Miss Kentucky Elle Smith Wins Miss USA 2021

Elle Smith is going from Miss Kentucky to Miss USA!

The pageant queen, who works as a broadcast news reporter for Louisville's WHAS-TV, was crowned Miss USA on Monday night at the River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

As the newly crowned Miss USA, Smith will go on to represent the U.S. at the upcoming Miss Universe pageant, which is scheduled to take place on Dec. 12 in Eilat, Israel.

Smith was crowned Miss USA by last year's winner, Asya Branch. During Monday's ceremony, Branch gave Smith the Miss USA tiara, officially passing on the title to her successor, who teared up and seemed overjoyed after the exciting news was announced.

Smith graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2020 with a journalism degree, according to USA Today. While there, she was vice president of her school's National Association of Black Journalists chapter, and spent a summer as a Fox News College Associate in Washington, D.C.

"A little over a year ago, I sat in bed and watched Miss USA. I remember watching @andreiagibau @sthephaniemariemiranda @mariahclayton_ and so many more incredible women grace the stage, and thinking, 'I want to be on that stage. I want to be like them,' " she wrote on Instagram.

"I made that dream reality," she added. "Now, it's game time."

Also competing this year were Miss Kansas Gracie Hunt — the daughter of Kansas City Chiefs owner, chairman, and CEO Clark Hunt — as well as Miss Nevada Kataluna Enriquez, the first openly transgender woman to compete for the Miss USA crown.

Enriquez, 28, did not finish in the competition's top 16, but made history with her turn in Miss USA.  After winning the title of Miss Nevada in June, Enriquez posted on Instagram, "Huge thank you to everyone who supported me from day one. My community, you are always in my heart. My win is our win. We just made history. Happy pride."