ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) The last Miss America spent her year rallying the cause of veterans. Her successor is hoping one such patriot will help her champion the struggle of a younger audience.
Miss America 2001 Angela Perez Baraquio wants to devote her yearlong reign as beauty queen-turned-activist to teaching little kids to grow into decent, balanced people through "character education." She hopes to enlist the help of America's Promise a nonprofit group also known as the Alliance for Youth and its chairman, retired Army Gen. Colin Powell.
"As a society, we must work together to guide each child to become a well-rounded individual and contributing citizen," she said, "by infusing character development into every educational institution's daily school culture."
Baraquio, 24, of Honolulu, knows something about being well-rounded.
The elementary school teacher overcame stage fright, a disdain for pageants and an unsuccessful pair of tries at the Miss Hawaii title en route to capturing a $50,000 college scholarship with her victory Saturday night.
Fifty-one women were vying for the crown in the 80th annual Miss America Pageant on Saturday night in a live broadcast designed to appeal to a younger audience.
Among the contestants: Iowan Theresa Uchytil, who learned how to twirl the baton despite being born with only one hand, a former Stanford University scholar who considers herself a feminist, and a Louisiana law student who got involved in literacy volunteer work because her mother didn't know how to read.
Miss California Rita Ng and Miss Louisiana Faith Jenkins were both among the Top 5 contestants, along with Miss Hawaii Angela Baraquio, Miss Kentucky Whitney Boyles and Miss Mississippi Christy May.
Miss Iowa, Theresa Uchytil, 24, who does not wear her prosthetic hand in pageant competition, performed a baton routine in the talent competition.
Baraquio, whose parents are Filipino, said she didn't feel like a pioneer after becoming the first woman of Asian-American heritage to win the crown.
"It doesn't matter what (ancestry) you are. It matters what you are on the inside," she said.
The eighth of 10 children, she is a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa who works as a physical education instructor and athletic director at Holy Family Catholic Academy in Honolulu.
Her parents own an exterminating company called Able Termite Control.
"They have a pest control company because they have 10 kids," she laughed.
Baraquio said she began entering pageants at age 18 to help finance college.
"I was the worst when it came to pageants," she said Sunday. "But then I thought, well, it's a scholarship program. I needed money to go to college. I said I might as well.' "
She finally became a Miss America contender, just as she reached the pageant's age limit, by winning Miss Hawaii this year.
Baraquio (pronounced bur-OCK-eey-oh) wept Sunday during her first news conference as Miss America 2001.
"All the Miss Americas came up to me last night and said, Welcome to the sisterhood.' I said Wow, I'm part of the legacy. I'm a part of the American dream," Baraquio said.
Meanwhile, Miss America Pageant CEO Robert Renneisen revealed Sunday that a preliminary judge had failed to disclose "what could be perceived as a judging conflict of interest."
Myron Martin who judged three nights of preliminary competition leading up to Saturday's 80th annual Miss America Pageant failed to tell pageant officials he was familiar with one of the contestants from a state pageant in which he'd served as a judge.
Martin was a judge in the 1999 Miss Texas pageant, one of whose contestants was Tara Watson. Watson made the top 10 on Saturday, based on scoring by Martin and the other preliminary judges.
Renneisen said pageant auditors confirmed that Miss Texas would have made the top 10 even without Martin's vote. Renneisen said he believed Martin's failure to disclose the information was inadvertent.
For the first time, the panel of celebrity judges also included the winner of an Instant Celebrity Judge sweepstakes. Melanie Brock, a 46-year-old marketing executive from Lansing, Mich., was chosen from among 70,000 entries, and joined Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelburg on the judging panel.
"Every year, I sit in my living room and do my judging," Brock said. "But I never thought I'd have the opportunity to sit in the front row and serve in that capacity officially."
The show's producers also eliminated the word "pageant" from the title, signed the boy band O-Town (of TV's "Making the Band" fame) to perform live, and created on-screen graphics designed to look like personalized web pages for all 51 contestants. Donny and Marie Osmond were the hosts.
Producer-director Jeff Margolis said he hoped the changes would help attract and keep younger viewers.
Miss Iowa Theresa Uchytil, 24, who does not wear her prosthetic hand in pageant competition, performed a baton routine in the talent competition.
Jenkins, Miss Louisiana, won preliminary competitions in swimsuit and talent. She is a 24-year-old law student whose pageant "platform" was eliminating illiteracy.
Ng, Miss California at 22, is the first Asian-American woman to win that state's title. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford, she was scheduled to start medical school this fall but took a deferral after being talked into entering a local pageant.
She had never worn makeup or entered a pageant of any kind until last April, considers herself a feminist and holds no fondness for the swimsuit competition but says it's part of the Miss America tradition.
Others making the Top 10 were: Miss Alabama Jana Sanderson, Miss New Jersey Jill Horner, Miss Pennsylvania Melissa Jeka, Miss Michigan Che'Vonne Burton and Miss Texas Tara Watson.
The winner succeeds Miss America 2000 Heather French, 25, of Maysville, Ky., the daughter of a disabled Vietnam veteran who spent her year campaigning on behalf of homeless veterans.
The pageant, a mid-September network staple for more than 40 years, was pushed back a month this year because officials worried it would lose viewers to the Summer Olympics on NBC if it aired at the same time.
ABC and Miss America officials took other steps to boost ratings, as well. They jazzed up the three-hour special by spicing up the set, adding club-style dance music and lighting and accelerating the announcement of the 10 finalists, in hopes that viewers will stay tuned.
Ann Smart: gas price complaints
Jean Wolf: ? Elementary. Playground installation. 391-1740 H: 386-7365
Baby Oct. 11: How come not listed?
Saturday article by Barb Ickes about cat shooting. My dog was shot and killed, case just settled as a misdemeanor by Davis. 381-3476. Marian.
Danny O"malley: 355-2383; Warren St., haunted house, girlfriend was sexually assaulted. Security guy threatened to hit me with a flashlight. Reported
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