“It wasn’t that I wanted to leave Alabama,” she told reporters after her crowning in Las Vegas. “I saw the energy of New York City was something I couldn’t get enough of.” She added: “I was always a little more liberal-thinking than my home town.”
Indeed: The 23-year-old Brooklynite, who tap-danced her way into the top five (see video), seems to have won over the judges in the end during an onstage Q&A, where she came out against armed guards in schools.
The Associated Press has a full rundown here, including her thoughts on her major cause, child sexual abuse. Other notable developments: Miss Maryland Joanna Guy, a 21-year-old Cornell student, made the top 10 and gave the best singing performance of the night (this year was heavy on dancers) with “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Mis.” (see video) That she did not advance to the top 5 was a big surprise; similarly surprising was the absence of Miss Texas Danae Couch, who lit up the Planet Hollywood theater by twirling three, count them, three batons to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance,” and only dropped one of them once.
An even bigger national story was Miss Montana Alexis Wineman, who has a mild form of autism. She got the spot in the top 15 given to the contestant who wins a vote among viewers — but did not advance to the next level.
A gasp went through the crowd: Everyone knew that meant the end of her run. She exited as fourth-runner up.