Miss Virginia Caressa Cameron crowned Miss America
Saturday, January 30, 2010; 10:41 PM
Miss Virginia Caressa Cameron, a Fredericksburg native, was crowned Miss America at the great annual spectacle in Las Vegas Saturday night. The 22 year-old sang the "Dreamgirls" ballad "Listen," rocked a bright-yellow evening gown, and exhorted kids to get off the couch and play outdoors - and did so with just enough spunk and charisma to win a $50,000 scholarship over 52 other women. It was a big night for the Beltway: Cameron, who won the Miss Virginia title last summer as a representative of the Miss Arlington pageant, was joined in the top 10 by opera-singing Miss D.C. Jen Corey. Cameron emerged as an early favorite, having won a talent prize during preliminary competition this week. But the Virginia Commonwealth University communications major truly broke away from the pack during Saturday night's interview portion. While the other six finalists gave halting answers, Cameron seemed prepared for the pop-question about what to do about the epidemic of teen obesity. "Take away the TV, take away the video games, set some standards for our children!" she proclaimed, eyes a-sparkle, avoiding any ums and you-knows. Children, she said, should be encouraged to go outside, "playing imaginary games with sticks in the street like I did when I was little." Hey, it's not doctoral dissertation material. But it's the kind of upbeat message and perky delivery that resonates at the pageant, still plugging along in its 88th year despite flagging ratings (it lost its network TV berth five years ago and now airs on TLC) and its general cultural eclipsing by reality-TV phenoms like "American Idol." Cameron doesn't appear to have the strongest Beltway bona fides: She was crowned Miss Arlington last year -- but like so many pageant pros, her big win came only after jumping around from local pageant to local pageant (Springfield, Hanover County, Chesterfield County) in her four-year quest to win the state crown. Her official "platform" in the competition, though little mentioned in Saturday's broadcast, is AIDS education. She is now the third Miss Virginia in history to win, following Nicole Johnson in 1999 and Kylene Barker in 1979. Like so many past Miss Americans, her goal is to become a TV anchor. Among the celebrity judges featured on Saturday's broadcast: Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who declared he was looking for four things in the future Miss A: "Poise, confidence, articulation, and she must like herself."