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Happy Birthday Miss America

CBN.com - The gown. The crown. That famous runway and images of all-American girls parading along the boardwalk. Throughout the years we’ve seen it all: big dresses, even bigger hair, fashion-forward opening numbers, and that unpredictable talent competition.

There’s so much more to the pageant than meets the eye. Winning the title of Miss America forever changes the life of a young woman. This was the case for our own Terry Meeuwsen, Miss America 1973. 

This year, the pageant celebrated its 90th anniversary and over 40 former winners attended the festivities. Terry met up with friends to reminisce on their unique sisterhood.

Dr. Debbye Turner Bell (Miss America 1990 and now, CBS Host):  “It’s been 21 years since I was crowned. Everything that I do today, I’m able to do better because of the preparation of being in this program.”

Nicole Johnson (Miss America 1999): “I think the social activism is the thing that tends to ebb and flow. That is of particular interest to me, because that became the whole reason why I participated; to speak out on diabetes.”

Terry Meeuwsen: “Having to speak every day, having to know what’s going on in the world, having to look at yourself in relationship to that, having to be responsible for opinions and thought, and all of that, was a part of what went into preparing you for what you are doing today, and, who knows what tomorrow?”

Heather Whitestone (Miss America 1995), “A mother who has a child and finds out this baby is deaf; she’ll wonder if this baby will ever have a normal life. It opened so many doors to meet so many people who have challenges. So when they saw me win the Miss America title, it gave them hope.  They hear my message about what God did in my life. I shared my testimony and talk about my faith in Jesus.”

So what is the core value of the pageant?

Sam Haskell (Chair, Miss America Board of Directors): “It’s the scholarship. This program provides up to $45,000,000 a year in scholarships to women, the largest scholarship foundation for women in the world.”

At a glance, Miss America may seem like just another pretty face, but each contestant chooses a platform she’s passionate about promoting.

Miss Michigan, Katie Lynn LaRoche, has founded an anti-trafficking organization. “We work to bring awareness, we work to improve policy, and we work to find shelters and rehabilitation services for victims of human trafficking.”

Roughly 13,000 young women compete on the local and state levels each year for one of fifty-three spots on the national stage. Over the years, winners have reflected the diversity among American women.

During World War II, Bess Myerson became the first Jewish titleholder, 1984 brought Vanessa Williams as the first African-American winner, and in ‘95 Heather Whitestone, who is hearing impaired, was the first Miss America with a disability.

The Miss America organization doesn’t claim to take a Christian stance. Yet each year it boasts several contestants who feel strongly about their faith in Jesus.

Miss Kentucky Djuan Keila Trent: “I was raised in the church. My grandmother was a no nonsense woman. So every night I’m praying and meditating and just making sure I am keeping myself centered and focused on what this really means.”

Miss Oregon Stephanie Denise Steers: “I always wanted to be a missionary but in doing this; I can honestly say this has been a mission field.”

Miss Nebraska/America Teresa Scanlan: “You see God’s hand working, and you see the perfect timing, and you see His plan. So for me, it’s been so calming to know that everything is in His control.”

Well, here’s to you, Miss America on turning 90! You don’t look a day over 18!

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