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Spotsylvanian crowned Miss America
Caressa Cameron waves to family members and supporters after being named a finalist.
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BY EDIE GROSS
LAS VEGAS--Lavern and Jerome Cameron were so nervous they hadn't eaten all day.
"I'm going to sell this idea to Weight Watchers," the Spotsylvania County man said as he waited for his daughter, Caressa, to take the stage for last night's Miss America Pageant. "When you're this high on adrenaline, you don't need to eat."
Two hours later, their nerves turned to elation when the 22-year-old Massaponax High graduate was named Miss America 2010.
Radiant in a goldenrod Sherri Hill gown with crystals around the bodice, an emotional Cameron looked up and mouthed "Thank you, Jesus." Her dazzling right earring fell off while she was celebrating, but she managed to clip it back on with one hand while clasping a huge bouquet of roses with the other.
"I'm just speechless, speechless, speechless, that's how I feel," said Lavern.
Cameron won a $50,000 scholarship and will spend the next year traveling the country as the national spokeswoman for the pageant's partner charity, The Children's Miracle Network, and using the opportunity to spread her own message to teens of the dangers of AIDS and HIV and the importance of making good, safe choices.
"We need to let people know this is a disease affecting people right here, right now," she said in a news conference immediately after the pageant.
"We need to make sure we're having those uncomfortable conversations that are lifesaving conversations."
The whole week had been magical for Cameron, starting when she won the talent preliminary round on Tuesday. She'd had a wonderful time getting to know the other 52 contestants--one for each state, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
"I'm very at peace with whatever happens because I know that win or lose, I've laid it all on the floor," she said earlier in the week. "I've done whatever was necessary to get me to this point."
But she was concerned just the same about disappointing her family and supporters. She needn't have worried.
Last night, Cameron cruised through the swimsuit and evening gown rounds before wowing the audience--and apparently the judges--with her performance of "Listen" from "Dreamgirls."