Miss New York Mallory Hagan Crowned Miss America 2013

AP Photo/Isaac Brekken

"Sandy may have swept away our shores, but never our spirit. I'm Miss New York, Mallory Hagan."

Mallory Hytes Hagan's childhood dream of competing in, and ultimately winning, the Miss America pageant turned into a reality Saturday night.

Hagan, 23, who represented New York, beat out 52 other contestants for the crown.

Hagan defeated Miss South Carolina Ali Rogers, who was first runner-up, and Miss Oklahoma Alicia Clifton, who finished third. Miss Wyoming Lexie Madden and Miss Iowa Mariah Cary rounded out the top five.

PHOTOS: Miss America 2013 Contestants

According to her official Miss New York 2012 biography, Hagan attends the Fashion Institute of Technology and plans to graduate with a degree in Advertising and Marketing. She plans to enter the field of cosmetic and fragrance marketing. Her ultimate career ambition is to become a global marketing director for a cosmetics company.

Hagan was crowned Miss Brooklyn in 2010.

"I moved to NY in October 2008 with less than a grand in my pocket, a BIG suitcase &…a lot of hope," says Hagan, who hails from Opelika, Ala.

Hagan attended Auburn University before deciding to pursue her dreams in New York in 2008.

As Miss New York, Hagan focused her efforts on Child Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention. Hagan will now become an advocate for the Children's Miracle Network, the organization's official charity.

Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke-Charvet hosted the show that featured a slew of personal stories including Miss Montana Alexis Wineman, the first autistic contestant in Miss America pageant history, as well as Miss District of Columbia Allyn Rose, who fell short of her goal at the pageant but was able to successfully convey a message about breast cancer prevention.

Miss America contestants prepare for months toning and perfecting their bodies, talents and brains for the pageant.

The core of the beauty pageant is the scholarship competition and the ultimate $50,000 scholarship prize.

Contestants must sign a contract before they compete attesting to a clean criminal record. There can be no marriages or pregnancies. The judging of the Miss America pageant begins a week before the live broadcast.

Hagan shined in her fun tap dance tap number to James Brown's "Get Up Off of That Thing" and showed off her physique in a form-fitting black bikini.

She also voiced her opinion on the NRA's controversial plan to post armed guards at schools during the final round of Q&A.

Hagan chose "Good Morning America" weatherman and Miss America judge Sam Champion's question.

"In the wake of the Newtown tragedy there has been a lot of talk about gun control," Champion said, "One solution being proposed is an armed guard in every school. Do you think that would make our schools safer?"

Hagan responded, "I don't think the proper way to fight violence is with violence. I think the proper way is to educate people on guns and the ways we can use them properly. We can lock them up, we can have gun safety classes, we can have a longer waiting period."

As the pageant came to its conclusion, Miss America 2012 Maura Kaeppeler pinned the shining crown onto Hagan's hair as the new Miss America mouthed, "Oh, my God. Thank you."

Hagan ended the three decade long dry spell for New York contestants. Vanessa Williams was the last Miss New York to win the crown in 1984. Williams was forced to resign after racy photos surfaced.