Monday, Jan. 17, 2011 | 12:16 p.m.
2011 Miss America Teresa Scanlan
2011 Miss America Talks With Robin Leach
TV ratings indicate that not only did the 2011 Miss America Pageant on ABC enjoy a whopping 47 percent increase in viewers over last year, but in the battle of the beauty contests, Miss America also decked Donald Trump’s Miss USA Pageant last year by more than 1 million viewers. Both contests took place at Planet Hollywood.
The down-to-the-wire decision to select 17-year-old Miss Nebraska Teresa Scanlan, one of the youngest winners in the 90-year history of Miss America, kept ratings growing through the night despite the giant challenge of two pre-Super Bowl elimination games. Miss America had lip-gloss and elegant evening gowns to dust up the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons.
In the first half-hour of The Strip telecast, Miss America was in third place with 5.25 million viewers, but for the remainder of the 2-hour live telecast (tape delayed on the West Coast) held on to second for the night, with the audience growing to 7.85 million viewers. So Miss America’s ABC return after a six-year absence was a nearly 50 percent audience increase over last year’s TLC broadcast.
Miss America Chairman Sam Haskell III had said last week that he’d be happy with more than 4 million viewers for the first time back on a big network. “We’d wanted the show to be contemporary and relevant, but at the same time still hold on to the traditions of the past. We succeeded, and it was a really great show that everybody was thrilled with.”
Hosted by Chris Harrison of The Bachelor and Brooke Burke of Dancing With the Stars, the production raced along at high speed with high energy, just as producer Tony Eaton had promised during a press conference last week. A big thanks to contributing photographers led by Tom Donoghue and including Erik Kabik, Scott Harrison and Las Vegas News Bureau, and videographers Christopher Rauschnot @24kMedia on Twitter and Richard Corey for their work during Miss America’s 10 triumphant days in Las Vegas.
Minutes after she was crowned, Teresa, who played “White Water Chopsticks” on the piano for her talent showcase, met the judges who selected her -- the very first of her press conferences and a first for the panel. She told us: “I think my age will help the pageant regain some of its relevance in this pop culture. I’m really excited. It doesn’t matter how old you are. This shows no matter your age or where you come from, you can accomplish anything you want. I want to get a lot of new younger girls into this scholarship program.”
You can tell this 17-year-old, who will celebrate her 18th birthday over Super Bowl weekend in Dallas, where we will be with Las Vegas chefs for the annual fundraiser Taste of the NFL, is as polished and poised as could possibly be. Sam said: “She is going to be one of our very finest Miss Americas and the best one for her age. Teresa’s a fantastic Miss America.”
Teresa won her first applause for answering a tricky question during the pageant about the recent release of classified government files on Wikileaks. She said it was an issue of national security and not about free speech. Listen to her comments about shouting “fire” in a movie theater in our video report.
Teresa flew from Las Vegas to New York yesterday and made her first network appearances this morning on Fox & Friends with host and 1989 Miss America Gretchen Carlson on Fox News, quickly followed by The View -- Joy Behar served as a judge during the Saturday pageant. VegasDeLuxe.com scored the first exclusive one-on-one interview with Teresa after her press conference. Thanks again to Chris for recording the interview.
Judge and Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry told the media that he had doubts about a 17-year-old as Miss America: “But she is very knowledgeable, and we were sold.” Joy added, “They were all cute, but she was the cutest. I came into this pageant not knowing all about it, and the experience has totally changed my mind. It is wonderful. These young women are fantastic and committed to their scholarships and education.”
Teresa hails from Gering, Neb., where viewing parties Saturday night erupted in applause. Her parents Mark and Jamie were at the press conference, and we’ll have my interview with them tomorrow. It’s an extraordinary story of how Teresa’s grandmother escaped on a raft from Croatia when Communists took over Yugoslavia in a civil war. As refugees, Teresa’s grandparents fled at gunpoint to Italy from a tiny island of 300 residents in the Adriatic Sea and then to America.
Teresa's triumphant Saturday night walk across the stage after being crowned by 2010 Miss America Caressa Cameron and 50th Anniversary (1971) Miss America Phyllis George capped the 10-day Las Vegas visit, but it’s just the beginning of a journey that will take her to every corner of the country during her year of service. She’ll travel 20,000 miles each month, discussing her platform, Eating Disorders: A Generation at Risk, and acting as the national goodwill ambassador for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.
A year from now, Teresa plans to enroll as a student at Patrick Henry College. She wants to attend law school to become an attorney, then move on to become a judge and eventually head to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.! She won a $50,000 scholarship, first runner-up Miss Arkansas Alyse Eady earned a $25,000 scholarship, and second runner-up Miss Hawaii Jalee Fuselier won a $20,000 scholarship. Their peers voted Miss Kentucky Djuan Trent and Miss Oregon Stephenie Steers into the Top 15 semifinals, and Miss New York Claire Buffie and Miss Delaware Kayla Martell were the winners of ABC’s America's Choice, where viewers voted for their favorite contestants to join the Top 15.
The week before flying to Las Vegas, Kayla told me she’d made a promise that she would remove her wig to show her baldness in the final minutes of the telecast, as her platform is the National Alopecia Foundation. Kayla was runner-up in the Quality of Life Awards for her platform.
“Our 10 days in Las Vegas were a total success from start to finish,” Miss America President Art McMaster told me. “The success of the TV special was the crowning highlight. We couldn’t have asked for better -- or for a more incredible new Miss America. Everybody is totally pleased, and it gives us the incentive to do even bigger and better next year.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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