ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Miss New York was crowned the winner as Miss America Sunday night, as the pageant returned to the place where it all started: Atlantic City.
Nina Davuluri, 24, of the Syracuse suburb of Fayetteville, was crowned the winner. She made the top five along with Miss Oklahoma, Miss Minnesota, Miss California and Miss Florida.
She succeeds another Miss New York, Mallory Hagan, whose tenure was cut short when the pageant moved back to Atlantic City after a six-year stint in Las Vegas, where winners were chosen in January.
Davuluri performed a classical Bollywood fusion dance for her talent competition. She is the first winner of Indian descent.
After the traditional frolic in the Atlantic City surf Monday morning, she will head to the scene of a devastating boardwalk fire in Seaside park and Seaside Heights Monday afternoon.
PHOTOS: 2014 MISS AMERICA PAGEANT
Miss Kansas Theresa Vail, the tattooed Army sergeant who won a nationwide popular vote to become a semifinalist, did not make the final 5 cut.
The pageant had pitted 53 contestants — one from each state, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — in swimsuit, evening gown, talent and interview competitions.
The nationally televised pageant was back in Boardwalk Hall, where judges will choose a winner to succeed the current title-holder Mallory Hagan.
Sam Haskell, CEO of the Miss America Organization, was delighted that the pageant was to be playing out in Atlantic City again after a six-year stint in Las Vegas.
“This is where we belong,” he told The Associated Press. “This is the home of Miss America, and this is where we’re going to stay.”
Much attention was given to Vail, a U.S. Army sergeant who is believed to be the first Miss America contestant to openly display tattoos. She has the Serenity Prayer on her rib cage and a military insignia on the back of a shoulder. While other contestants wore glamorous costumes and elaborately decorated footwear during Saturday night’s “show-us-your-shoes” parade on the Boardwalk, Vail wore camouflage gear and Army boots.
In a Twitter message Sunday, Vail wrote: “Win or not tonight, I have accomplished what I set out to do. I have empowered women. I have opened eyes.”
And Myrrhanda Jones, who is Miss Florida, will be wearing a knee brace after tearing a knee ligament Thursday while rehearsing her baton-twirling act. A pageant spokeswoman said Jones will compete while wearing the brace Sunday night if she is one of the 15 semifinalists.
The pageant started in Atlantic City in 1921 as a way to extend the summer tourism season for an extra weekend.
The move from Las Vegas cut short the reign of the current Miss America, Mallory Hagan, who was crowned in January and expected to have a full year as the title holder. The pageant is compensating her for the shortened term.
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