Tara Conner Hands Crown Over to Rachel Smith

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Stay sober, Rachel Smith. That's the best advice we can give the new Miss USA.

Smith, 21, will no longer be known simply as Miss Tennssee any longer, as she beat out finalists Meagan Yvonne Tandy of California; Cara Renee Gorges of Kansas; Helen Salas of Nevada; and Danielle Lacourse of Rhode Island.

The true focus of the evening, of course, wasn't Smith. It was the woman placing the tiara on her head: Tara Conner.

"It has been the most unforgettable year of my life and I'm back, and better than ever," Conner proclaimed after she took the stage at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood to answer questions from cohosts Nancy O'Dell and Tim Vincent of Access Hollywood.

She also revealed her future plans included writing a book, doing correspondence work and trying some acting. Perhaps Tara and Antonella Barba could team up for some sort of stage performance. Who wouldn't by tickets to that?

Before the show, Conner summed up her year by following in the third person footsteps of Jennifer Hudson: "The reign of Tara was miraculous. Literally, because I got sober during it, and that's the most important thing."

Donald Trump, who co-owns the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants with NBC (where the pageant will stay for the next three years), told People magazine before the telecast, "We're very happy with Tara, very proud, and hopefully she will have set the example for many people that have problems with drugs and alcohol."

We can only hope Jesse Metcalfe is listening.

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