Miss Georgia Monica Pang narrowly missed becoming the first Peach State resident in 53 years to become Miss America Saturday night when she finished as first runner-up at the 2006 pageant in Las Vegas.
Second runner-up was Miss Alabama, Alexa Jones of Andalusia while Miss Tennessee Tara Burns, a student at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, received one of four non-finalist talent awards.
The 25-year-old Miss Pang, a consumer journalism graduate of the University of Georgia, won a $20,000 scholarship as first alternate to the new Miss America Jennifer Berry of Tulsa, Okla. Pang, a resident of Atlanta, whose career ambition is to be a music producer, performed a piano solo during the talent competition.
Neva Langley of Macon was Miss America 1953, the first and only Miss Georgia to ascend to the national title.
Miss Jones won a $15,000 scholarship. A graduate student in Art History at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the 24-year-old performed a ballet en pointe.
If Miss Jones had won the title, it would have been just the second time in the pageant’s 85 year history that a state had back to back winners as Birmingham’s Deidre Downs was the 2005 titleholder. University of Mississippi sorority sisters Mary Ann Mobley and Lynda Lee Mead were the 1959 and 1960 winners.
Miss Burns sang the classical aria “Art is Calling for Me” during Wednesday’s preliminary talent competition. She was awarded $4,000 in scholarships - $3,000 as one of the 42 non-finalists and $1,000 for the talent award.
The pageant was held at the Aladdin Theatre in Las Vegas making it the first time in its history that the winner was crowned outside of Atlantic City. Nashville based Country Music Television became the first cable network to televise the finals, which was hosted by Desperate Housewives star James Denton. Denton, a native of the Nashville suburb of Goodlettsville, is a journalism graduate of the University of Tennessee.