For the first time, a Miss Nebraska was crowned Miss America on Saturday night at Planet Hollywood. Teresa Scanlan, 17, received the customary crown and roses from the outgoing Miss America, Caressa Cameron. She also won a $50,000 scholarship.
Scanlan, who graduated high school last May and deferred college for a year, played piano to Calvin Jones’ "Whitewater Chopped Sticks" in the talent competition and competed on the platform of eating disorders.
Scanlan, who was home-schooled until her senior year at Scottsbluff High, said she started competing in pageants four years ago and excelled at it.
"I found my niche," she said. "I found what I liked and I guess this is working out pretty good for me.
"Age is just a number," she added.
Miss Arkansas Alyse Eady was first runner-up, Miss Hawaii Jalee Fuselier was second runner-up, Miss Washington Jacquie Brown was third runner-up, and Miss Oklahoma Emoly West was fourth runner-up.
Eady, who sang "I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart" with two ventriloquist dummies, seemed the clear crowd favorite. However, introducing her greatest asset as being "racially ambiguous" at the top of the show was a risky move that may not have played well with the judges.
The two-hour ceremony began with 53 contestants representing the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The field was quickly narrowed to 11 — contestants representing Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, Arizona, Hawaii, Virginia, Arkansas and California.
Making the semifinals through an "America’s Choice" vote by television viewers were Miss New York and Miss Delaware, Kayla Martell, an alopecia patient who, in a prerecorded voiceover, referred to the wigs on her hairless head "as a fun accessory." The contestants also sent two of their own to the finals via a "contestant’s choice" vote: Miss Kentucky and Miss Oregon.
Miss Nevada, Cris Crotz, did not make the first cut.
The pageant was judged by "The View" co-host Joy Behar, Miss America 1990 Debbye Turner Bell, "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry, "Dancing with the Stars" dancer Tony Dovolani, actress Marilu Henner, shoe designer Taryn Rose, and country music singer Mark Wills.
Contestants officially arrived in Las Vegas on Jan. 6 and participated in various public events before beginning preliminary competition last week.
Chris Harrison of "The Bachelor" and Brooke Burke of "Dancing with the Stars" hosted the two-hour broadcast, which aired nationally on ABC-TV.
Vegas Confidential columnist Norm Clarke contributed to this report. Contact Corey Levitan at 702-383-0456 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.