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Miss America Crowns Cheesehead Laura Kaeppeler (photos)

1Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler was crowned the new 2012 Miss America last night. She not only brought brains and beauty to the pageant, but also a criminal background. Not her, of course, but her father.

Instead of hiding her somewhat shady association, however, Kaeppeler embraced it. She said she agonized over whether to make her father’s mail fraud conviction part of her platform. But in the ended, she did.

He was backstage during the Sunday night finale of the show, televised on ABC. She him her “best friend.” Father Jeff Kaeppeler served 18 months in federal prison while Laura was in college.

Miss America Laura Kaeppler at glance.

2Home town: Kenosha, Wisconsin
Age: 23
Education: St. Joseph High School, Carthage College
Platform Issue: Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents
Scholastic Ambition: To obtain a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology
Talent: Operatic Vocal
Scholastic Honors: Dean’s List; Outstanding Senior Music Major Award,; Music Department Honor’s Recital Participant
Career Ambition: Speech Pathologist
Local Competition Sponsor: Miss Southern Wisconsin Pageant
State Competition Sponsor: Miss Wisconsin Organization

How the Finalists Emerged

Miss America 2012
Miss Wisconsin, Laura Kaeppeler

Top Five Finalists
Miss Wisconsin, Laura Kaeppeler
Miss Oklahoma, Betty Thompson
Miss New York, Kaitlin Monte
Miss Arizona, Jennifer Sedler
Miss California, Noelle Freeman

Final Five Finalists
Miss Illinois, Hannah Smith
Miss Texas, Kendall Morris
Miss Louisiana, Hope Anderson
Miss Tennessee, Erin Hatley
Miss Iowa, Jessica Pray

Check out the Swimsuit Finalists; click to enlarge.


Now, she’s made her mission helping children with a parent in jail. Although she said she wanted to become a speech therapist, she said afterward she will use her $50,000 scholarship award to get a law degree to fulfill her career objective. But don’t look for her to enter politics anytime soon.

When asked whether Miss America should declare her political affiliation, she took a decidedly neutral stance. “Miss America represents everyone, so I think the message to political candidates is that they represent everyone as well,” she said.

“And so in these economic times, we need to be looking forward to what America needs, and I think Miss America needs to represent all.” Spoken like a true politician.

After three rueling days of preliminary competition, the representatives from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were culled for the Sunday night show. The top 15 finalists competed for the crown.

Hosts Chris Harrison (“The Bachelor”) and Brooke Burke-Charvet (“Dancing With the Stars”) put them through their paces. Sorting through the contestants were judges Mark Ballas of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC reality exec Mike Fleiss, Kardashian momager Kris Jenner, actress Teri Polo, who starred in the Fockers films, and Good Morning America anchor Lara Spencer.

Kaeppeler noted in her introduction that she was from the home state of the Green Bay Packers, the defending NFL Super Bowl champions. “If you’re watching, Aaron Rodgers, call me,” she said, a reference to the team’s quarterback. She clearly was a “cheesehead,” as Packer fans are called.

Previously, she won the preliminary talent competition with an operatic performance. She majored in music and vocal performance at Carthage College, a private Lutheran liberal arts school in Wisconsin. Miss Hawaii Lauren Cheape also won for talent. Miss New York Kaitlin Monte, Miss Texas Kendall Morris and Miss Utah Danica Olsen won for swimsuit.

The contestants had a choice of black, red or white bikinis for the swimsuit competition. Miss Alabama was “saved,” after being passed over by the judges, a new feature on the show this year. She quickly change into her evening gown.

The talent competition came down to 10 contestants, who performed on the show. Talent ranged from Miss Arizona’s modern dance to a full-one ballet routine by Miss Illinois and an Irish step dance by Miss Oklahoma. The night’s winner, also won the talent competition with an operatic performance.

Other singers included Miss New York Kaitlin Monte who sang Marvin Hamlisch’s “Disneyland.” Miss Tennessee, Erin Hatley, sang a rendition of “Memory” from the Broadway musical Cats. Miss Iowa Jessica Pray sang “You Raise Me Up.”

Out of the five finalists, Miss California; finished fourth, followed by Miss Arizona, Miss New York and First runner-up Miss Oklahoma, with Kaeppeler crowned.

As the new Miss America, Kaeppeler will spend the next year touring the country to speak to different groups and raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network, the pageants charity. Teresa Scanlan, Miss Nebraska who won Miss America last year at age 17 passed on the title.

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