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Behind the Scenes: Inside PEOPLE Editor's Week as Miss USA Judge

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Patrick Prather/Getty

Last week, I had the opportunity to judge the Miss USA pageant. No, I didn’t meet The Donald. And, no, I’m not now best friends with Giuliana Rancic – the co-host arrived after Sin City was long in my rearview mirror.

But I did meet 51 amazing young women. Some were competing in their first pageants, others were old pros (even what the industry refers to as state jumpers – you know, when you can’t win California, why not try Idaho?)

I spent an entire day interviewing them, breaking them out of their pageant comfort zone and checking out their grace under pressure. It’s a big job to represent a worldwide brand, and in all fairness, you do have to be more than just a pretty face.

To be the company-trademarked “confidently beautiful,” you have to hold your own in new and intimidating situations. Can you answer, “Who do you want sent home?” with grace and without alienating anyone? One girl certainly did. Nailed it.

I am not sure if she’ll make it into the top 15, but I have my fingers crossed for her and the others that made my final list for each event I judged: interview, evening gown and swim. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at my week as a Miss USA preliminary judge.

// the story “Miss USA: My Week as a Preliminary Judge” on Storify