"People know me from quizzing the Housewives about very personal things, and I'm hoping to bring some of that to the pageant," Cohen says. "I want to really get in there a bit and get to know these women in an unexpected way."
Cohen will co-host the event's 60th anniversary live in Las Vegas with E! News and Fashion Police's Giuliana Rancic. Fellow Bravo stars Rocco Dispirito and Real Housewives of New Jersey's Caroline Manzo will serve as judges alongside comedian and magician Penn Jillette, rapper and Celebrity Apprentice star Lil Jon, NBA star Tyson Chandler, actress and writer Mariel Hemingway and Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, the co-founder of OP! products.
Cohen is no stranger to stirring up controversy during his reality show reunions, and he plans to do the same on Sunday night. "We're going to hope that we can bring out the competition between these women," he says. "I feel like it's ruthless, and no one realizes how cutthroat it is."
While Cohen acknowledges that beauty pageants may have had their heyday, he says that he plans to keep the show relevant. "Last year, you had your first Muslim Miss USA," he says. "So we're going to keep this thing modern and see what kind of boundaries we can break this year."
In addition to his hosting gig, Cohen will broadcast his nightly Watch What Happens: Live immediately following the pageant. Cohen and Rancic will be joined by Manzo. The Bravo exec plans to cover the events of the pageant — "it's live, it's exciting, anything can happen," he says — but the real topic of Live will be that night's episode of Housewives.
"We're going to be coming off a big episode where Teresa starts [speaking] with Melissa — but it goes deeper," he says. In recent weeks Teresa Giudice has been at odds with her brother Joe and sister-in-law Melissa Gorga. On Sunday night's episode, the two women face off and Jacqueline plays referee.
And speaking of a Housewives, when asked which of the franchise's women would win in a pageant, Cohen chose Orange County's Gretchen Rossi with no hesitation. "She's so pageant; I think she'd really have it," he says.
The Miss USA Pageant airs Sunday at 9/8c on NBC.