Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010 | 1:58 p.m.
No less than seven of the 53 Miss America Pageant contestants in Las Vegas right now for Saturday’s coronation and telecast are celebrating birthdays while in town. Congratulations to Miss Delaware Heather Lehman on her 21st birthday and Miss Pennsylvania Shannon Doyle on her 25th.
The ladies were presented a birthday cake when they dined at Buca di Beppo for a celebration dinner over the weekend, and Paisano partner and General Manager Ryan Smith made the presentation.
Two of the charming contestants will celebrate their birthdays the night before the pageant at our Evening of Dreams dinner at Planet Hollywood: Miss New Mexico Nicole Miner and Miss Arkansas Sarah Slocum. The remaining three birthday beauties are Miss Rhode Island Julianna Strout, Miss Nebraska Brittany Jeffers and Miss New York Alyse Zwick.
This morning ahead of tonight’s first of three preliminary pageant competition parades, officials from TLC and the Miss America Organization announced that What Not to Wear star Clinton Kelly is hosting the one-hour, advance “get ready to vote” special broadcast at 10 p.m. this Friday on TLC ahead of the Miss America Pageant, which airs Saturday, also on TLC.
I’m reliably told that there will be a new look to the broadcast and one dramatically new routine for the contestants, but that “wow factor” will be kept a surprise right up until the pageant starts. The Theater for the Performing Arts is closed and under watch during those specific rehearsals. The new routine will not be seen during the three nights of preliminary pageant competition that get underway tonight.
As we revealed yesterday, Behind the Curtain will introduce the 12 state titleholders, chosen by all 53 contestants for the first time, who will be eligible for “America’s Choice,” which allows at-home viewers the opportunity to send contestants into the judges’ Top 15.
Clinton also will serve as a special correspondent on Saturday’s broadcast hosted by Mario Lopez. This year’s judges are radio host Rush Limbaugh, actress Vivica A. Fox, 2002 Miss America Katie Harman, Olympian Shawn Johnson, jazz artist Dave Koz and American Idol contestant Brooke White.
Our contributing photographer Tom Donoghue captured the contestants’ rehearsals yesterday and the group backstage last night at Phantom -- Las Vegas Spectacular in The Venetian.
Meantime, 2009 Miss America Katie Stam talked with Pageant Talk Radio host Valerie Hayes this morning about tonight’s first preliminary pageant and how the contestants have to face the judges this week. Here are excerpts:
Katie said: “First and foremost, the judges are looking for who will be able to carry out the duties of Miss America. They’re looking for someone who has the endurance, who will sustain a positive attitude throughout the year. The year of service as Miss America is very challenging. It is kind of a roller coaster with the thousands of people you meet and the thousands of different appearances you make, and it really is a great challenge.
“They’re looking for someone who can truly get behind a cause and be able to talk about it and answer questions about it. They’re looking for someone who’s going to be able to answer those hard questions. And then they’re just looking for the all-American, well rounded, young individual, someone who believes in themselves, who just has this confidence that radiates from inside of them.
“The Miss America Organization prepares their judges extensively. During the week of Miss America, the judges are sequestered. They don’t come into contact with any of the contestants unless it is within competition. I had a chance to sit down with the judges and give them an idea of what I did during my year and some of the hardships that come along with being Miss America.
“They treat the judges as though you have the most important job in the world this week because you are choosing the next Miss America who’s going to represent all of us for an entire year. It’s a very difficult job because we have 53 unbelievable contestants, any of whom could take the title today and do a phenomenal job with it. There’s something inside of them that chooses the right girl every single year who’s going to be able to carry out the duties and be a great Miss America.”
Valerie also asked Katie about the interviews with the judges and the importance of the different onstage categories.
Katie said: “I think first and foremost they’re looking for confidence. They’re looking at does she have a smile on her face? Can you tell that she is comfortable in her own skin? And then they’re looking for someone who is physically fit because the travel is extensive, and if you are not in shape, if you are not physically prepared for the job, I’m afraid that you wouldn’t be able to do it.
“So, yes, they are looking for someone who is physically fit to be able to carry out the duties and the tasks of Miss America. First and foremost they’re looking for confidence. Do I believe in myself? Do I know that I’m a beautiful, accomplished young woman? Do I believe that I could be the next Miss America? That’s what they’re looking for.”
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Source: Las Vegas Sun