Miss California, a history buff, named Miss USA

Mon Jun 20, 2011 3:48am EDT
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LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - A 21-year-old "history geek" representing California was named Miss USA at the annual beauty pageant in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Alyssa Campanella, who was born and raised in New Jersey which she represented at the Miss Teen USA contest in 2007, was considered among the favorites by pageant experts.

She will represent the United States at the Miss Universe pageant to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on September 12.

Campanella was crowned by incumbent Miss USA, Rima Fakih, a Lebanese-born Muslim who was the first Arab-American to hold the title.

Miss Tennessee came in second, Miss Alabama was third, and Miss Texas was fourth.

Campanella is a natural blond who dyed her hair red for a play several years ago and never went back. She told Reuters that she moved to Los Angeles about 18 months ago, and would like to remain there once her duties were over.

After revealing on the show that she was a "huge history geek" with a special interest in the Tudor and Stuart periods, she added in the interview that her favorite monarch was Mary, Queen of Scots, who was beheaded in 1587.

Campanella won the crown despite giving a muddled answer when a judge asked her whether marijuana should be legalized in California. She replied that marijuana for medical purposes was "very important," but had concerns about whether legalization would help in the war against drugs.

Miss Tennessee, 21-year-old journalism student Ashley Elizabeth Durham, declared that burning the American flag should not be protected by free speech and that burning religious books was "just a line that you do not cross."   Continued...

<p>Miss California Alyssa Campanella (C) reacts as she is chosen as the last of the final four finalists during the 2011 Miss USA pageant in the Theatre for the Performing Arts at Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 19, 2011. REUTERS/STEVE MARCUS</p>