Miss Minnesota USA

Miss Minnesota USA
Formation 1952
Type Beauty pageant
Headquarters Minneapolis
Miss USA
Official language
Website Official website
For the state pageant affiliated with Miss America, see Miss Minnesota.
Kaylee Unverzagt, Miss Minnesota USA 2008

The Miss Minnesota USA competition is the pageant that selects the representative for the state of Minnesota in the Miss USA pageant.

Despite a strong start in the first three years of competition at Miss USA, Minnesota has been only mildly successful overall. In more recent years, Minnesota has twice received recognition with the Miss Photogenic award.

Barbara Elaine Peterson was the first Miss Minnesota-USA to be crowned Miss USA (in 1976), and was also the first Miss USA to not place in the Miss Universe pageant. Her sister, Polly Peterson Bowles, was Miss Minnesota-USA 1981.[1]


The Miss Minnesota-USA pageant was first held in 1952. That year's winner was Jodell Stirmlinger. Her win was followed by Mary Ann Papke in 1953 and Dawn Joyce in 1954. All three placed in the top 20 or better at the Miss USA contest. Minnesota would not see another contestant place at Miss USA until 1976 when Barbara Elaine Peterson became the state's first (and to date only) Miss USA winner. She did not place at the Miss Universe 1976 held in Hong Kong.

Miss Minnesota-USA was not held from 1960–64. The following year Miss Minnesota-USA winner Elizabeth Jane Carroll won the Miss Congeniality award at the Miss USA pageant.

Peterson's 1976 success was followed by Deborah Cossette, who was the second runner up at Miss USA. Barbara Peterson's sister, Polly Peterson, won the 1981 Miss Minnesota-USA title. She was also the second runner up at the 1976 Miss Teenage America pageant, but didn't place at Miss USA 1981.

In November 1987, Sue Bolich won the 1988 Miss Minnesota-USA title. Bolich reigned from November 1987 to February 1988, when she resigned after being arrested for shoplifting.[2] First runner-up Jolene Stavrakis resigned days later after she revealed she had pleaded guilty to shoplifting in 1986.[3] Second runner-up Julie Nelson was crowned less than a month before the Miss USA pageant in February 1988.[1]

In 1989, Julie Knutson won the Miss Minnesota-USA title after being a semifinalist in both 1987 and 1988. In 1990, Janet Tveita became the second Miss Minnesota-USA winner to win a special award at Miss USA, taking Miss Congeniality. April Herke, who had been the fourth runner-up in Miss Oktoberfest 1990, won the 1991 crown. The 1992 winner, Amber Rue, completed her reign amid publicity about a "public lovers' quarrel involving allegations of coerced sex, extortion, fraud, and defamation of character".[4]

Stavrakis returned in 1993 to reclaim the state title, in what was her last year of eligibility, after having her criminal record expunged.[5] The placed 10th in the 1993 Miss USA pageant. Her successor, Angelique de Maison, placed 5th at Miss USA.

The 1996 winner, Karin Smith, would later appear on ABC's The Bachelor. After winning the 1997 state pageant, Melissa Hall would go on to win Mrs. Minnesota and place in the Top 10 of Mrs. America in 2004 under her married name, Melissa Young.[6]

The 2000 Miss Minnesota USA winner, Paige Swenson, was previously Miss Minnesota Teen USA 1994, placing 13th at Nationals. She won the Miss Photogenic award at the Miss USA contest. Her successor, Anne Marie Clausen, would go on to win Mrs. Minnesota United States 2011, and place in the Top 10 at nationals under the name Anne Marie Moore.

Miss Minnesota-USA 2002, Lanore Van Buren, was the 3rd runner up at Nationals. Her successor, Sarah Cahill, was previously named Miss Minnesota Teen-USA in 1996. The 2005 title was held in Bloomington and won by Carrie Lee. It was her fourth attempt at the title as she had placed third runner-up to Cahill in 2003, was second runner-up in 2002 and made the semi-finals in 2001. She was the first woman from Sebeka to win the Miss Minnesota-USA title.

The 2006 pageant was won by Dottie Cannon, who was the second runner-up the previous year. As Miss Minnesota-USA, she was a representative of Future Productions. She failed to place in the nationally contest, but won the Miss Congeniality award. Alla Ilushka became the third former Miss Minnesota Teen-USA (winning in 2002) to win Miss Minnesota-USA in 2007. She had placed in the Top 10 of Miss Teen-USA, but did not place at Miss USA.

Erica Nego, who won the 2009 title, placed 12th at Nationals. Two years later, she won Miss Universe Ghana. The 2012 Miss Minnesota-USA, Nitaya Panemalaythong, also had an international flair having been born in Thailand.

The 2014 Miss Minnesota-USA winner, Haley O'Brien, had previously won Miss Minnesota Teen-USA in 2010 and Miss Collegiate America in 2012.

In 2016, Halima Aden became the first contestant to compete wearing a burkini, and the first to wear a hijab the entire time.[7]

Results summary



Winner results

Color key
  •      Declared as Winner
  •      Ended as runner-up
  •      Ended as one of the finalists or semifinalists
Year Name Hometown Age1 Miss USA Placement Miss USA Special awards Notes
2017 Meridith Gould Minneapolis 22 TBA Previously Miss South Dakota's Outstanding Teen 2012, and previously Miss South Dakota 2014
2016 Bridget Jacobs Maple Grove 20
2015 Jessica Scheu Minneapolis 23 Miss Teen World Minnesota 2009, as well as State Interview, Evening Gown and Fitness Winner. 1st Runner Up at Miss International Pageant & National Fitness Winner. She competed in Miss Minnesota USA in 2014 & 2012, was 1st runner-up and semi-finalist. Competed in Miss Minnesota Teen USA is 2008 & 2009, both years was semi-finalist.
2014 Haley O'Brien Excelsior 21 Top 20 Miss Minnesota Teen USA 2010 and Miss Collegiate America 2012
2013 Danielle Hooper[8] Inver Grove Heights 20 50
2012 Nitaya Panemalaythong Minneapolis 26 50
2011 Brittany Thelemann Plymouth 23 50
2010 Courtney Basara Duluth 20 50
2009 Erica Nego Plymouth 24 Top 15 (12th place) Later Miss Universe Ghana 2011
2008 Kaylee Unverzagt Eagan 20 Top 15 (15th place)
2007 Alla Ilushka Eden Prairie 22 50 Miss Minnesota Teen USA 2002 and Top 10 at Miss Teen USA 2002
2006 Dottie Cannon[9] Eagan 22 50 Miss Congeniality
2005 Carrie Lee Sebeka 25 50
2004 Jessica Dereschuk Stacy 20 50
2003 Sarah Cahill Waseca 24 50 Miss Photogenic Miss Minnesota Teen USA 1996
2002 Lanore Van Buren Edina 26 3rd Runner-Up Bluepoint Apparel Swimsuit and Fitness Award
2001 Anne Marie Clausen Golden Valley 23 50
2000 Paige Swenson Fridley 50 Miss Photogenic Miss Minnesota Teen USA 1994
1999 Crystal Vandenberg[10] Brooklyn Center 19 50
1998 Josan Hengen Eden Prairie/Circle Pines 19 50
1997 Melissa Hall Minneapolis 50
1996 Karin Smith Brooklyn Park 25 50
1995 Angelique de Maison St. Louis Park Finalist (5th place)
1994 Jolene Stravrakis Burnsville Semifinalist (10th place)
1993 Kristi Bennecke[11] Anoka 50
1992 Amber Rue Minneapolis 50
1991 April Ann Herke Eden Prairie 50
1990 Janet Tveita Minneapolis 50 Miss Congeniality
1989 Julie Knutson Crystal 22 50
1988 Sue Bolich Mound 99N/A2
Jolene Stavrakis Apple Valley 99N/A2
Julie Nelson Bloomington 50
1987 Christine Rosenberger South St. Paul 50
1986 Cynthia Jane Peterson Edina 50
1985 Kari Lee Johnson Minneapolis 4th Runner-Up
1984 Martha Mork Edina 50
1983 Carolyn Mattson New Hope 50
1982 Lori Kmetz New Brighton 50
1981 Polly Peterson Edina 50 sister of Miss USA 1976 Barbara Peterson
1980 Carla Peterson Albert Lea Semifinalist (12th place)
1979 Cynthia Sue Lee St. Paul 50
1978 Janey Gohl St. Cloud 50
1977 Deborah Cossette Minneapolis 2nd Runner-Up
1976 Barbara Elaine Peterson Edina Miss USA 1976
1975 Dawn Lamotte St. Paul 50
1974 Gayle Johnson Minneapolis 50
1973 Cyndi James Minneapolis 50
1972 Darlene Koskiniemi Roseville 50
1971 Shirley Kittleson Sherburn 50
1970 Sally Strickland St. Paul 50
1969 Laureen Darling Minneapolis 50
1968 Arlene Larson Minneapolis 50
1967 Betty Ann Brewer Richfield 50
1966 Patricia Thatcher 50
1965 Elizabeth Jane Carroll Bloomington 50 Miss Congeniality
1960-64 No Representative
1959 Muriel Fairbanks Minneapolis 50
1958 Sue Bouchard Minneapolis 50
1957 Mary Margaret Ford Minneapolis 50
1956 Marilyn Johnson Minneapolis 50
1955 Sally Ann Colombo Stillwater 50
1954 Dawn Joyce Minneapolis Semifinalist (Top 19)
1953 Mary Ann Papke Minneapolis Semifinalist (Top 20)
1952 Jodell Stirmlinger St. Paul Semifinalist (Top 10)

1 Age at the time of the Miss USA pageant
2 Contestant resigned title before the Miss USA pageant


  1. 1 2 Furst, Randy (1988-02-11). "3rd Miss Minnesota-USA has `nothing to hide'". Star-Tribune Newspaper of the Twin Cities Mpls.-St. Paul. p. 01A.
  2. "Shoplifting Suspect Won't Be Miss USA". San Francisco Chronicle. 1988-02-09. p. A2.
  3. Krattenmaker, Tom (1988-02-10). "Second Beauty Queen Withdraws Over Shoplifting". Associated Press.
  4. McAuliffe, Bill (1992-11-02). "Public lovers' quarrel mars Miss Minnesota-USA's reign // Couple traded lawsuits alleging coerced sex, extortion". Star-Tribune Newspaper of the Twin Cities Mpls.-St. Paul. p. 01B.
  5. Blake, Laurie (1993-11-11). "Miss Minnesota-USA reaches crown and glory again // Five years ago she had to forfeit her title". Star-Tribune Newspaper of the Twin Cities Mpls.-St. Paul. p. 03B.
  6. "2004 Mrs America". Retrieved July 9, 2010.
  7. https://www.good.is/articles/the-first-somali-miss-minnesota
  8. "Danielle Hooper Crowned Miss Minnesota USA 2013". Beauty Pageant News. November 26, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
  9. Francis, Delma (2006-04-17). "Ambition takes local woman to Baltimore; Miss Minnesota USA, Dottie Cannon of Eagan, is competing Friday in the Miss USA pageant.". Star-Tribune. p. 10E.
  10. "New Miss Minnesota-USA, Miss Minnesota Teen USA crowned" (Press release). Associated Press. 1998-11-30.
  11. Freeborn, Dan (1992-11-19). "She's got her cap set for an education // `No. 1 priority is school,' says Miss Minnesota USA". Star-Tribune Newspaper of the Twin Cities Mpls.-St. Paul. p. 07B.
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