But then he asks me, "On your questionnaire, you said if you were chosen as Miss America, you would work 'To help people to live together more peacefully and happily.' 

"In what specific ways would you do this?"

I stood there for eight seconds. People back home were sitting in front of the TV saying, 'Talk! Talk!'

And I'm standing there thinking, 'This is so unfair.'

Finally I said, "In order to live together more peacefully and happily, a person has to realize that he is no better than his neighbor, and that all people are equal and should be given equal opportunities." If you think about it, I didn't really answer the question. But it got me off stage.

And then I relaxed. They went to commercial and I was thinking, 'Well, the worst I could do is 5th place.'

When they went back to the broadcast, they named the 4th runner up. I thought, 'Wow, this is so great. The worst I could do is 4th!'

They named the third runner up, and I'm thinking 'Wow, the worst I could do is 3rd place!'

Then they got to the last two of us. And I'm thinking, 'There's an outside chance I could win this...'

What was it like serving as Miss America?

I was pretty much overwhelmed. I had never really planned on winning this thing. At the time of the pageant it was new student week at UI, and I was trying to get everything ready. The pageant was Saturday, and classes stared Monday.

I was totally unprepared for this. The day after the pageant, everyone I knew in the world went back to Illinois, and I went to New York with a bunch of strangers.

I started asking them, "Just what does Miss America do?"  I thought that I would have a retinue of people with me. For instance, I didn't do my own hair for the pageants, and back then we wore those beehives. I asked them, "Who's going to do my hair?" So I had to learn how to do that.

In New York, the first two weeks were getting the wardrobe together, and they tried to make sure I knew some table manners. They took me to an upscale restaurant in New York with multiple courses. When they brought out the sorbet, I thought 'What, dessert already?'

At the end of the meal they brought me a bowl of hot water with a slice of lemon in it and asked me, "Do you know what that is?"

"Well," I said, "I'm out of spoons, so I assume it's not soup."

After that, it was a very hectic scheduled. I traveled 20,000 miles per month, over 200,000 miles over the year. If I slept in the same bed two nights in a row, I would say "Wow."

I kept a diary.  It's amazing how little sleep I got, and how much I ate. We would come back at night and eat a roast beef sandwich right before bed. I even enjoyed airplane food. So about halfway through I thought, 'Uh-oh, there's the freshman 15.'

You are one of a very few people who can go to a Chicago Bears game wearing Saints gear.

I've been a Saints fan since they started. I was there back in the "Who dat?" days. When my friends up here hear me say that they say, "Wha...?"

Now that I live here, I'm pretty much torn. I figure I can't lose though, my son is an avid Bears fans so if either team wins, I'm OK.  But people still ask me why I'm a Saints fan after all these years.

It's because I love Louisiana.


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