Miss America discusses beauty, fashion and kiddie pageants

The reigning Miss America Katie Stam knows how to switch it up. Yes, the past year has meant a commitment to two conspicuous accessories — a crown and sash — but the rest of her look has been an antithesis to predictability, beginning with her hair.

"I never wear my hair the same way twice," she says. "It’s fun to be flexible. … And it’s something you can change without changing who you are."

Doubtful a 23-year-old pageant queen could embrace versatility enough to don a different ‘do daily? According to publicity photos from her various Miss America appearances, she can go straight, wavy, all up, all down, a sweeping updo or a sleek bun. With the help of a handful of bobby pins, she can add several more looks to that portfolio.

It’s a talent, yes, but she gets a lot of her hair inspiration from a certain "housewife." Eva Longoria Parker, whose hair can go from chin-length to midback (extensions) in a matter of months, serves as a guide when Stam’s thinking up new ways to wear her hair.

While the former Miss Indiana admires Parker’s versatility, her ultimate beauty idol is Angelina Jolie. According to Stam, she and Jolie have very similar features: round eyes and "bigger" lips. So, she looks to the actress for makeup ideas, specifically which colors will best flatter her. "She does a lot of natural colors on her lips and so do I," she says. "If I did a brilliant color, people wouldn’t be able to see anything else."

She stays loyal to her beauty idols, but Stam never commits to a specific beauty product. Both her bathroom vanity and makeup bag have seen just about every cosmetic brand under the sun. She might not care for a particular brand, but one item Stam refuses to go without is mascara. As she tells it, her thin, light-colored lashes demand it.

Before winning the Miss America crown last year at Planet Hollywood Resort, the former 4-H club member spent her days as a college student. Unless she was competing in a pageant, glamming it up wasn’t a part of her style vocabulary. "On just a normal day I’m in jeans and a hoodie sweatshirt with stick straight hair and not a stitch of makeup," she says proudly.

It’s hard to imagine someone who’s waved her way through the pageant circuit from age 15 mimicking a "Juno" style, sans the belly, however Stam is an enthusiastic endorser of the natural look. But, when it comes to children getting spray-on tans, highlights and fake teeth to enter a pageant, demonstrated in shows such as TLC’s "Toddlers & Tiaras," she hesitates to express a solid opinion.

"I’ve always been a promoter of natural beauty, being yourself and letting yourself shine through," she says. "But I would never say whether putting kids in pageants is right or wrong."

When she takes her final walk Saturday and passes on the crown, Stam hopes to take on broadcasting. Jeans and hoodies won’t fly in this camera-ready career. Luckily, the last year she spent traveling and making public appearances has exposed her to the kind of designers she plans to take into the next chapter of her life.

She’s a fan of Joseph Ribkoff, who designed her clothes during her reign as Miss America. But you can hear her voice swoon when she talks about Diane von Furstenberg, whose clothes she refers to as "absolutely beautiful." The iconic designer’s garments appeal to Stam for their simple elegance. She likes the kind of clothes she can wear to a wedding, on the job or to a cocktail party, which is the kind of versatility Diane von Furstenberg is known for.

Her style throughout the past year consisted of several wrap dresses and solid neutrals, with a few prints thrown in. While the other pageant held in Las Vegas — Miss USA — tends toward a siren look, the Miss America Organization prides itself on its wholesome image. Stam has grown used to comparisons between the two pageants, which people love to refer to as "apples and oranges." But, she has a different explanation.

"It’s not even apples and oranges," she says. "It’s like comparing fruits and vegetables."

The Miss America pageant is Saturday at 8 p.m. on TLC.

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