GRESHAM — Sutherlin High School graduate Elizabeth Denny was crowned as 2017 Miss Oregon USA Sunday night at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.
Denny, who turned 26 last week, won the title over 26 other contestants from all over Oregon.
The contestants don’t have individual platforms in the Miss Oregon USA program. Denny said the program has one platform, and that is "confidently beautiful," and it focuses more on empowering women.
She competed in interview, fitness/swimwear, and evening wear.
“I believe interview was my strongest category, and I felt very confident in the on-stage portions,” Denny said.
Denny will now compete in the Miss USA pageant, but the date and site have not yet been determined. The winner of the national contest will compete in the Miss Universe pageant. She also won a long list of prizes including a $36,000 scholarship to Lindenwood University in Missouri, plus many makeup packages, clothing prizes and photo shoots.
While the Miss USA and Miss America pageants are both scholarship programs, participants must apply to compete in the state pageant for the Miss USA program, which offers scholarships to the top 16 contestants in the Oregon competition.
Denny said both Miss America and Miss USA programs are about empowering women and giving them the opportunity to be launched into their futures.
Denny is a pageant veteran. She was named Miss Douglas County in 2010 and and Miss Umpqua Valley in 2012, and won three other open contests, so she was able to compete in the Miss Oregon Pageant in Seaside five times. She finished as high as second runner-up at Miss Oregon.
She has competed in 17 pageants overall, winning more than $100,000 in scholarship money. Denny said she was able to finish her B.S. degree in communications at Portland State University debt-free because of that.
“I feel like I’ve become a fearless woman through all of the years I’ve competed, I’m a business owner now and I don’t think that there’s anything that I can’t obtain,” she said.