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Heather French cowns Angela Baraquio photo
Miss America 2000 heather French places the crown on the new Miss America... Angela Baraquio.

After 80 years, what is a socially conscious woman to do? She does what any woman who is current for her time would do who has an agenda to promote. She reinvents herself, updates her style, promotes the social causes which are important to, not only herself, but to the general populace. And as is with anyone who reinvents himself or herself, you are likely to find a number of new characteristics, a number of �firsts.�

As with many aspects within the Miss America telecast, this coverage of Miss America will also present many firsts within the magazine. For the �first� time, we will actually print two different covers of the magazine. One will have the Miss America cover, which normally appears upon the Winter edition which was pushed back due to the late telecast this year, and the other cover will be our usual Spring Prom cover which promotes the yearly prom/social occasion/evening wear photo shoot that many of you rely upon for wardrobe inspiration.

Finally, this year�s telecast will also mark a new direction in the coverage of Miss America. With the time frame that has elapsed, we wish to provide you the in-depth coverage of the event which you expect, but also more coverage of the behind-the-scenes action at Miss America � from the annual NAMASP Resource Forum to the daily press conferences where the special awards and major announcements are provided to the press for publication.

The Miss America week in Atlantic City is a non-stop action, mile-a-minute experience which a large contingency of supporters plan to attend on a yearly basis. Many of these supporters are from the country�s 300,000-person-strong volunteer organization and the thousands of Miss America well-wishers that enjoy the atmosphere that only Miss America provides. From the largest industry trade show in the country to the daily preliminary competition and winner speculation, this week has everything a supporter could dream and wish for.

As we began our week in Atlantic City, the excitement grew as we prepared for the annual NAMASP Resource Forum that would be held in the Ocean Pier One Mall on the world-famous boardwalk. This provided a unique setting due to the very location of the trade show. The mall setting would allow a greater number of the general public the opportunity to visit and learn more about Miss America and the industry which supports her. From the daily fashion shows, press interviews, and celebrity sightings, this was the only place to see and be seen during the day while the 51 delegates were in rehearsal. Retail stores, jewelry manufacturers, news services, photographers, make-up artists, university counselors, sight-seers, and former Miss Americas � the NAMASP Resource Forum had it all.

In essence, in the 80 years since the original “bathing beauty” contest held in 1921, the Miss America Organization has actually become a “first” in the ability to provide a forum for empowering the American woman to pursue and achieve her goals while also providing an outlet to promote social concerns to the general public.

As the preliminary competitions began in earnest to search for the special woman who would hold the prestigious title of Miss America, the true foundation of the Miss America Organization was again established as the single largest source of scholarship money for young women in the world. Not only does the state delegate who travels to Atlantic City receive scholarship money, but every single participant beginning with the local preliminary receives scholarship awards to help further her education. In fact, the Miss America Organization awards over $35 million per year in annual college scholarships.

Throughout the week, we were honored to meet many of the special scholarship award recipients who exemplify the spirit of competition and the virtues of the Miss America Organization. These deserving young ladies are leaders in community service within their hometown and state, leaders in the classroom, and leaders in the performing arts. In essence, in the 80 years since the original �bathing beauty� contest held in 1921, the Miss America Organization has actually become a �first� in the ability to provide a forum for empowering the American woman to pursue and achieve her goals while also providing an outlet to promote social concerns to the general public. Former Miss Americas have been the first to champion women�s rights, illiteracy, AIDS awareness, and the plight of the homeless on a national stage. As we look at the new �firsts� that this young Miss America at the age of 80 presented to us during this week, let us also remember all of the �firsts� which she has previously championed before the nation.

Throughout the week, we are continually informed of special announcements regarding press releases, late breaking news, preliminary competition announcements, and special scholarship award recipients. Before the final night of competition can take place, the delegates compete over three nights in preliminary swimsuit, talent, and evening wear competitions. The in-depth 12-minute personal interviews have been held in the morning prior to the evening stage competition, and the Top 10 finalists in all phases of competition vie for the title of Miss America before a nationwide audience. The judging process to select the Top 10 is as follows for the preliminary competition: Talent - 40%, Interview - 30%, Onstage Personality in Evening Wear - 15%, and Physical Fitness in Swimsuit - 15%. After the preliminary competitions are complete, a composite score is awarded to each finalist which carries over to the final night competition. The final night of competition is judged as follows: Composite Attributes (from preliminaries) - 45%, Onstage Personality in Evening Wear - 10%, and Physical Fitness in Swimsuit - 10%. At this point, the final Top Five contestants are announced and move on to compete within the Talent - 15%, and On-stage Interview - 20% phases of competition for the opportunity to join a select group of women who are forever known as �Miss America.�

The final night telecast on ABC was highly anticipated as a night of �firsts� for Miss America. The �first� instant celebrity judge from the viewing public, the �first� interactive polls at providing instant feedback to the telecast, O-Town (from the reality-based TV show �Making The Band�) making their live network debut, and another first of the Miss America telecast: the announcement of the Top 10 finalists in the early moments of the show. All of these firsts promised a more youthful and quick-paced edge to the 80th Miss America show.

Miss America Top 5 photo
The Top 5 contestants stand proudly as they await the judge's decision.

And fast paced it was. From the club style techno-infused opening to the electronica version of There She Is to the new introduction of the 51 delegates as �e-contestants� (with their biographical information on a large screen in Web-page formats), this new Miss America show gripped the audience from the very beginning. Amidst the new energy created by the music, dancers, and large-screen video projections, the brother-sister team of Donny and Marie Osmond took to the Miss America stage as dual emcees and hosts, actually a �second� for the Miss America telecast. Always a favorite with the audience, the team of Marie and Donny Osmond, as announced during the introductions, proceeded to immediately inform the television audience of what to expect in this grand night of �firsts.�

In keeping with the new format of the fast-paced MTV generation, award-winning producer Jeff Margolis immediately moved to announce the Top 10 finalists. As the large-screen video clip of each contestant played, as she explained how she thought she would react to the announcement of making the Top 10, each delegate moved one step closer to the dream of becoming Miss America.

In no particular order, the Top 10 finalists graced the stage: Miss Texas Tara Watson, Miss Louisiana Faith Jenkins, Miss California Rita Ng, Miss Kentucky Whitney Boyles, Miss Hawaii Angela Baraquio, Miss Alabama Jana Sanderson, Miss Pennsylvania Melissa Jeka, Miss Mississippi Christy May, Miss New Jersey Jill Horner, and Miss Michigan Che�Vonne Burton. These poised and self-confident young women would now compete for the title of Miss America. That each young woman had come this far was no easy feat. Many of them had competed for several years at the local preliminary level and several years at the state level. Several of the delegates had traveled to previous Miss America competitions in Atlantic City in the hopes of gaining some insight into the preparation needed for an event of this magnitude. And several delegates had overcome tremendous personal obstacles in their quest to fulfill the dream of many a young child, the dream of becoming Miss America.

In another �first� during the telecast, the audience was treated to a backstage glimpse of the contestants as they shared their personal thoughts on the Top 10 finalists and their own predictions for Miss America. (Miss Hawaii was the backstage prediction.) As the finalists prepared for the Swimsuit Competition, they were joined on stage by the remaining 41 delegates in the new Generation-Y-style production number that was quickly becoming the staple of the telecast. Competing in the swimsuit style of their choice, the Top 10 delegates confidently took to the stage in what was agreed to be Donny Osmond�s favorite part of the competition.

At this time, a �major first� of the telecast was unveiled. The first interactive ABC poll asking for the viewing audience�s opinion was tallied. In response to the question, �Do you prefer to see two-piece or one-piece swimsuits?� the audience was overwhelmingly in favor of the two-piece swimsuits by a margin of 60% to 40%. This would not be the last poll of the night nor the only poll to deal with the subject of swimsuits.

Following the interactive poll, the individuals who held the fate of the next Miss America in their hands were announced. The celebrity judges who would pick the next Miss America would be Diedrich Bader (who portrays Oswald on the hit The Drew Carey Show), Emme � fashion supermodel, journalist, and host of E! Entertainment Television�s Fashion Emergency, actress Victoria Rowell of Diagnosis Murder; US Olympic Gold Medal award winner Lenny Krayzelburg, Marcia Bullard � CEO and editor of USA Weekend magazine, leading fashion designer Randolph Duke, and instant celebrity judge (picked from over 70,000 entries) Malanie Brock from Lansing, Michigan. These select individuals would select the final 5 which would continue to compete in the talent and final interview competitions.

Donny and marie photo
Celebrity brother-sister duo Donny and Marie Osmond charm the sold-out crowd with their wit and humor.

Performances by Donny and Marie, and then by Donny performing with the Miss America dancers, followed the promotional highlights of the contestants� tour at the Disney properties in Orlando, Florida. Mixing shots from the various parks, such as MGM Studios, Downtown Disney, Animal Kingdom, and Walt Disney World, the show gave a wonderful promotional expos� and thank you to the Disney properties for the support shown to the Miss America Organization over the years.

Heading back into final phases of competition, another interactive ABC poll was broadcast to the public. In answering the question, �The best part of the competition is Swimsuit, Evening Wear, Talent, or Interview?� the audience was evenly divided amongst the top 3 answers with the tallies: Talent - 32%, Evening Wear - 30%, Swimsuit - 29%, and Interview - 9%.

The final of the two pre-talent phases of competition ended with Evening Wear. The Evening Wear competition was set against the background of each contestant during their �up close and personal� video presentations. As each delegate walked the famous Miss America runway, the audience was offered a rare chance to see the delegate as she is in her home community.

In between the two sets of Top 5 contestants competing within Evening Wear, Miss America 2000 (and winner of over $80,000.00 in college scholarships) Heather French was brought to the stage amidst thundering applause to present the yearly Woman of Achievement Award. The Woman of Achievement of Award has been bestowed upon such esteemed persons as Barbara Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Glaser, and Sharon Stone and is normally presented by the current Miss America. However, this being a year of �firsts,� the CEO of Miss America, Mr. Robert Renneisen, was ushered to the stage for a special presentation. For her outstanding and tireless efforts on behalf of homeless veterans, the distinguished Woman of Achievement Award was presented to a deserving and obviously stunned Heather French who received a $10,000.00 grant for her foundation.

As the judges� scores were tabulated to narrow the competition to the final 5 which would compete within Talent and On-stage Interview, the national viewing audience was treated to another �first.� Coinciding with the release of their first album and taking advantage of the national exposure afforded by their reality-based television show, the new boy-band O-Town performed live for the first time before a national audience. As the group was leaving the stage, another ABC interactive poll and results were delivered to the audience. The question, �Would you watch the Miss America Pageant if they took out the swimsuit competition?� was answered in the negative. That is, 51% would not watch the program, while 49% would continue. With the announcement of the poll, it was time for the announcement of the Top 5: Misses Mississippi, Louisiana, Hawaii, California, and Kentucky would advance to the final phases of competition.

As the contestants readied themselves for competition, the final question of the night posed a perception question. �The top qualification to be Miss America is Beauty, Poise, Talent, or Intelligence?� In keeping with the ability of the crown to empower women, the answers were: Beauty - 47%, Intelligence - 35%, Poise - 10%, and Talent - 8%. As the final poll left the screen, it was time to begin the Talent Competition.

Donny and marie photo
The new Miss America feels the jeweled cown for the first time.

As the finalists performed their talent presentations, the audience was informed of the delegates� social cause or platform. Miss Mississippi, pianist, organ tissue donation; Miss Louisiana, vocal, illiteracy prevention; Miss Hawaii, hula, character education; Miss California, pianist, children�s health welfare; Miss Kentucky, vocal, AIDS awareness. As the talent portion of the competition progressed, the audience and contestants realized the only obstacle between them and the title of Miss America was the round-table discussion and Personal Interview. Moderated by Marie Osmond, the interview segment presented the poise and intelligence these young ladies possess.

With the final competitions of Swim Wear, Evening Wear, Talent, and Interview complete, it was time to announce the order of the Top 5 and greet the new Miss America 2001. As each delegate held her breath, the finalists were called: Fourth runner-up and recipient of a $20,000.00 scholarship - Miss Kentucky Whitney Boyles, Third runner-up and recipient of a $25,000.00 scholarship - Miss Mississippi Christy May, Second runner-up and recipient of a $30,000.00 scholarship - Miss California Rita Ng, First runner-up and recipient of a $40,000.00 scholarship - Miss Louisiana Faith Jenkins, and the recipient of a $50,000.00 scholarship and the title of Miss America 2001, Angela Perez Baraquio from Hawaii.

As this eventful night of �firsts� drew to a close, a new Miss America was escorted to her �first� news conference and became the �first� woman of Asian descent to capture the �Crown With A Purpose.�

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