UC student Miss Kentucky takes Miss America crown
Sunday, September 19, 1999

UC student Miss Kentucky takes Miss America crown

Heather French 1st to win from Bluegrass State

The Associated Press

Newly crowned Miss America Heather Renee French smiles and waves after winning the pageant Saturday night.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Miss Kentucky Heather Renee French was crowned Miss America 2000 on Saturday night, becoming the first woman from that state ever to wear the crown.

        Miss French, 24, of Maysville, covered her face with her hands when co-host Marie Osmond announced her. Then she hugged the first runnerup and outgoing Miss America Nicole Johnson before lowering her head to receive the crown.

        The first runnerup was Miss Illinois Jade Smalls. The second runnerup was Miss Pennsylvania Susan Spafford. Miss Maryland Keri Schrader and Miss Texas Yanci Yarbrough rounded out the top five.

        “You cannot imagine the feeling that is running through my entire being right now,” the new Miss America said. “This is such a dream come true, I can honestly tell you.”

        Miss French is a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati and a 1997 graduate of UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. She sang, “As If We Never Said Goodbye” for her talent offering.

        Miss French plans to spend her year as Miss America campaigning for outreach for homeless military veterans. Her father is a veteran and she volunteers at a Veterans Administration hospital.

        Among the rewards awaiting Miss French: a newly designed rhinestone-and-ruby “millennium” Miss America crown, a $40,000 college scholarship, an all-expense-paid Seventh Avenue shopping spree and a yearlong speaking tour.

        The pageant, hosted by newcomers Donny and Marie Osmond, had plenty of new twists. The most controversial one wasn't in effect this year, but that didn't stop Ms. Osmond from making fun of it. The new Miss America plans to split the scholarship money, she said.

        “She's going to share it with her ex-husband,” the hostess joked.

        For the first time since Miss America took to the airwaves in 1954, viewers saw only five of the contestants perform talent routines, instead of 10.

        Frustrated by declining TV ratings, pageant officials opted to cut the number of baton twirlers, tap dancers and pianists who try their luck in hopes of speeding up the show and holding onto viewers.

        Also cut were the traditional musical production numbers featuring contestants. In their place were profiles of some of the women, a video retrospective of Miss America and a pre-recorded performance by vocal group 98`. The swimsuit competition's still in. This year, though, the women picked their own suits.


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