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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | East County / THOUSAND OAKS

Pageant Puts Zeanah at a Loss for Words

September 22, 1998|ANDREW STEVEN HARRIS

When Miss America took her victory walk down the runway, she managed to do what some Thousand Oaks politicians have long tried and failed: silence City Councilwoman Elois Zeanah.

As her niece, Nicole Johnson, received her crown and baton, Zeanah said she found herself at a loss for words.

"I had been hollering all night, but suddenly I was in disbelief. I couldn't say anything," said Zeanah, who sat in the Atlantic City audience. "I was spellbound. It was truly unbelievable."

Johnson, 24, won the Miss Virginia title earlier this year, and then beat out 50 young women, one from each state and the District of Columbia.

A writer and producer for the 700 Club television program, she holds a master's degree in journalism from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., and a bachelor's degree in English from the University of South Florida.

But her greatest accomplishment, she told the judges, is her advocacy of diabetes awareness. Johnson, who has an extremely rare form of diabetes, wears a beeper-size insulin pump at almost all times, including under her evening gown during the pageant.

"When we went to see her in her suite after she was crowned, we were told she had already gotten calls from people who had children with diabetes," Zeanah said.

But if Zeanah was speechless, the new Miss America wasn't.

Just 30 minutes after being crowned, she had told the press that she thinks President Clinton should resign in the wake of an ongoing sex scandal.

"While it may be controversial, I say good for her, Zeanah said. "I admire her and I would hate to have an ambassador for our youth who felt she could not express the freedom of her own thoughts and the conviction to stand up for them."

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