Miss Kentucky Elle Smith is Third Black Woman Crowned Miss USA


Elle Smith via Twitter

*The 2021 Miss USA pageant was held this week and 23-year-old Elle Smith, who worked as a “multi-skilled journalist” at WHAS-TV in Louisville, Ky., was formally crowned winner in the competition.

Smith was crowned by Miss USA 2020, Asya Branch, Monday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This marks the third year in a row that a Black woman is crowned in the competition. 

It’s been hard, very hard to juggle a full-time job, the role of Miss Kentucky and prepping for Miss USA,” Smith said, Krista Johnson and Kirby Adams wrote in the Courier Journal.

“I haven’t actually been to sleep since I won,” Smith told the Courier Journal. “I was still doing interviews at three in the morning and then we jumped on a plane for Houston, Texas, where I am getting fitted for my Miss Universe wardrobe.” 

Smith will go on to compete for the title of Miss Universe in Eilat, Israel. The pageant will take place on Dec.12.

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“Last night was a surreal moment. When I heard them say ‘Kentucky,’ I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was just an overflow of emotion,” Smith said. “The first person I wanted was my mom, who was out in the audience.”  

The Ohio native is a 2020 graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is the second Miss Kentucky USA to win the Miss USA title. Tara Conner won the title in 2006.

“I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish this without such [a] supportive work team at WHAS because I was getting up at 5:30 a.m. to work out, then hop into a morning editorial meeting with WHAS, then spent the day reporting, then I would do another workout at 7 p.m., eat dinner at 9 p.m. and then until 10 p.m. I was doing interview prep.”

“We have policies in place regarding what our journalists can and cannot do, and have conversations directly with employees to ensure that activities are not in conflict with news reporting.”

“A Miss USA, her job is to connect with people…She should be able to speak with a three-year-old, she should be able to speak with a 90-year-old veteran or the CEO of a business, and we do that every single day at work. You’re speaking to a wide range of personalities and meeting different people with different perspectives, and so I think that’s the big thing that I take from work,” Smith told WHAS 11.

Prior to winning Miss Kentucky in May, Smith had never participated in a beauty pageant but dreamed of competing since she was a teenager.  

“It was a New Year’s resolution. I told myself I would commit to this goal, I would put in the work and I would see what happened,” Smith said. “I made a vision board and on it was Miss USA, my health and several other things, and because I committed to the work it would take, they have all come true.” 

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