[ 2007-01-31 11:02 ]
Oklahoma Lauren Nelson models her swimsuit during the Miss America pageant
at the Aladdin Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 29, 2007.
Nelson was named Miss America 2007.
Lauren Nelson, an aspiring Broadway star, was crowned Miss America
on Monday night, the second year in a row that a Miss Oklahoma has won the
Nelson, 20, of Lawton, Okla., is a student at the University of Central
Oklahoma and wants to get her master's degree in musical theater.
Shilah Phillips, the first black Miss Texas, was
first runner-up, and Miss Georgia, Amanda Kozak, was
second runner-up. Viewers voted Miss
Alabama, Melinda 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 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 woman in a new time slot on
the Las Vegas Strip.
After a long reign as a cultural icon, Miss America's ratings have plummeted, and sexier reality shows
have eclipsed her girl-next-door appeal. The addition of pop quizzes and
casual-wear contests couldn't save the pageant from losing its network TV
contract in 2004.
MTV-Networks' CMT picked it up in 2005 and has been attempting to restore the
old girl to her former glory. It stripped the pageant of the failed gimmicks,
and for the first time in decades brought back Miss Congeniality.
The 2006 live crowning of Berry attracted less than a third of the viewers it
had the year before, but was replayed 20 times on CMT and its sister-network VH1
for a total of 36 million viewers.
With a year to market its new product, CMT came back with its own set of
gimmicks - a Bert Parks ringtone, a
$1 million giveaway for picking the winner and a reality-TV special intended to
help viewers connect with the contestants in the days before the crowning.
Producers took cues from "American Idol" and incorporated interviews with
judges and text-message voting after
the swimsuit, talent and evening-gown competitions.
They also moved the show off a date night. CMT, which reaches 83 million
households, hoped the Monday-night airing would attract a broader, younger
audience - the sort of viewers whose devotion first catapulted the beauty queen
a new time