Caressa Cameron, 22, a broadcast journalism student enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University, beat out 53 contestants in the annual Miss America pageant held at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Nev., on Jan. 30. She is the first Black Miss America since Ericka Dunlap won the title in 2005.
“I hope to gain inspiration, I hope to gain momentum so that when this 365 days is over, I can shoot through the moon,” Cameron said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The fourth time was the charm for Cameron, who finished as the first runner-up in 2008 and second runner-up in 2007 and 2006 for the Miss Virginia crown before winning it in June of last year. Cameron also finished as second runner-up in both the Miss Virginia Teen USA contest in 2005 and the Miss Virginia USA pageant in 2006.
Cameron is the daughter of a government researcher and contractor and told the AP she was inspired to participate in the Miss America program after Miss Virginia 2003 Nancy Redd came to her school.
Wowed by Miss Virginia’s charisma, beauty and talent, Cameron told the AP that she auditioned for a school musical, which led to other opportunities in the arts. It was those same musical talents that allowed Cameron to capture the crowd with her rendition of “Listen” from the hit movie Dreamgirls.
“More doors and more doors continued to open,” she said in the interview. “It’s so important that we reach our young people, because there are so many young people that are at the very same crossroads that I was at.”
Cameron continued, “We need those people to let them know that just because your circumstances are a certain way, you don’t have to succumb to them,” she said. “You can do something amazing, like become Miss America.”
It’s been an amazing 2010 for Cameron, who was awarded with a $50,000 scholarship in addition to her crown and $2,000 scholarship for winning the preliminary talent competition in vocal pop on Jan. 27.
The Massaponax High School graduate has hinted that she would like to venture into television and pursue a career as an anchorwoman when her duties as Miss America are completed.
With the victory, Cameron became just the eighth African American to win the crown since the pageant was established in 1921.