Katie Coble of Charlotte couldn’t have picked a tougher year to be in the Miss USA Competition on Sunday.
The contest is expected to face more scrutiny than ever before, now that its most famous backer is President of the United States. Donald Trump owned the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA organizations until 2015, and his backstage appearances at past events were a hotly debated subject during the presidential campaign.
But that’s not the only reason Coble – who competed for Miss Teen USA in 2007 – is being cautious about every word she says in the days leading up to the competition.
There’s also North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which got international derision for its anti-LGBT provisions. It was rescinded earlier this year and replaced with a law that prevents cities form extending civil rights to LGBT people.
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“I’m ready for Donald Trump to be a subject in the interview process, off stage and on stage,” says Coble. “I’m also fully prepared for them (judges) to ask me anything related to North Carolina. Everything going on in North Carolina now is a sensitive subject, with HB2 and gay marriage.
“If they don’t ask me about it, I’ll be shocked. North Carolina is so much in the news.”
So where she does stand on HB2 and gay marriage?
To find that out, Coble says viewers will have to tune in to the competition, airing live on FOX Sunday at 8 p.m. Viewers are allowed to vote for the woman they think deserves the title, which will help Coble advance to a finalist position.
The only hint of an answer she’ll give is that she’s against discrimination of any kind.
“I know where I stand (on HB2 and gay marriage) and I wish we could make everyone happy, but it’s a tough subject,” she says. “Whatever opinion you have, you will offend someone.”
As for any observations of Donald Trump, Coble has never met him. But she guesses that won’t stop judges from possibly asking contestants questions about such things as Trump’s use on Twitter while in the White House. (She has prepared an answer.)
Her chances maybe be good in Sunday’s competition. North and South Carolina have a long track record of having contestants place among the finalists in both the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA competitions.
Coble, 27, comes to the competition having been second runner up for Miss Teen USA in 2007.
That was the year Miss Teen USA endured its most notorious viral moment. It involved Caitlin Upton, then Miss South Carolina Teen USA, who gained international notoriety for her nonsensical response to a judge’s question. A YouTube video of the answer has 66 million page views.
“I was standing next to her in the Top 5, and I knew (Caitlin) fairly well,” recalled Coble. “It was not an easy thing to hear...I commend her for handling everything the way she did. I know it wasn’t easy...She got publicity from it and took control of it. You have to make the best of it and I think she did.”
Such moments would seem to be every contestant’s worst nightmare. However, Coble clarifies that any mistake going viral is a nightmare, including tripping on stage and having something go wrong in an evening gown.
Coble, who was born and raised in Charlotte, has never had a stage mishap and never been involved in any off-stage controversy.
After stepping off the Miss Teen USA stage in 2007, she focused on modeling and college, earning a Bachelors of Science in business from the University of Alabama. Her professional modeling career began at age of 14.
“In a way, I feel like I’ve prepared for this competition my whole life, so I’m not afraid,” said Coble, who was required to be in Las Vegas two weeks in advance of the competition.
“I have been watching Miss USA for years and I always get goosebumps. I can’t believe that this year, I’m one of those women who’ll be on stage. It’s the most thrilling feeling in the world. It’s a privilege to walk on that stage.”
Family: Parents Scott and Wendy Coble, brothers Shane and Chase.
Celebrity relative: Is a cousin of actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Ambition: Would like to have a food or cooking show that involves traveling the world.
Foods she can’t resist: Pad thai and peanut M&Ms, but not mixed together.
Her sense of style: “Timeless, simple and chic. I love to keep it simple, but with things that won’t go out of style. I like neutral colors and pieces I can throw on that will always look good together. I’m a girlie girl and not comfortable with the Tom Boy style.”
Why do winners always cry? “When you pour your heart into something, with your blood, sweat and tears, it is an overwhelming feeling when you achieve that goal. You almost just lose yourself in the moment. Most winners have failed more than once. They have persevered.”