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Miss USA 2008: Presented by Maxim?

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Friday night, while my sister was in town for a “Being Fearless” conference and listening to Mia Farrow speak about Darfur, I was lounging in her hotel room and watching the Miss USA pageant for the first time in at least a decade. Before you say, “I know who got the brains in that family,” you should be aware that my sister asked me to watch it, and that she was thrilled that she made it back to the room in time for the Final Question.

This year’s pageant, hosted by Donny and Marie Osmond on NBC, was in Vegas, which I’m assuming is why the 51 contestants started the show in skimpy, sequined cocktail dresses. Here, you can really appreciate the detailing on the bodices of their garments in this video of the Top 15. (Would it have killed them to pan up to their faces?) The swimsuit competition was full of amazing little moments as the contestants, clothed in faux fur wraps, black bikinis, and stilettos, worked the stage to a 10-minute live version of Finger Eleven’s “Paralyzer.” (My favorite moment being at 9:40, when a cameraman shot through a contestant’s legs to capture one of the band members.) Next, came the “evening gown parade” to Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” I’m still trying to figure out why Miss Missouri thought it was a good idea to show her thong, and why Miss Oklahoma’s cutout dress earned her a 9.318. Of course, only the Top 5 actually got to speak. I was disappointed that judge Rob Schneider‘s name wasn’t one of the five drawn for the Final Question (embedded below). But at least we got Project Runway winner Christian Siriano! He asked Miss Oklahoma which famous person she’d like to help better herself. Naturally, she chose Britney Spears, which wouldn’t have been a bad answer had she said that it was for the sake of Spears’ kids and of the children who still look up to her. (Instead, it was so Spears could “go on to the next deal.”) I believe Heather Mills deserves full credit for dashing Miss Pennsylvania’s hopes: Mills asked her if it’s a good thing that cosmetics companies are marketing beauty products to girls in elementary school. Pennsylvania’s answer: It depends on the product.

Here’s my question: Is the Miss USA pageant always this ridiculous*, ordid I happen to catch a particularly noteworthy year?

*Yes, I’m just jealous of their bodies. You’re absolutely right.