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1990's - Decade in Review


For The Miss America Organization, the 1990's marked a new era. Young women increasingly began to see the Miss America program as an opportunity to pursue higher education, professional opportunities and social causes. Winners of the title started becoming internationally recognized spokeswomen on issues ranging from literacy to AIDS awareness. Each Miss America was now required to have a platform issue which they brought public awareness to on a national speaking tour.

The platform issue once again helped change the image and mission of Miss America. She was being seen as a dynamic, articulate speaker and the champion of a cause; but was still approachable and real. The women who entered the program began to reflect a new standard of professionalism, fitness and intelligence. As winners of the title, they were sought-after speakers and advocates. Their appearances ranged from addressing Congress to visiting local schools.

Miss America 1990, Debbye Turner,
was the first Miss America with an
official Miss America Platform.
Her platform was "Motivating Youth
to Excellence."

1990's Timeline
Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990
Debbye Turner
Miss America 1990
Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990, was the first Miss America with an "official" platform. Debbye focused her year on "Motivating Youth to Excellence". The District of Columbia franchise was no longer participating, making Miss America an all-state event. Bert Parks was invited back to sing "There She Is" as the pageant celebrated its 70th anniversary. In September, Marjorie Judith Vincent, Miss Illinois, was crowned Miss America 1991. She used the title to promote awareness of Domestic Violence.
Marjorie Vincent, Miss America 1991
Marjorie Vincent
Miss America 1991
Regis Philbin and Kathy Lee Gifford replaced Gary Collins as co-emcees. The State of Hawaii was in the spotlight when Carolyn Suzanne Sapp became that state's first Miss America (1992). Carolyn's campaign was "Education is Everyone's Business", but this became over-shadowed by national publicity, which focused on Carolyn's escape from a former abusive relationship. The media attention given Carolyn resulted in a dramatic numbers increase in telephone hotline usage established for abused women, and even a television movie.
Carolyn Sapp, Miss America 1992
Carolyn Sapp
Miss America 1992
The Charles and Teresa Brown Scholarships awarded to Miss America and several other state representatives was established. Leanza Cornett (Miss America 1993) became Florida's first Miss America. An AIDS activist, she was quoted as saying, "I compare Miss America to being a politician on the campaign trail." During her year of service she spoke at The White House, The U.S. House of Representatives, and The U.S. Senate among many others.
Leanza Cornett, Miss America 1993
Leanza Cornett
Miss America 1993
At eighteen, Kimberly Clarice Aiken of South Carolina became Miss America 1994. Her year of service was dedicated to America's Homeless. The Bernie Wayne Scholarship for the Performing Arts was established. Contestants were now required be between the ages of 17 and 24 by the national finals. Total scholarships available on the local, state and national levels of competition surpassed $10 million dollars.
Kimberly Aiken, Miss America 1994
Kimberly Aiken
Miss America 1994
Available scholarships nearly doubled as $18 million dollars was now available nationwide. With a profound hearing loss, Alabama's Heather Whitestone was named Miss America 1995 and became the first woman with a disability to win the title.
Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995
Heather Whitestone
Miss America 1995
September 16: The 75th anniversary pageant. Forty-one Miss Americas returned to the scene of their triumph. Available scholarships totaled $24 million dollars. An Oklahoma native, Shawntel Smith, became Miss America 1996 on her 24th birthday. Her platform emphasized "School to Work" programs.
Shawntel Smith, Miss America 1996
Shawntel Smith
Miss America 1996
$29 million dollars was made available through local, state and national competitions. A new scholarship program was initiated to benefit those seeking careers in education. Thirty-one states qualified for the first Miss America Organization matching grants fund. The state money saved is redirected to each state's scholarship funds. The Miss America Web site (www.MissAmerica.org) made its debut. Representing Kansas, Tara Dawn Holland was named Miss America 1997.
Tara Holland, Miss America 1997
Tara Holland
Miss America 1997
Scholarships awarded total $32 million dollars nationwide. The District of Columbia franchise returned as part of the Miss America competition. Actors Eva LaRue Callahan and husband John serve as pageant emcees. Representing Illinois, Katherine(Kate) Shindle won the 1998 Miss America title. For the first time since 1947, Miss America contestants had the option of wearing two-piece swimsuits.
Kate Shindle, Miss America 1998
Kate Shindle
Miss America 1998
With a platform of "Diabetes Awareness", Miss Virginia, Nicole Johnson became the first Miss America (1999) with a life-threatening illness. During her year of service she raised nearly $13 million dollars for research. "Community Hall", the interactive portion of the Miss America Web site made its debut. State Community Service awards of $1,000 scholarships were awarded to 40 local contestants from as many states. $1000 Scholarships were also awarded to the 51 Miss State Scholars.
Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999
Nicole Johnson
Miss America 1999
Leonard Horn resigned as CEO. Robert Beck was appointed to take his place. After his tenure David Frisch, Chairman of the Board, was appointed as acting CEO. Nicole Johnson crowned Miss Kentucky, Heather Renee French as Miss America 2000 with the gold millennium crown featuring glistening ruby rhinestones.
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