Miss USA 2012 Olivia Culpo to work on breast and ovarian cancer issues

Miss Rhode Island Olivia Culpo waves to the audience after being crowned Miss USA during the 2012 Miss USA pageant, June 3, 2012, in Las Vegas.
Julie Jacobson

(CBS News) Olivia Culpo, the new Miss USA, has said she will work during her reign toward raising awareness and fostering research into the battle against breast and ovarian cancer.

The dark-haired Rhode Island student claimed the Miss Universe 2012 crown Sunday night at a pageant in Las Vegas at which she was asked a question that could have fired up controversy.

Pictures: Miss Universe 2012 pageant
Pictures: Miss Universe 2012 contestants

Reality TV personality Rob Kardashian, who was one of the celebrity judges, asked her whether it was fair if a transgender woman won a beauty pageant title over a natural-born woman. He pointed out that the question came from a fan on Twitter.

"I do think that that would be fair, but I can understand that people would be a little apprehensive to take that road," Culpo said, "because there is a tradition of natural-born women, but today where there are so many surgeries and so many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life, I do accept that because I believe it's a free country."

Her answer drew applause from the audience.

The question was referring to a controversy in Canada earlier this year when a transgender contestant was first barred from competing in the Miss Universe Canada pageant and later reinstated after the Miss Universe organization reaffirmed the rights of transgender women to compete.

The 20-year-old Boston University student will represent the U.S. in the Miss Universe pageant and will take a year off from school to fulfill her Miss USA duties.


Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App