boca Raton-based company Deliver Lean, one of her sponsors. Now in Vegas, it includes lots of egg whites, some specific animal protein (such as a single sausage link), "and a glass of milk every morning," she says. She also went to Berlin, where a cousin of her mother's has made her evening gown, the final version of which will be revealed June 3 at the pageant. "My mother has had a lifelong dream of designing a gown for me. Of course, it was supposed to be a wedding gown," she says, smiling. "But for the moment, it's this. My cousin was gluing the stones on herself. My father personally hand-delivered it to Florida from Germany. That's a long trip! I looked him in the eye, stared him down, and said 'Not one wrinkle on this dress, OK?'
Back in Florida, where the dress arrived without incident, the already lithe Brez began working out in increasingly intense sessions with a physical trainer at her home, building up to 2 1/2 hours at a time, including yoga. But her training wasn't just exercise - for a few weeks she was instructed by Grace Fontecha, a veteran pageant coach from Puerto Rico whose past clients have included four Miss Venezuelas, four Miss Puerto Ricos and back-to-back Miss Universes Dayana Mendoza and Stefania Fernandez. All that walking is done in 3 1/2-inch heels, a half-inch shorter than the ones she'll wear in competition. "It's like the Olympics on heels," Brez says. "A winner has to have a lot of confidence, a very secure personality. She has to be sensual and natural, and most importantly seem very open and have a good attitude," says Fontecha, who spent hours working with Brez on things like walking, standing, the right smile and interviewing. "Karina is very determined, very punctual and very beautiful. She can do this." In between all that training, Brez continued working, hiring someone to help with the appraisal business and attending two different kick-off parties, including one with the kids of Horses Healing Hearts. She then left for New York, where she and 44 of the 51 Miss USA contestants (which includes Miss District of Columbia) did Today, FOX and Friends and Live With Kelly, Brez's personal favorite, where she met host Kelly Ripa and the guest host of the day, former NFL player and commentator Michael Strahan. "I love that show. I watch it all the time," she says. "And I got to go up to the microphone and announce my name and my title on national television for the first time. I felt like I was already on the pageant. The other girls were all so sweet, and so many of them were in the same boat as me. Some are new to the pageant world, and for some, they've been around, but this is their first big one. Reality is setting in definitely. I feel like Miss Florida USA."
After New York, Brez returned to Florida briefly and then headed to California to celebrate her birthday, visit her sister and chill out while possible. "I got spa treatments, and got pampered before all the craziness started," she says. But the chill was interrupted with every traveler's fear. "Not all of my bags made it to Vegas," she says. "For the first two days I was here, I was wearing the same clothes. I didn't want to wear the clothes I'd packed for (pageant activities)."
Ready for her close-up
Fortunately, Brez's sartorial crisis ended when her luggage showed up, just in time for the final phase of preparation on that journey across the stage. Last Friday, she and the other contestants were to officially register and go for photos and interviews, followed by a Grecian goddess-themed official photo shoot the following day at Caesars Palace. A few days before the live pageant, the ladies will do interviews with the judges for the first time, and on the following day they'll run through the whole show in a taped rehearsal, during which the top 15 will be chosen. Brez says that she always wondered whether the perfectly poised pageant contestants she had seen on TV knew beforehand which of them had been chosen for the top 15 or top 10 "because sometimes when they call their names (during the live show) their faces light up, and sometimes they look like 'Yeah, I knew that. Give me my crown now,'" she says. The answer is no, so the ladies will have to stew - beautifully, of course - until they get the news with the rest of the country on June 3.
"I think I can represent the country very well. I came here as a little girl, and grew up here. I consider myself American, but I'm not only an American," she says. "I'm ready to take on the world." She pauses. "Or the universe." If her name is called June 3 as the winner, her journey in the Miss Universe program continues. But whether or not that happens, Brez predicts where she'll be June 4. "I'll probably be at some candy shop in Vegas munching on candy and sugar," she says. "And then I'll come back."