Bluegrass girl named Miss USA

BALTIMORE – Miss Kentucky, a business student who says pop stars may be getting too edgy for young people who see them as role models, now has a chance to be a role model herself – as the new Miss USA.

Tara Elizabeth Conner, 20, of Russell Springs, was crowned Miss USA on Friday night by Chelsea Cooley of North Carolina, Miss USA 2005. It was the 55th annual pageant.

The new titleholder will compete July 23 in the Miss Universe competition in Los Angeles.

“The stars were in my favor tonight,” she said. “I can’t wait to see how far this year can take me.”

Conner expects people in her home town, with a population around 2,500, to be pretty excited about her win.

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“This is the biggest thing that has ever happened in my town,” she said.

She listed her hobbies as golf, skydiving, jet skiing, tubing on Lake Cumberland, rappelling, scrapbooking and watching University of Kentucky basketball.

“I am an easygoing, down-to-earth girl,” Conner said in her contestant profile. “Throughout my life, hardships and different experiences have made me a very humbled, yet strong individual. It is because of these life lessons that I have become the person I am today.”

Conner said the first thing she wants to do is go to Italy because her brother is stationed there with the Navy and she hasn’t seen him in a year.

Conner will represent the United States July 23 in the Miss Universe competition in Los Angeles.

Miss California, Tamiko Nash, 26, of Los Angeles was first runner-up. Miss Georgia, Lisa Wilson, 26, of Rome was second runner-up; Miss Ohio, Stacy Offenberger, 26, of Marietta was third runner-up. Miss Florida, Cristin Duren, 24, of Panama City Beach was fourth runner-up.

The 51 contestants were trimmed to 15, then 10 semifinalists and finally five finalists.

The five finalists were asked questions.

The pageant is co-owned by Donald Trump and NBC, which aired the competition.