Katie Stam of Indiana was crowned Miss America, fighting off a throat infection, laryngitis and 51 other contestants to win the 88-year-old pageant.
The 22-year-old University of Indianapolis student drew loud applause for her rendition of "Via Dolorosa" during the talent portion of the pageant at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, yesterday night.
She also strutted onstage in a black bikini and an off-the-shoulder, white lace evening gown. During the interview portion of the competition she decried the use of performance-enhancing drugs among professional athletes and discussed the definition of glamour.
"That beauty that you feel on the inside, it is that confidence, that radiance inside of you, that is what glamour is," Stam said.
Stam won a $50,000 scholarship and hopes to obtain a bachelor's degree in communications and become a television news anchor. She began competing in pageants at age 15.
The first runner-up was Miss Georgia Chasity Hardman, who took home a USD 25,000 scholarship.
The 52 young women took to the stage in blue jeans, bikinis and ballgowns following a mini-reality series on pageant prep work and a week of preliminary competition.
After an opening dance number and the traditional parade of states, judges and fans immediately trimmed the field to 15 finalists. Five more were trimmed based on swimsuit and evening gown competitions, while the remaining 10 went on to showcase their dancing, singing and other skills during the talent portion.
"This gown nearly blinds people," Miss Arkansas Ashlen Batson said in a video clip played as she walked onstage in a silver dress with beading. Batson was eliminated before she could play her flute in the talent competition.