As a little girl, I remember watching the Miss America Pageant on television. It was something that I looked forward to every year. The night consisted of Mom cooking dinner early, so we would all be hungry enough for snacks during the pageant broadcast. It was a family event.
Well, who would have thought that I would one day get to attend this historic, two-week event, which included a "Show Us Your Shoes" parade? Not only that, but I also personally met all 53 contestants!
I met Miss America 2013, Malloray Hagan, at the New Jersey Governor's Conference on Tourism on a snowy spring day in Atlantic City, where I was honored to interview her on the radio and snap a photo with her. It was already an amazing day, but to close our two-hour show with an interview with Miss America in Atlantic City? Pinch! (Because of the pageant's move back to New Jersey, Mallory's year was cut short, and she was honored with a lifelike statue.)
Only months later, the Miss America Pageant returned after nine years to Atlantic City, the competition's birthplace, and I was there on the boardwalk covering the event for both Two Rivers Life Magazine and Examiner.com.
Here are some facts about Miss America. Eighty-six women have held the title of Miss America since the competition's early days. In the 1940's , the organization enlisted the support of the national Jaycees to assist with state and local competitions, providing a community-service-oriented focus.
In 1954, during the golden era of television, the competition was broadcast live for the first time. The broadcast broke viewership records of the day, with 39 percent of the television audience (27 million viewers) watching the telecast.
On September 14th, Miss New York, Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America 2014 in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. Nina became the second consecutive contestant from New York and the first of Indian descent to win the pageant.
Nina's acceptance of the crown began her journey to every corner of the nation during her year of service. She will travel approximately 20,000 miles each month speaking to audiences about her platform, "Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency," and acting as the official national goodwill ambassador for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for children's hospitals.
Nina is a student at the University of Michigan. During her year as Miss America, she will serve as spokeswoman for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineer and Mathematics) as she travels to Washington to work with the Department of Education.
Along with the coveted title, Nina received a $50,000 scholarship to continue her education.
Crystal Lee, Miss California and first runner up, received a $25,000 scholarship.
America is a land of dreams, and that includes the dream of one day becoming Miss America. The journey begins with a win in a local competition and then on to t a competition representing her state.
A woman may compete at the state level more than once, but in the Miss America competition only once.
Crowns off to both Nina Davuluri, Miss America 20143, and to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno for bringing this beautiful pageant back home to Atlantic City.
And, join me, for the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City this September!