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Miss United States is a beauty pageant sponsored by Belding Industries for professional women. It includes beauty contest winners from each state in a competition for the title of Miss United States. It is a pageant of the loveliest women in the country, who are judged on poise, beauty, intelligence, and talent. While it closely resembles the format of the Miss America Beauty Pageant, the Miss United States Pageant does not include a "Miss Congeniality" award.
The contestants room with their chaperons at the Ambassador Hotel, and must adhere to strict rules as expressed in the fine print of the pageant's orientation manual. Rules include no liquor, no smoking in public, no male visitors, and no phone calls without approval from the Director. There is also a bed check at 11:00 p. m. to ensure the ladies are in their rooms. During the week long competition, contestants will do everything with their "family", a group of five women that are assigned together.
- Ray Raymond, aka Mr. Smiles, is the Pageant Director and Master of Ceremonies.
- Mrs. Belding oversees the ladies and performs the 11:00pm bedcheck.
- Brady is the stage manager and oversees production.
Contestants for Miss United States are selected by a panel of judges based on a set of competitions.
In the Talent portion of the competition, a variety of talents are exhibited, including singing and baton twirling. 1976 marks the first year in which the talent portion is pre-recorded the day before the televised finals. As an electronic time saver, the taped portion is shown on closed circuit television during the live broadcast.
In the Swimsuit portion of the competition, the ladies wear identical swimsuits. Each contestant wears a blue one-piece suit with high heel shoes as they are called out alphabetically by state name. They then walk across the stage, down the walkway, and to their position on stage.
Five finalists are selected by the judges following the swimsuit portion of the competition. The finalists then take part in most of the show, including having their pre-recorded talent segment shown. The remainder of the contestants are relegated to the background for the remainder of the Pageant.
The final portion of the competition is the interview. Following the announcement of the finalists, the ladies change into their formal gowns, before returning to the stage. The contestants are then asked a question at random, which they must then answer on stage without any preparation.
On her first night, the newly crowned Miss United States will fly on her own private jet to Paris, France to begin a Goodwill Tour.
- In a revised draft of the script, dated January 21, 1976, the Pageant is identified as the Ms. United States Pageant, and is described as being "a step beyond Miss America" because it is for professional women.