Showing off bolder new looks, participants in the 2008 Miss America pageant arrived Friday to launch the Year of the Makeover.
Many of the 50 state winners who assembled outside Planet Hollywood Resort have undergone startling transformations, taking a cue from pageant organizers who are pushing for change and taking chances.
Miss Alaska, Cari Leyva, had 12 inches of hair lopped off during the four-part reality show "Miss America: Reality Check." Close behind was Miss California, Melissa Chaty, whose hair is eight inches shorter.
Miss Nebraska, Ashley Bauer, made the most dramatic hair color change during the reality show, going from platinum blond to chocolate brown.
But three days ago, Bauer went back to her comfort zone, settling on golden blond.
An advisory board of fashion experts, from hairstylists to a celebrity photographer, had preached change.
Most embraced the move, like California's Chaty, who came to Las Vegas to observe the preliminaries and finals. "I jumped at the chance (to change). I think we need more of an updated look."
Miss New Mexico, Jenny Marlow, worried about how much a dramatic makeover would affect their chance.
"I was really nervous before I got my hair cut because the big hair, the dark makeup, the looking like you're 40 has been in my head what would win Miss America," Marlow said during the second episode, which aired Jan. 11.
One contestant dug in and resisted. Miss Illinois, Ashley Hatfield, was the only one who said "no thanks."
Miss Nevada, Caleche Manos, in her 15th pageant and a six-time first runner-up, was pleased when the experts advised her not to make any changes.
"I think I'm more fashion forward, a little more edgier," she said. "For a long time, the traditional pageant look wasn't really me, and I had to work really hard to create that.
"So, for me, I was relieved when they said it would be 'more Hollywood, more red carpet, more West Coast.' "
A meet-and-greet is being held Saturday at 7 p.m. in Koi, the new sushi restaurant at Planet Hollywood Resort.
The annual fashion show is Sunday from 4-6 p.m. at Fashion Show mall. Preliminaries start Tuesday at Planet Hollywood Resort, the host site for the third year in a row, and conclude Thursday. The finals are Jan. 26 and will air on The Learning Channel.
THE SCENE AND HEARD
John O'Hurley rejoins "Monty Python's Spamalot" as King Arthur on Jan. 28 at Wynn Las Vegas. He left the show in September to promote his new book, "Before Your Dog Can Eat Your Homework, First You Have to Do It: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog to a Young Boy."
MAY I RECOMMEND...
Tickets are still available for the Palazzo's grand opening concert Saturday featuring Diana Ross, Seal, the "Jersey Boys" cast, and Andy Garcia and his Cineson All-Stars. Doors to Hall D open at 7 p.m. Tickets: $129 all inclusive. Information: www.palazzolasvegas.com or call 414-9000.
Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, at the opening of Carnevino, the Mario Batali-Joe Bastianich steakhouse concept at Palazzo. ... Actress Drew Barrymore, taking in the Las Vegas Pussycat Dolls at Pure (Caesars Palace) Wednesday night with boyfriend, Justin Long. ... Star chef Batali, wearing his signature orange crocks to lunch at Lotus of Siam on Thursday. "Long before I wanted to go to any celebrity restaurant in Las Vegas, I wanted to go to Lotus of Siam. It's world class," he told me late Thursday. ...
"American Idol" runner-up-turned-rock star Chris Daughtry, at the 10:30 p.m. show of "O" (Bellagio) on Wednesday. ... Kate Walsh, who played Addison Shepherd on ABC's hit show "Grey's Anatomy," in town on Thursday to campaign for Sen. Barack Obama, including coffee with Helen Foley, of Faiss Foley Warren and member of the Obama steering committee. ... Tower of Power lead singer Larry Braggs and tenor sax player Tom Politzer, joining The Side Guys at the Salute Lounge. ... Mirage headliner Danny Gans and his wife, Julie, dining at Benihana (Hilton) with manager Chip Lightman and girlfriend Jillian Prieto. ... At Louis's Las Vegas in Town Square on Wednesday: Sen. Harry Reid, former governer and former U.S. Sen. Dick Bryan, and former Congressman Jim Bilbray.
THE PUNCH LINE
"The Oprentice" -- From David Letterman's Top Ten Programs on Oprah's New Television Network.