Steve Marcus/Reuters/Landov
Mark Gray
June 04, 2012 07:30 AM

The biggest star of the 61st annual Miss USA Pageant hails from the smallest state in the nation.

Olivia Culpo, a bubbly brunette beauty from Rhode Island, bested 50 other women to win Sunday night’s 2012 Miss USA Pageant in Las Vegas.

Culpo, 20, of Cranston, dazzled judges with her poise and looks and didn’t miss a beat (after a deep breath) when thrown a tough question via Twitter about whether someone who is transgender should be allowed to participate in pageants.

“I do think it would be fair, but I understand if people could be apprehensive,” she said. “I do accept that because I believe it’s a free country.”

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Culpo follows Alyssa Campanella and will represent the United States at Miss Universe in December.

If Culpo can’t fulfill her duties, she will be replaced by Miss Maryland, Nana Meriwether, who was the runner-up.

Judges included Rob Kardashian, Joe Jonas, Chef Cat Cora, Arsenio Hall, and Mary Lou Henner.

For the fifth year in a row, the Donald Trump-owned contest was held at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. Culpo was established as the odds-on favorite by the Wynn Las Vegas sports book prior to the competition at 9 to 1 odds.

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