The LSU Union Theater is buzzing with noise as the conversations of hundreds of people compete to be heard. Most of the seats are filled and the last few audience members to arrive are passing through the entrances and speed walking to their assigned seats.
The stage in front of the panel of judges is empty aside from a giant screen displaying advertisements from the various sponsors of the event that is soon to start.
A Woolly Threads advertisement flashes onto the screen for the second time in ten minutes and then the stage goes completely dark as the lights throughout the theater are lowered.
For the first time in the night, the room goes silent, but not for long. Spotlights illuminate the stage in shades of pink and blue and a country song begins to play throughout the theater as the 23 contestants take the stage to perform their choreographed dance. The Miss LSU-USA Pageant has officially begun.
Twenty-three contestants took to the stage Sunday night to compete for the title of Miss LSU-USA 2016.
The pageant, hosted by Louisiana State University’s Sigma Chapter of Delta Zeta, is held annually on campus to raise money for Delta Zeta’s local and national philanthropies. The 2015 pageant raised more than $50,000 for these philanthropies, according to the Miss LSU-USA official blog.
Miss LSU-USA 2015, Ashley Barbier, helped in crowning Emilie Hebert as Miss LSU-USA 2016 Sunday night.
Contestants compete and are judged based on four categories: a pre-pageant interview, a swimsuit segment, an evening gown segment and an on-stage question reserved for the top five finalists.
During the swimsuit portion, Emcee of the night, Jennifer Hale, introduced the contestants individually based on their hobbies, interests, life motto and greatest achievement.
Contestant 19, Kaelah Cobb, said on-stage that her life motto is “dreams won’t work unless you do.”
Before Miss LSU-USA 2016 was crowned, contestant Priscilla Lustig was awarded best swimsuit 2016.
Following the swimsuit portion, the contestants make their way back to the stage in their evening gowns, accompanied by an escort. The judges awarded Tiffany Sporl with the best evening gown of the night.
After the evening gown portion, Hale announced a 15-minute intermission, during which the judges met to tally their votes. Following the intermission, the 23 contestants emerged on the stage to participate in the first round of cuts for the night.
Hale announced the final five in no particular order, naming Karli Willis, Emiley Dillon, Sydney Saia, Emilie Hebert and Hailey Hebert as the contestants still in the running for the crown.
During the final round, the top five took to the stage to answer a question that they each chose from a glass bowl. The questions ranged from thoughts on LSUs budget crisis to what advice the contestant would give their younger self.
As the judges calculated their final decisions for the night, Delta Zeta sorority played a video showcasing their philanthropies that will benefit from the money the pageant raises.
“My favorite part about Miss LSU is the money it raises for charity,” said Carlee Borque, who attended Miss LSU-USA for the third year in a row Sunday night.
Once the five judges reached their conclusion, the participants took to the stage for the final time. Hale took a moment to announce the night’s superlatives. Karli Willis, a member of the top five, took home the award for most photogenic.
Contestant eleven, Bria Davis, won Miss Congeniatlity 2016, and Sporl took home the people’s choice award, which was based on votes across social media using the hashtag #mymisslsu. Cobb, a member of Delta Zeta sorority, received the award for best pre-show interview.