BALTIMORE – Miss Kentucky was crowned Miss USA in the 55th annual pageant Friday night.
Tara Elizabeth Conner, 20, of Russell Springs, was crowned by Chelsea Cooley of North Carolina, who was Miss USA 2005.
"I am an easygoing, down-to-earth girl," Conner said.
"Throughout my life, hardships and different experiences have made me a very humbled, yet strong individual," she said. "It is because of these life lessons that I have become the person I am today."
The new titleholder will compete July 23 in the Miss Universe competition in Los Angeles.
Conner is the first Miss USA from Kentucky. Many people have misconceptions about Kentucky, and she's ready to represent the South, she said.
"The stars were in my favor tonight," she said. "I want to see how far this year can take me."
She listed her hobbies as including golf, skydiving, tubing on Lake Cumberland, rappelling, scrapbooking and watching University of Kentucky basketball.
The first item on her agenda, she said, is to go to Italy because she hasn't seen her brother, stationed there with the Navy, in a year.
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.