A new Miss USA will be picked on Friday, as pageant organizers hope to avoid past mistakes

By Sara Hammel
March 21, 2007 11:00 AM

The tumultuous, yearlong reign of Miss USA Tara Conner will come to a close on Friday – as pageant organizers plan to ensure the next generation of contestants learns from her mistakes.

The 21-year-old, who almost had her tiara yanked in December after allegations of wild partying and heavy drinking, will play a large part in this week’s Miss USA telecast on NBC, though she will not serve as its centerpiece, organizers say.

“Certainly, our reigning Miss USA is going to be on television and we’re certainly not going to shy away from referring to what happened,” the event’s executive producer Phil Gurin told the Associated Press. “Why shy away from what’s part of our family? We embrace our family.”

Gurin added that viewers will have the opportunity to see Conner and “make their own determinations by seeing how she presents herself, what she has to say about what happened this past year … and that’s something we’ve never been able to do before.”

In January, after serving a month in rehab, Connor told PEOPLE, “I suffer from the disease of alcoholism and addiction. And if there’s anything that I want people to know it’s the severity of this disease and what it can do to people.”

Conner came perilously close to losing her crown until Donald Trump, who co-owns the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants with NBC, gave her a second chance. His decision and subsequent comments sparked a war of words with The View co-host Rosie O’Donnell.