The song “There She Is” was written by Bernie Wayne. It has been sung at the crowning of almost every Miss America since 1955, the first year the pageant was televised, until 2012, when Wayne’s widow, Phyllis, got into a contract dispute with the pageant organizers.
Margaret Gorman was crowned the first Miss America in 1921. She wasn’t thrilled. “I never cared to be Miss America,” she later said. “It wasn’t my idea. I am so bored by it all. I really want to forget the whole thing.”
While touring the country as Miss America, Patricia Donnelly was offered a Hollywood acting contract, but she turned it down. “I realized by that time that I didn’t want my face known,” she later explained. “I wanted the freedom of movement—to go where I pleased without people knowing who I was.” (She ended up becoming a newspaper editor.)
Bess Meyerson was the first Jewish Miss America. She later campaigned for civil rights and had a career in politics.
The 1954 ceremony was the last one not broadcast on television. When Evelyn Ay was crowned, her father, a German immigrant, cried, “This could only happen in America!”
Deborah Bryant was at the top of her high school class, and would go on to graduate from the University of Kansas with a degree in English.
After the 1971 pageant, Phyllis George became a successful businesswoman, actor, and sportscaster.
Vanessa Williams was the first African-American Miss America. After nude photos of her were made public, she relinquished her title. This doesn’t seem to have held her back, as she has since become an actor and singer with several Emmy and Grammy nominations and NAACP Image Awards to her name. (After Williams stepped down, 1984’s first runner-up, Suzette Charles, stepped up to serve the last seven weeks of her term.)
Heather Whitestone was the first deaf Miss America. She continues to work to raise public awareness of deaf issues, people, and culture.
Lauren Nelson launched a nationwide platform of internet safety, and recently co-hosted America’s Most Wanted to assist in apprehending potential child predators.
Nina Davuluri is the first Indian-American Miss America. She will be using her scholarship money to attend medical school. ♦