Houston & Peach

Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell of Warner Robins wins Miss America crown



Warner Robins resident Betty Cantrell won the Miss America crown Sunday night.

"This is so incredible. I can't believe it," Cantrell said in an emotional video interview posted to her Twitter page. "I thought I blew the on-stage question. I didn't know what he asked me. ...

"I am only the second Miss Georgia to win Miss America, and I am so happy to represent my state."

The first Miss Georgia to win the Miss America crown was the late Neva Jane Langley Fickling of Macon. She won in 1952.

For the interview portion of the nationally televised event held at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Cantrell was asked a question about "Deflategate" and whether Tom Brady cheated. She asked for the question to be repeated and then stumbled on her answer, finally saying that she would have to see the ball to be able to say if the New England Patriots quarterback cheated.

Miss Georgia's win ended New York's dominance at the Miss America pageant. Last year's Miss America, Kira Kazantsev, was the third consecutive Miss New York to win the title.

"I can't believe it's been a year since I was backstage getting ready to compete, just as the contestants are right now," Kazantsev said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon in Boardwalk Hall. "

Preliminary competition in talent, interviews, evening wear and swimsuit ran through Thursday.

Cantrell, who won the talent preliminary singing opera, preaches healthy living as her pageant platform. Her parents own the Cantrell Center, a physical therapy and sports medicine facility in Warner Robins.

A student at Mercer University and a graduate of Mount de Sales Academy, Cantrell has put her studies on hold while she serves out her title.

MaryTherese Grabowski, who was Miss Warner Robins 1992, was in Atlantic City for the preliminary competition. She recently emceed the Miss Warner Robins 2016 pageant. 

“Warner Robins has come so close to winning Miss Georgia many times after Burma Davis, and Georgia has come close many times since Neva Langley won Miss America. It's our time again, and Betty Cantrell is that shining jewel the entire world gets to see from Warner Robins, Georgia.

"I started telling her last year when she won Miss Warner Robins that I believe she is Miss America -- I was right.”

The pageant also marked the return of Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams, who was back for the first time after resigning the crown following a nude photo scandal. Pageant executive chairman Sam Haskell apologized to Williams on behalf of the pageant.

"I want to apologize for anything that was said or done," Haskell told Williams as they stood on the stage. "Vanessa: Welcome back!"

For Williams, who went on to stardom on television and on the Broadway stage, it was a triumphant return to the Miss America stage.

"I did the best I could in my reign as Miss America," she said during Sunday's pageant.

Contestants from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were vying for the crown. The U.S. Virgin Islands, which competed last year, could not field the required minimum number of entrants this year, pageant officials said. It is eligible for future competitions.

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 478-256-9705 or find her on Twitter @jennburk. Alline Kent and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

Related stories from Macon Telegraph