LAS VEGAS: Lauren Nelson, an aspiring Broadway star, was crowned Miss America, the second year in a row that a Miss Oklahoma has won the crown. Nelson, 20, is a student at the University of Central Oklahoma and wants to get her master's degree in musical theatre. "I watched Miss America as a little girl since I was two years old, and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be one of those girls on that stage, and never did I think that I would be Miss America," she said afterward.
Shilah Phillips, the first black Miss Texas, was first runner-up, and Miss Georgia, Amanda Kozak, was second runner-up. Miss Mississippi, Taryn Foshee, and Miss Alabama, Melinda Toole, rounded out the top five. Viewers named Toole as Miss Congeniality.
Nelson was crowned by last year's winner, Jennifer Berry.
Nelson, a blonde who told judges she wishes she was taller, sang You'll Be In My Heart in the talent competition and plans to promote protecting children online during her yearlong reign as Miss America.
She gets a $50,000 (BD18,900) scholarship with the crown and stands to make thousands more in appearance fees.
The pageant tossed in a few reality-TV twists on the way toward selecting its ideal American woman in a new time slot on the Las Vegas Strip. It included viewer voting and increased participation from the panel of celebrity judges.
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