The 22-year-old aspiring motivational speaker and entertainer from Wilmington edged out first runner-up Miss California USA Carrie Prejean, of San Diego, and second runner-up Miss Arizona USA Alicia-Monique Blanco, of Phoenix,"It feels really natural," Dalton said of her win. "I've worked so be here and this has been my lifelong dream and it's finally here.
And whoever knew you could win in a turquoise gown?"Contestants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia competed in the pageant, aired live on NBC. Contestants were judged by their performance in swimsuit and evening gown modeling contests and their responses to a question asked onstage; unlike the rival Miss America pageant, Miss USA contestants do not perform a talent.
She also will go to the Bahamas in August to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, where American beauties haven't been lucky in recent years. Both Miss USA 2008 Crystle Stewart and her predecessor, Rachel Smith, wiped out on stage during the evening gown competition, becoming accidental YouTube stars.
If there is a YouTube moment from Sunday's show, it may be Miss California's answer to a question about legalizing same-sex marriage. The tall blonde stumbled some before giving an answer that appeared to please the pageant audience,.
"We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage," Prejean said. "And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised."
Some in the audience cheered, others booed. The answer sparked a shouting match in the lobby after the show.