Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 | 5:19 p.m.
Robin Leach interviews 2013 Miss America
20/20 Pageant Confidential
Miss New York Mallory Hytes Hagan
Miss New York wins 2013 Miss America
An ex-Planet Hollywood Times Square waitress arrived in Las Vegas to compete in the 2013 Miss America Pageant 10 days ago and left PH Live in Planet Hollywood this morning a queen with $50,000 in scholarship money.
After today’s flight back East, she starts a year’s journey Monday of 20,000 miles a month and New York TV appearances, including “Good Morning America,” “The View” and “Fox & Friends” with host Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989 from Minnesota.
Meet the new 2013 Miss America 23-year-old Brooklyn blonde Mallory Hytes Hagan. Moments after she was crowned and took her coronation walk, she sat down for a one-on-one interview with me. Born in Alabama, Mallory began dreaming of a move to Manhattan when she was 18 and left home with $1,000 in her pocket to seek fame and fortune.
She said there were times when she was down to only $5 in her pocket and questioned whether to buy bottled water for the subway ride home. “I survived by waitressing, selling real estate, you name it. I did whatever it took,” she told me.
Mallory said that it was a case of “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” -- until now, as she’d been a runner-up for Miss New York -- twice!
Las Vegas odds makers overlooked Mallory, but she captivated judges and America from the get-go. She said Hurricane Sandy may have swept much out to sea, but like the spirit exhibited by New Yorkers, she, too, was a survivor. ABC featured her in the “20/20 Pageant Confidential” special that preceded Saturday’s pageant, and her video seemed to seal the deal from the start.
Our thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue, who captured Mallory in her black Catalina bikini, her shoulder-baring white gown and her tap-dancing routine to James Brown’s “Get Up Off of That Thing.” Mallory, who started in pageants to win scholarships when she was 13, was Miss New York runner-up in 2010 and 2011 and is the first Brooklyn resident to win.
The previous Miss America from New York was in 1984 when Vanessa Williams became the first black winner, but she relinquished the crown when Penthouse published nude photos of her, and runner-up Suzette Charles took over the reign. Vanessa has had a successful singing and entertainment career, earning Grammy, Oscar and Emmy nominations.
In a North vs. South battle, Miss South Carolina Ali Rogers was first runner-up. Ali, who had been the frontrunner since arriving here, won a $25,000 Amway scholarship and dazzled the audience with her piano performance. Earlier in the week, she won lifestyle and fitness (swimsuit) in one of the three preliminary competitions; Mallory didn’t win a preliminary.
Mallory was asked by “Good Morning America’s” Sam Champion from the judges table a question resulting from the Newtown, Conn., shooting for her thoughts about schools having armed guards. “I don’t think the proper way is to fight violence with violence,” she said. “ The proper way is to educate people on guns and the way we can use them properly. We can lock them up. We can have gun-safety classes. We can have a longer waiting period.”
But it’s her background about child sexual abuse that will make headlines in the weeks to come. She plans on flying to meet with Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Washington, D.C., to work on Miss America’s push for more education.
She said that the abuse had rippled through her family with her mother, her aunt, her grandmother and her cousins. “I lost my mom for a couple of years to her anxiety and depression dealing with her own issues. I didn’t understand it back then, but as an adult I do now.
“My father and mother ended years of sexual abuse in our family. I’m going to work on making child-abuse education mandatory in all 50 states, and I hopefully can change it for the next generation.”
2013 Miss America press conference/Richard Corey
Mallory, who will also act as the official national goodwill ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, credits her mom Mandy with getting her involved in pageants as a teen to further her education. “This is very overwhelming,” Mandy said, wiping away tears.
A one-time beauty salon receptionist, one of Mallory’s dreams is to be on the cover of Allure Magazine because Editor Linda Wells was one of the customers. Mallory is happiest with her grandmother’s broccoli casserole, but says the next 12 months her menu will be fish, vegetables and maybe some chicken. Her goal is to become the global marketing director for a cosmetics company after getting her degree in cosmetics and fragrance marketing.
This was the third and final year of the current contracts among the Miss America Organization, our Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Planet Hollywood. Casino resort President David Hoenemeyer told me that negotiations are under way for their annual visit here to continue.
“I am confident the deal will be done,” one highly placed and knowledgeable insider told me. “The three hours of television were fantastic for the hotel and all of Las Vegas. It was up against football on rival networks, but we’re confident that the ratings will be spectacular and once again make it No. 1 in non-sports programming for the night.”
Preliminary overnight Neilsen ratings show that Miss America’s glitz and glamour on ABC with 7 million viewers outshone CBS and NBC. Additionally, the “20/20” special had 3 million viewers. Fox won the night with the San Francisco 49ers’ win over the Green Bay Packers, but Miss American can claim for a second consecutive year that it was tops in non-sports programming.
After the crowning, judges Bradley Bayou, Cheryl Burke, Mary Hart, Daymond John, McKayla Maroney and 2009 Miss America Katie Stam Irk arrived at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country in Town Square for their official after-party.
What is Mallory planning when she gets her first free moments back on the East Coast during this first week of media events? She’ll find time to stop by the downtown seafood restaurant where she was waiting tables recently and back to Planet Hollywood in Times Square to greet all her co-workers who were rooting for her in her pageant journey to the crown.
Then her first official function will be the Taste of the NFL fundraiser at the Super Bowl in New Orleans next month, even though the New York Giants and New York Jets aren’t playing.
“It’s going to be baby steps at first, but I’m ready for this,” Mallory said confidently. “I knew that I could be Miss America.”
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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