Senior mass communications major Caressa Cameron was crowned Miss America Saturday evening at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
The 22-year-old won the title from a field of 53 contestants, and will spend a year away from college to fulfill her duties as Miss America.
Cameron, a Spotsylvania native, transferred to VCU to study broadcast journalism after getting her associate’s degree at Germanna Community College.
Wendi Gruninger, the Miss Virginia business manager, said preparation for the Miss America pageant began immediately after Cameron won the title of Miss Virginia in June 2009. After winning the state title, Cameron took a year off school to fulfill her Miss Virginia duties and was automatically qualified to compete in the 2010 Miss America pageant.
“Right away we had a tremendous amount of paper work to do,” Gruninger said.
Cameron’s AIDS awareness platform issue and resume were drafted first and then submitted to the Miss America judges to reference during a 10-minute personal interview.
“She has been involved with her platform since she was a child,” Gruninger said. “Her uncle passed away from AIDS.”
Gruninger said she worked with Cameron to link her platform issue to state and national organizations like the National AIDS Fund. Cameron worked with business-owner Rebecca Worth at Sylvan Spirit, a Richmond jewelry store, to design an AIDS awareness jewelry line.
“We work every year with Miss Virginia,” Worth said. “(Cameron) and I met a couple of times to talk about what her goals were. She was on the design team with me.”
Gruninger said she worked with Cameron on her talent—singing. Cameron sang “Listen” by Beyonce from the movie Dreamgirls for both the Miss Virginia and Miss America pageants. To prepare for her performance, Gruninger said Cameron worked with musician Bill Wolfe and R&B pop artist Kelly Rowland.
Gruninger said she worked with Cameron to design and model her gown and wardrobe, which consisted of 35 outfits for the pageant. Interview preparation and establishing a well connected platform were additional focuses.
Cameron won a $50,000 scholarship Saturday night at the pageant in Las Vegas. She told reporters that after her reign as Miss America she plans to earn a master’s degree and eventually become a news anchor.
Cameron also told reporters she sees pageantry as a way to raise money and awareness for her platform issue, AIDS awareness. She was recognized by Congress in 2007 for her work to bring instant-result HIV testing to Virginia.
Cameron is the first African-American Miss America since Ericka Dunlap in 2005. The last Miss America from Virginia was Nicole Johnson in 1999.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Gruninger said. “(Cameron) wanted to spread her cause and to serve as a positive role model for youths.”
For more information, visit the Miss America Pageant Web site at www.missamerica.org.
Information provided by the VCU News Center.