It’s never easy for a pageant winner to give up her crown, as the latest Miss USA is now finding out.
Olivia Jordan is the first Oklahoman to hold the title, adding to the significance FOX will televise from the T-Mobile Arena at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand on Sunday (June 5). Not only will the 50 states and the District of Columbia be represented, there’s a 52nd entrant for the first time, voted in by the public through a contest conducted via Twitter.
“It has been an incredible year,” lively Tulsa native Jordan tells Zap2it. “It has been crazy, and there definitely have been ups and downs and challenges and obstacles, as is always true in life … but if I had the chance to do it again, I would. To represent the place where I grew up was surreal. I got to go home and speak at my high school and stand on the field where I used to be a cheerleader. I had no idea then what my future would hold, or how huge the opportunities were that were ahead of me. I hope I encouraged all those kids to think big and dream big.”
Jordan is gratified that the reactions to her as Miss USA signal the ongoing relevance of the pageant, staged by the Miss Universe Organization (and formerly co-produced by Donald Trump). With Julianne Hough (“Grease Live,” “Dancing With the Stars”) and Terrence “J” Jenkins (“Coupled”) as co-hosts, this weekend’s event will feature Backstreet Boys and country music’s Chris Young as performers.
“My experience has been that these competitions are still very much a part of our culture,” Jordan says. “It’s an opportunity to empower young women to set goals to become the greatest versions of themselves – to work on their public-speaking skills, their interview skills, skills that are relevant across the board in life.
“All across the world, I’ve seen how relevant this is,” Jordan notes. “Even when I was in New York, people from Brazil would come up and ask for a photo and tell me they’d grown up watching the Miss Universe Pageant as we watch the Super Bowl. It’s a family activity, and for other countries, it really is a huge thing. And even in the U.S., it’s still very relevant.”
The personal relevance for aspiring actress Jordan (who appeared in “Hot Tub Time Machine 2”) extends to having made health-care issues her Miss USA platform, her having a bachelor’s degree in health science from Boston University. “I’ve never had any political aspirations,” she maintains, “but this year, I’ve had the opportunity to lobby for (organizations concerned with) ovarian cancer as well as the Alzheimer’s Association, and I learned that you can truly make a difference. If you speak to your senators and write to your congressmen, you can really have a voice.”
Jordan’s literal voice was in question — as was that of everyone else present — as a contestant in last December’s Miss Universe Pageant, when host Steve Harvey now-famously made an incorrect announcement of the winner and had to dial that back.
“It just didn’t feel real,” Jordan recalls. “it was a very bizarre moment, and I think all our hearts immediately sank for Miss Colombia. But I was standing next to Miss Philippines, who is now Miss Universe, and there was excitement for me. I had just gone through that same feeling of, ‘You didn’t get there, your dream isn’t coming true, move on.’ Then I was so joyful for her because to hear in the next second, ‘You know what? It’s not over, it is you, you are the winner,’ is amazing.
“The moment was horrible, all in all, but I think both women have gotten great press out of it. I hope that it won’t define either of their lives, and that it opens doors for each of them.”
As she ends her Miss USA reign, Jordan allows that “it’s definitely bittersweet. I do get to move on and follow my passion and take my experiences with me, I’m still going to work with the causes I believe in, and I’m excited for what’s next. But it going to be difficult to leave the family I’ve made here.”