Durham places 2nd in Miss USA Pageant

By Megan Smith


Photo Courtesy of the New York Daily News (Julie Jacobson/ AP)

Ashley Durham (left) hugs Miss California, Alyssa Campanella, after it is announced that they are the top two finalists.

 

Photo courtesy of Julie Jacobson/ AP

Four finalists in the Miss USA pageant.  Ashley Durham of Adamsville (2nd from left) was the 1st runner-up in the pageant.

 

The bright lights were not new to Adamsville’s Ashley Durham when she stepped onto stage this past Sunday for the Miss USA Pageant.  

In 2006, Durham was crowned Miss Teen Tennessee and competed in the Miss USA Teen Pageant.

On October 16, 2010, Durham was crowned Miss Tennessee USA at Austin Peay State University’s Music and Mass Communications Building in Clarksville, qualifying her to compete in the Miss USA pageant.

Durham placed as first runner-up in the Miss USA competition on June 19, 2011.  After the opening of the show, judges announced that Durham had been selected as one of the top sixteen delegates based on preliminary competitions and interviews.  

Following the swimsuit competition, Durham was selected as one of the top eight.  Next came the evening gown portion of the pageant, after which the judges named Durham among the top four contestants.

The final four contestants then competed in a round of interviews with the judges.  The judges asked contestants two questions, one personal question and one tough political question. 

Judge Rocco DiSpirito asked Durham, “Should burning of any religious article be protected by the First Amendment the same way burning the flag is protected?”  

Durham responded, “Absolutely not.  I know that some people view it as freedom of speech.  However, burning the American flag is not patriotic at all.  No American citizen should do that, and you should also respect other religions.  I am a Christian and a faithful person.  I would personally not appreciate someone burning the Bible, and that’s a line you do not cross.”

This statement caused some controversy.  Judge Penn Jillete made certain explicit comments concerning Durham’s response on his twitter account.  

To these comments Durham responded, “Penn Jillette’s twitter comments about my Miss USA final answer are disappointing.   I understand and am grateful for the protections we enjoy under the U.S. Constitution, but the First Amendment does not extend to all types of speech.  Due to my strong Christian beliefs, and my respect for the convictions of others, I personally feel that burning sacred texts goes too far.”

Ashley’s father, Harvey Durham, stated, “Ashley did so good.  I just don’t know anything that she could have done better.  I hope other young ladies will step up like she did and be proud of their faith.”

Following the interviews the judges chose the winner.  They crowned Alyssa Campanella, Miss California, Miss USA, and Durham as first runner-up. Third and fourth place went respectively to Madeline Mitchell, Miss Alabama, and Ana Rodriguez, Miss Texas.  

As first runner-up, Durham received a cash price of $2500.  Also, all of the contestants received prizes from sponsors such as Rain Cosmetics, Australian Gold, NY Film Academy, CHI, OPI, and Chinese Laundry.

Ashley’s mother, Charlotte Durham, said that she was very proud of Ashley.  She stated that it was a lot of competition just to make it to the top 15, and for her to be first runner-up was just incredible.

Durham stated that the Miss USA Pageant was an incredible experience all around.  According to Durham, the contestants did not sleep much at all, but the constant rehearsing, filming and appearances were worth it.  

Durham stated, “I made priceless memories that will last a lifetime and made incredible friends along the way.”

Interestingly, Durham had a close friendship with a fellow top-four finalist in the Miss USA pageant according to her mother.  Durham and Ana Rodriguez, Miss Texas, had modeled together in the past.

Durham’s mother stated that for Ashley to be in the top four with Rodriguez was incredible and that they had a ball and made a lot of new friends together.

Durham said that she thought being first runner up in the Miss USA pageant was a great honor.  She stated that the competition was tough and that she knew that the current Miss USA would do a good job.  Miss California and Durham were friends while in Las Vegas according to Durham.

Concerning her future plans Durham said that she already had a couple of opportunities.  She said that she could always go back to school in Memphis or take classes online. 

Also, she said that her friend, Morgan Wooland, who was first runner-up in the competition last year, wanted her to do some entertaining modelling with her.  

Durham stated, “This is less than 48 hours after the competition, and I already have a couple of opportunities.  I know that I will be getting more, and I’m excited.”