Are Miss USA And Miss America The Same? Here's The Difference Between The Two

by Mary Kate Hoban
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On Sunday, May 14, the Miss USA pageant will take place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas where 51 women will compete for the crown.

The current Miss USA, Deshauna Barber, will pass the metaphorical baton to one lucky lady from one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia.

If you think this sounds just like the Miss America pageant, you aren't alone, but the two US-based competitions are actually not the same thing at all. So what's the difference?

There are quite a few differences actually. In fact, the beauty pageants are kind of rivals.

For starters, Miss America has been around much longer -- since 1921.

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The first Miss USA pageant wasn't held until 1952.

The Miss USA organization originated after Yolande Fox, who was crowned Miss America in 1950, refused to pose in a swimsuit for a magazine. The swimsuit company, Catalina, was outraged, withdrew its sponsorship of Miss America and went on to create the Miss USA pageant.

The prizes are also significantly different.

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Miss America is famously a scholarship program. Miss America 2017, Savvy Shields, won $50,000 in scholarship money. Winners also spend a year basically on an all expense paid tour, attending speaking and promotional events.

The Miss USA pageant has a slightly different prize package. Most importantly, the winner of Miss USA goes on to compete in the Miss Universe competition. (Olivia Culpo, Miss USA 2012, went on to win Miss Universe.)

The organization's website says,

The winner of Miss USA will immediately move to a luxury apartment in New York City, which will be her home base while she spends her reign traveling the country, developing and representing her platforms, and raising awareness and funds for charitable initiatives. In addition to her new accommodations, the Miss USA title also includes: a year-long salary; all paid living expenses; personal appearance wardrobe and styling by the official Miss Universe Organization fashion stylist; extensive international and domestic travel; and access to various New York City events including casting opportunities, movie premieres, fashion week, sporting events and career opportunities presented by one the world's largest and most dynamic entertainment agencies, WME|IMG, parent company of The Miss Universe Organization.

The competitions also have different categories for judging the contestants.

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The Miss America pageant includes the swimsuit, evening wear, talent and final question competitions.

The Miss USA pageant does not have a talent portion. Contestants compete in swimwear, evening gown, final question and final look categories.

So there you have it. History, prizes and competition categories are the three biggest differences between Miss America and Miss USA.

The Miss America website actually does a pretty nice job of summing up the distinction -- and, uh, throwing a little shade at the same time.

The Miss America Organization is a non-profit organization, whereas Miss USA/Miss Universe is a for-profit company. In 1952, Catalina Swimsuits founded the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants as a product promotion tool after Miss America dropped Catalina as its swimsuit sponsor. Miss America provides opportunities for young women to promote their voices in culture, politics and the community. Miss America contestants working towards college or postgraduate degrees can earn scholarship awards to help further their education. The Miss America Organization is the nation's leading provider of scholarships for young women, awarding millions annually in cash awards and in-kind tuition waivers.

So, yeah, not the same thing.

Miss USA will air this Sunday on FOX at 8 pm EST.