USA Today reports that Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island has been crowned Miss USA 2012. When asked "Would it be fair if a transgender woman won the Miss USA title," Culpo responded, "I do think it would be fair..." because "there are so many people who have a need to change for a happier life. I do accept that because I believe it's a free country." The crowd erupted with cheers.
Earlier this year, GLAAD worked with the Miss Universe Organization -- which operates the Miss USA pageant -- on opening the competition to transgender women. Said Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization: “We want to give credit where credit is due, and the decision to include transgender women in our beauty competitions is a result of our ongoing discussions with GLAAD..." Tonight's crowning underlines the Miss Universe Organization's commitment to accepting and including all women.
This year's Miss USA judges' panel included Rob Kardashian, who danced alongside transgender advocate and author Chaz Bono in season 13 of Dancing with the Stars, as well as openly gay celebrity chef Cat Cora among others.