Updated: Last night, Miss Arkansas won the annual Miss America contest between 52 contestants (you’re maybe forgetting D.C. and Puerto Rico). Miss Kentucky, Laura Jones of Danville, finished among the top 15 finalists before being eliminated. Here’s my original post:
By Jim Hopkins
Miss Kentucky is Laura Jones of Danville, a 23-year-old graduate of Kentucky Christian University, where she earned a degree in university studies and biblical studies, with a minor in counseling psychology. She plans to become an eating disorders counselor and life coach, following her own struggles with an eating disorder.
Jones spent 10 years on the pageant circuit, winning the state contest July 2 in Lexington on her fourth try. “I just felt such a sense of peace through the whole process,” she told the Lexington Herald-Leader moments after being crowned. (The paper noted that she spoke with “a fake eyelash coming loose from an avalanche of tears.”) On Sunday, she will play a violin solo for the talent portion.
The non-profit Miss Kentucky Scholarship Pageant Inc. has an annual budget of about $169,000, according to its most recent public IRS tax return. Most of that, nearly $94,000, went toward staging the contest itself. By contrast, Mississippi — which has won the national contest four times — spends $636,000 annually.
Kentucky has had only one Miss America winner: Heather Renee French Henry, in September 1999. Six other states have also won just once: Connecticut, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina and Oregon. Four states have tied for the most winners (six each): California, New York, Ohio, and Oklahoma. (This list shows winners by state, including the 19 that have never won.)
Henry’s win was the top story on The Courier-Journal’s front page the next day (photo, top). Here’s the moment when she won:
The Miss America Organization’s annual budget was $8.3 million in 2014, according to its most recent tax return. The TV production was the biggest expense: $4.6 million; Miss America herself got paid $305,000. Legal expenses inexplicably totaled $327,000, according to the 2014 tax return vs. $261,000 in 2013 and $76,000 in 2012.
The current Miss America is Betty Cantrell of Georgia.
This year’s contest is taking place in Atlantic City, its long-time home until 2005, when it was moved to Las Vegas; it returned to Atlantic City in 2013. Chris Harrison of ABC’s “The Bachelor” virtual reality show is this year’s host.
Bert Parks was the long-time host from 1955 until 1979, when he was fired as TV ratings fell and organizers wanted to attract a younger audience. He returned to the program in 1990 at age 75 for a special appearance to sing the pageant’s famous theme song, “There She Is.” Watch him warble:
The first contest was held in 1922 and the winner was Mary Campbell of Ohio. Bess Myerson of New York was the first Jewish Miss America, in 1945. Vanessa Williams of New York was the first African-American, in 1983. She resigned the following year, after nude photos of her surfaced in Penthouse magazine. Until 1940, one of the contest rules said “contestants must be of good health and of the white race.”
Miss Missouri 2016 Erin O’Flaherty, 23, is the first openly gay contestant. She’s chosen the serious issue of suicide among LGBTQ youth as the social platform part of the competition, according to The New York Times. (On the Miss Missouri website, the organizers write, somewhat ominously: “Please note that no packages can be delivered to Erin’s hotel in Atlantic City. All packages must have a return address and a clear, legible full name of the sender. Organic packages of any kind will not be accepted, especially flowers, food, fruit baskets, etc. If organic items are delivered, the package will be received, the attached card will be forwarded to the contestant, but the organic package will be discarded — there are no exceptions.”)
K.A. Concepts Ltd. of Huntington Station, N.Y., has the exclusive contract to manufacture the Miss America crown.
Please read my disclosures.