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October 2, 2014

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Photos: Miss Universe Pageant is tonight; how will Miss USA do?

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Miss Universe Organization

Miss USA Alyssa Campanella records her national costume presentation at the 2011 Miss Universe Pageant in Sao Paolo, Brazil, on Sept. 7, 2011.

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Miss USA Alyssa Campanella at the 2011 Miss Universe Pageant

Miss USA Alyssa Campanella rehearses with other contestants at the 2011 Miss Universe Pageant in Sao Paolo, Brazil, on Sept. 9, 2011. Launch slideshow »
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Miss USA Alyssa Campanella at the 2011 Miss Universe Pageant in Sao Paolo, Brazil, on Sept. 5, 2011.

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Miss USA Alyssa Campanella competes at the 2011 Miss Universe Pageant in Sao Paolo, Brazil, on Sept. 8, 2011.

With just hours to go, there’s heavy buzz -- and betting -- that former part-time Las Vegas model Alyssa Campanella could win tonight’s 60th Anniversary Miss Universe Pageant. The stunning green-eyed, redheaded New York- and L.A.-based model who commutes in and out of Las Vegas won the Miss USA Pageant at Planet Hollywood on June 19.

If Miss California Alyssa defeats the nearly 90 global beauties in Sao Paulo, Brazil and South America’s largest city, it will be the first time an American beauty queen wins since Brook Lee was awarded the title in 1997. Tonight’s winner succeeds Jimena Navarrete of Mexico, who won here last year at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Once again, real estate mogul Donald Trump will present the contestants representing six continents in their swimsuit, evening gown and interview categories. All the glamour girls must be at least 18 and younger than 27 by Feb. 1 of the competition year and haven’t married or had a baby per his rules!

NBC’s Today anchor Natalie Morales and Bravo’s Andy Cohen will host the show -- Natalie co-hosted last year, as well -- and the celebrity judges include racecar driver and Dancing With the Stars champion Helio Castroneves; former TV news anchor Connie Chung (married to my pal Maury Povich); and supermodel Isabeli Fontana.

Also on the judging panel: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Adrienne Maloof, the sister of Palms mogul George Maloof, and actress Vivica A. Fox. Style Network’s How Do I Look host Jeannie Mai joins 2004 Miss USA Shandi Finnessey for skybox fashion commentary throughout the telecast; Brazilian pop singer Claudia Leitte will perform her hit “Locomotion”; and Bebel Gilberto, the daughter of Brazilian legend Joao Gilberto, performs her Bossa nova smash “Close Your Eyes.”

The pageant airs on NBC at 9 p.m. PT and will be seen by an audience of 1 billion in 170 countries. You can check out Alyssa and all the contestants and vote your favorite contestant into the semifinals at the Miss Universe Web site.

Thanks to the Miss Universe photographers Darren Decker, Patrick Prather, Richard D. Salyer and Erin Malone, who have become good friends on their Las Vegas assignments, for their photo gallery of Alyssa, who has spent the past three weeks in South America. It’s the first time the world’s biggest beauty contest has been in Brazil.

Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, said: “It’s quite fitting we’re in Brazil between hosting the Olympics [in 2016] and the World Cup [in 2014]. I love the fact we’re kicking off a string of major events, and, to be honest, I always say we’re ‘The World Cup of Beauty.’ ”

Controversial headlines tend to accompany The Donald and his beauty pageants, but it’s been minimal so far this time around. Miss Colombia Catalina Robayo reportedly went commando while in her micro-mini skirt at some of the official pageant events, and there’s been intensive coverage of the small Brazilian bikinis the contestants have worn for their official swimsuit model shoots. So, non-coverage?!

We’ll get to decide for ourselves tonight, and I’m told that a group of Alyssa’s Las Vegas friends will be watching together to root her on to victory. If she wins, I’ll post the victory via Twitter.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

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