Miss USA 2012 Winner is Olivia Culpo, Miss Rhode Island (PHOTO)

The Miss USA 2012 winner was crowned Sunday evening as Miss Rhode Island, Olivia Culpo following a tense evening at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

Expand | Collapse
(Photo: Twitter/Olivia Culpo)Miss USA 2012 Olivia Culpo

Fifty-one pageant queens from all 50 states, as well as from the District of Columbia, competing for the coveted crown, but it was the representative from Rhode Island that took the crown and will now go on to represent the United States at the Miss Universe competition later this year.

This year was the first time viewers were able to pose questions directly to the Miss USA contestants during the broadcast. Viewers were invited to send their questions through Twitter, and one awkward question was given to one unlucky contestant. In this case it was Culpo, the eventual winner, who was asked a question about whether it was fair for a transgender person to enter and potentially win the Miss USA competition ahead of women born naturally female.

Culpo remained composed as she answered, saying that she could understand why people might not agree that to be the right thing,and why they might feel awkward, but that ultimately she said that she'd accept a transgender as a competitor.

Executive Producer Barry Adelman had said, "We wanted to add an element of suspense by integrating social media into the final question portion. It will all come down to one contestant, one fan and 140 characters."

The feature launched during the 2011 show – online voting – was kept for this year's show as well.

The judging panel this year consisted of: chef Cat Cora, comedian Arsenio Hall, musician Joe Jonas, actress Marilu Henner, TV's Rob Kardashian, Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza, TV host George Kotsiopoulous, and The Bachelorette's Ali Fedotowsky.