Gresham's Miss Oregon misses cut for top 15, but fellow contestants name her Miss Congeniality

Miss Oregon USA Gabrielle Neilan was named Miss Congeniality by her peers at the Miss USA competition in Las Vegas on Sunday, June 16. by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Miss Oregon USA Gabrielle Neilan

Neilan, 22, of Gresham did not make it to the top 15, but was awarded a $1,000 prize for being recognized by the 50 other contestants.

The moment was broadcast on live television during the 62nd Miss USA competition, which aired Sunday night. As a host told her the news, Neilan said a heartfelt "Thanks," before wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.

Being named Miss Congeniality is significant in that it's the only award voted on by the delegates. The definition of the award is that it "reflects the respect and admiration of the delegate's peers, who voted for her as the most congenial, charismatic and inspirational participant," according to a Wikipedia entry on Miss USA special awards.

She prepared for the televised pageant while battling thyroid cancer, which she was diagnosed with just weeks before competing at the local level for the Miss Oregon USA title.

Neilan went on to win that crown despite weakness and fatigue from having her thyroid removed just a week before the Miss Oregon USA competition in November 2012.

The Gresham High School graduate and certified phlebotomy technician has been in Vegas since June 1, with a busy schedule of interviews, competitions and media events. She hopes to become an oncology nurse.

Miss Connecticut USA Erin Brady earned the Miss USA crown and will go on to represent the United States in the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow on Nov. 9.

Neilan was featured in a front page profile in the Friday, June 14, issue of The Outlook.

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