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Miss North Carolina Crowned Miss USA 2009

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Associated Press: Miss North Carolina USA Kristen Dalton was crowned Miss USA 2009 on Sunday, beating out 50 other beauty queens in the live pageant televised from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

The 22-year-old aspiring motivational speaker and entertainer from Wilmington edged out first runner-up Miss California USA Carrie Prejean, of San Diego, and second runner-up Miss Arizona USA Alicia-Monique Blanco, of Phoenix.

"It feels really natural," Dalton said of her win. "I've worked so be here and this has been my lifelong dream and it's finally here. And whoever knew you could win in a turquoise gown?"

Contestants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia competed in the pageant, aired live on NBC. Contestants were judged by their performance in swimsuit and evening gown modeling contests and their responses to a question asked onstage; unlike the rival Miss America pageant, Miss USA contestants do not perform a talent.

The top 15 contestants worked the stage in white string bikinis designed by pop star Jessica Simpson's swimwear line. Rocker Kevin Rudolf performed his song "Let it Rock," followed by The Veronicas, who performed their single "Untouched" as the top 10 beauties showed off their choice of glittering evening gowns.

Dalton's was a flowing, blue Grecian number that stood out among a series of white gowns.

Her title comes with a year's use of a New York apartment, a public relations team, a two-year scholarship at the New York Film Academy and an undisclosed salary.

She also will go to the Bahamas in August to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, where American beauties haven't been lucky in recent years. Both Miss USA 2008 Crystle Stewart and her predecessor, Rachel Smith, wiped out on stage during the evening gown competition, becoming accidental YouTube stars.

Asked about the tumble during the show on Sunday, Stewart said it was a lesson in bouncing back from defeat.

"I think it was a true test of my character," said the 27-year-old Texan, who worked to raise awareness for breast cancer as she traveled the globe promoting the beauty contest.

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