LAS VEGAS – Miss Michigan Kirsten Haglund, a 19-year-old aspiring Broadway star, was crowned Miss America 2008 on Saturday in a live show billed as the unveiling of the 87-year-old pageant’s new, hipper look.
Haglund, of Farmington Hills, Mich., sang “Over the Rainbow” to clinch the title.
She beat Miss Indiana Nicole Elizabeth Rash, the first runner-up, and Miss Washington Elyse Umemoto, the second runner-up, for the $50,000 scholarship and year of travel that comes with the crown.
Haglund, who studies music at the University of Cincinnati, grew up in a pageant family. Her mother is an active volunteer, and her grandmother Iora Hunt competed for the crown as Miss Michigan 1944. Hunt was in the audience Saturday.
The crowning at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip was aired for the first time on TLC. It capped a four-week reality series, “Miss America: Reality Check,” which followed the contestants as they were pushed to shed the dated look of Miss Americas past.
The show was the latest in a series of attempts to find an audience with a younger demographic after more than a decade of declining ratings.