Fifty-one intelligent and talented contestants from around the U.S. are vying for the title of Miss USA 2020. The 2020 class of contestant is filled with former Teen USA titleholders, national, and international titleholders from various pageant organizations, which makes for an interesting mix of competitors. After reviewing each contestant’s personal and titleholder Instagram pages, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 favorite headshots from this year’s pool of talent.
10. Nevada (Victoria Olona)
I’m thrilled to include Victoria on this list because she’s a personal friend of mine. We met years ago, as models on a casting in LA, when I encouraged her to compete for Miss USA. I instantly knew she could win a state title. Year’s later she took home the title of Miss Nevada USA, and was instantly recognized as a front runner. Her image is reminiscent of the backlit, glam, Fadil shoot at Miss Universe 2011, which is probably why I love it so much.
9. Louisiana (Mariah Clayton)
Mariah makes my list because of her angelic face. I don’t think this queen can take a bad photo. Mariah is a professional model with a gorgeous complexion. Her edited images are not far from reality, and this image is a perfect example of her photogenic qualities and skincare goals.
8. Rhode Island (Jonét Nichelle)
Jonét was on the cusp of making my early favs video. This shot proves she’s coming for the crown and is not one to be overlooked. There are so many things that went right in this image, including: the hair, the makeup, the wardrobe, the styling, the editing, the lighting, and the monochromatic backdrop. With all the things working in this image, it was a no brainer to put her in my top contestant headshots for 2020.
7. Washington (Imani Blackmon)
Imani is a former Miss Washington Teen USA who has grown by leaps and bounds since her time as a teen contestant. After a short stint competing for the title of Miss California USA, Imani returned to her home state to place top 5 in 2019 and finally took home the crown in 2020. I witnessed Imani’s win and must say that her start shined bright. She was incredibly present and had the audience cheering all night. Her full smile headshot makes my top 10 because it is effortless and charming, just as Olivia Jordan’s headshot was in 2015.
6. Maryland (Taelyr Robinson)
If anyone deserves a shot at the Miss USA title, it’s Taelyr. She has held local titles, placed in semi-finals, and the top 5, for Miss California USA, Miss New Hampshire USA, Miss New York USA, and finally Miss Maryland USA. Taelyr is a tall model with boatloads natural beauty; that is why I love this dressed down image of her with minimal hair and makeup.
5. Montana (Merissa Underwood)
Merissa is a towering beauty at 6’1. She competed in the USA system for years and finally took home the title of Miss Montana USA 2020, in what was one of the most competitive state pageants I have seen in Montana over the last decade. (Watch her full performance here) This image captures Merissa’s beautiful doll like features that resemble a full-glam, brunette, Elle Fanning.
4. Virginia (Susie Evans)
Susie reminds me of an All-American girl in her headshot. Her soft side swept hair, and captivating gaze drew me into this image. Susie’s image reminds me of a Trump Era USA titleholder, blessed with natural beauty. Susie is a contestant I’ve followed and hold high hopes for at the national competition, which is also why I included her in my early Miss USA favorites. (Watch more about Susie here.)
3. Georgia (Alyssa Beasley)
Alyssa is not only Miss Georgia USA, she was a former Miss Georgia America. In fact, she wore my favorite evening gown at Miss America in 2017, which makes me eager to see what she’s chosen for Miss USA. Alyssa’s image stands out from the group because it shows off her incredible jawline that people pay big bucks to recreate. Alyssa proves that a strong headshot does not need heavy makeup, gaudy jewelry, or expensive wardrobe to catch your attention.
2. Idaho (Kim Layne)
Fadil never seems to disappoint. (Dear MUO, please bring back Fadil’s glam shoots. Sincerely, every pageant fan) Fadil captured this stunning image of Kim that makes her look like Miss Universe. She is Irish and half Filipino, much like a our recent half-Filipino Miss Universe, Catriona Gray. She is also a former Teen USA titleholder. My hope is that her past experience will better equip her for the Miss USA stage and its responsibilities. I’d love to see a clean glam look, like this one, on Kim at the 2020 competition.
1. Texas (Taylor Kessler)
My number one pageant headshot for the Miss USA class of 2020 goes to Miss Texas USA, Taylor Kessler. As a titleholder for The Crystal Group, which produces Miss Texas USA, Taylor has an incredible prep team. Since being crowned, she’s regularly released gorgeous headshots on her personal and titleholder Instagram accounts, but this one takes the cake for me. Texas is a historically strong pageant state, but the last time they placed in the top 5 at Miss USA was in 2015, when Ylianna Guerra was 1st runner up. Taylor is an exceptionally strong competitor, who I can easily see advancing into the top five at Miss USA 2020.
Want to see more contestant headshots? See the latest from Miss Universe Philippines contestants.