Wearing a white lacy gown that made her look more like a bride than a beauty pageant contestant, Miss Indiana Katie Stam, 22, was crowned Miss America in a two-hour finale at the Planet Hollywood Theatre for the Performing Arts Saturday night.
After walking the runway with her new crown and roses, Stam, who loves breakfast food and can't live without laughing, was overcome with emotion. Host Mario Lopez had to remind her she was on live television.
"This is truly a dream come true for me and I'm just trying to take it all in," Stam said during a news conference after the finale.
Stam, whose platform was promoting community service, not only had to beat 51 other contestants, she also had to overcome laryngitis and a throat infection a few days before the finale. She called the illness her second-most favorite moment of her pageant experience.
"It taught me about myself, my limitations," she said.
Her voice showed no lasting effects during the talent portion of the competition when she sang "Via Dolorosa." She said she relied on her faith to get her through the illness and would have been happy winning or losing.
"I just believe God doesn't give you anything you can't handle," she said.
One year after debuting the pageant's hipper attitude, the Miss America organization tried to continue the cool vibe by threading an edgy humor throughout the show. Clinton Kelly of TLC's "What Not to Wear" supplemented Lopez's hosting duties by providing a running commentary on the contestants, their travails and their emotions.
Last year, Kelly stood at the ready with a plate of pastries for contestants as they were eliminated after each round. This year, he said he didn't have carbohydrates to console the women but he did have some Xanax in his pocket.
One theme he returned to again and again: everything happens quickly behind the scenes. In a first for Miss America, the public was allowed to choose four of the finalists during "Countdown to the Crown," a four-episode reality show that aired on TLC leading up to the finale.
Stam was one of the four. Judges selected 11 finalists during the live pageant.
Stam, who is studying communications at the University of Indianapolis, beat first-place winner Chastity Hardman, 24, of Georgia to take home the $50,000 scholarship and the right to represent the Miss America organization for one year.
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564.