Hawaiian Wins Miss America Pageant

Miss Hawaii Angela Perez Baraquio, an elementary school gym teacher, was crowned Miss America 2001 on Saturday night. The 24-year-old said she plans to promote character education during her yearlong reign.

Baraquio gasped when co-host Donny Osmond announced her name, and then hugged first runner-up Miss Louisiana Faith Jenkins before ducking down to receive the crown and begin the traditional runway walk.

Miss California Rita Ng, the first Asian-American woman to win that state’s title, was second runner-up, followed by Miss Mississippi Christy May and Miss Kentucky Whitney Boyles.

“I’m standing in the top five and I’m thinking ‘How do they pick from 51 awesome, amazing, phenomenal wonderful girls who’ve become my best friends over the past three weeks?’” a breathless Baraquio said after the crowning. “I’m very honored and very humbled.”

Prayed Throughout Competition

A devout Catholic, she said she prayed before each part of the competition. “I’m not one to wear my faith on my sleeve. What I do is, I try to live it,” she said.

Along with the crown, Baraquio won a $50,000 scholarship.

In addition to teaching at a Catholic elementary school in Honolulu, Baraquio is the school’s athletic director and coaches basketball, volleyball and track. She said she wants to obtain a master’s degree in educational foundations and eventually become a school administrator.

Baraquio grew up with nine siblings in Hawaii, plays keyboard for an all-girl rock group called High Tide and did a hula dance for the talent competition.

Among the other contestants in the 80th annual pageant that ended Saturday was Miss Iowa Theresa Uchytil, 24, who learned how to twirl the baton despite being born with only one hand, and Jenkins, 24, a Louisiana law student who got involved in literacy volunteer work because her mother didn’t know how to read.

For the first time, the panel of celebrity judges also included the winner of an Instant Celebrity Judge sweepstakes. Melanie Brock, a 46-year-old marketing executive from Lansing, Mich., was chosen from among 70,000 entries, and joined Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelburg on the judging panel.

Baraquio succeeds Miss America 2000 Heather French, 25, of Maysville, Ky., the daughter of a disabled Vietnam veteran who spent her year campaigning on behalf of homeless veterans.

The pageant, a mid-September network staple for more than 40 years, was pushed back a month this year because officials worried it would lose viewers to the Summer Olympics on NBC if it aired at the same time.

ABC and Miss America officials took other steps to boost ratings, as well. They jazzed up the three-hour special by spicing up the set, adding club-style dance music and lighting, adding the live performance of boy band O-Town (of TV’s Making the Band fame), and accelerating the announcement of the 10 finalists in hopes that viewers would stay tuned.

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