ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Two long weeks of posing, primping and practicing before judges, reporters and fans came down to the wire Saturday for the 50 contestants in this year's Miss America pageant.
The winner, who will spend a year traveling across the nation promoting an issue of her choice, succeeds Leanza Cornett, 22, of Jacksonville, Fla.
Cornett, who traveled 20,000 miles a month speaking about AIDS awareness, said she will be in her new Los Angeles home Monday to prepare for her job on the syndicated television show "Entertainment Tonight."
In addition to the title, the 1994 Miss America receives a $35,000 scholarship, a car and an estimated $200,000 in speaking fees.
During three nights of preliminary contests in swimsuit modeling, talent performance and evening wear modeling, the contestants vied for scholarships and extra points toward making the list of 10 semifinalists.
The preliminary judges selected three opera singers as talent winners: Miss Mississippi Lenena Holder, Miss New Hampshire Tricia Ann-Regan McEachern and Miss Ohio Titilayo Rachel Adedokun.
Swimsuit winners were Miss Georgia Kara Kim Martin, Miss West Virginia Cindy Sims and Miss California Lisa Michelle Duncan.
To retain an element of surprise, pageant officials do not announce winners of the evening wear competition or points awarded for interviews before the pageant concludes.
The Miss America organization hired a new producer and made rule changes this year aimed at bringing the 73-year-old competition up to date. Contestants had to do their own hair and makeup and the dress code for the evening wear competition was relaxed.
This year's competitors, who chose such speaking issues as eating disorders, literacy and nutrition, arrived in Atlantic City on Labor Day.
They have been interviews by judges and hundreds of reporters, made frequent appearances before civic organizations and the public and spent long hours rehearsing for the televised pageant.
Celebrity judges brought in for the final round of competition were TV producer Suzanne de Passe, TV and Broadway producer Pierre Cossette, Miss America 1971 Phyllis George, People magazine Publisher Ann Moore, model Kim Alexis, actress Joan Van Ark and talk show host Dick Cavett.