Miss USA production aims to produce magic on the bayou

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Poise, grace and confidence, that's all you'll see from the 51 women vying for the title of 2015 Miss USA. Nowhere on the runway during the preliminary competition could you spot signs of the chaos that has surrounded the pageant for weeks.

"Honestly I wasn't that worried," said Miss Louisiana USA Candice Bennatt. "Paula Shugart is an amazing woman. She runs the MUO and we knew it would probably get back on live TV so we're really excited about it."

While the Miss USA organization dealt with the backlash caused by co-owner Donald Trump on the surface, work never stopped behind the scenes to put on a production worthy of the contestants.

"The most important thing is for the girls to have a wonderful time," said Joe Stewart.

Part of that challenge was creating a backdrop as beautiful as the girls. For inspiration, production designer Joe Stewart looked no further than the Atchafalaya Basin.

"There are fireflies. There's moonlight. There's all the kind of magical things. There are blooming flowers and wonderful things on the bayou," said Stewart.

It's also one of the largest productions to be held in the River Center Arena. River Center General Manager Michael Day said that sets the bar high for the caliber of future events in Baton Rouge.

"We're showing everybody that we can handle those kind of events here in Baton Rouge," said Day.

The girls are showing that they can shine through anything thrown at them, a point of pride for the director of the Miss Louisiana program.

"It's unknown yet what the outcome is going to be, but I've spoken to them daily and they've not skipped a beat," said RPM Productions Executive Director Paula Miles.

The 15 semifinalists will be revealed during the final Miss USA event on Sunday, July 12.

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