Teresa Scanlan, 17, hopes to brings awareness to eating disorders during her year-long reign

By Mark Gray
January 16, 2011 08:30 AM
Steve Marcus/Reuters/Landov

Say hello to the new Miss America.

At just 17, Teresa Scanlan, a recent high school graduate, became the youngest woman to be honored with the title since 1921. She was the youngest contestant in Saturday’s pageant at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

Scanlan, who earlier in the evening played “White Water Chopsticks” on piano, won over the seven judges – including The View‘s Joy Behar and Dancing With The Stars pro Tony Dovolani – to take home the title, besting 52 other women in the pageant’s 90th anniversary.

Scanlan, who turns 18 next month, replaces outgoing Miss America Caressa Cameron, who handed the Gering, Neb., native the crown. Along with the title, the sash and the glimmering tiara, Scanlan, who aspires to attend law school and be a politician one day, won a $50,000 scholarship.

The smiley blonde, who does not have a boyfriend, said she worried that the judges would think the job was “too big” for her, considering her age, but she was determined to make believers out of them.

During her year-long reign, Scanlan hopes to brings awareness to eating disorders. Getting her inspiration from a friend who struggled with bulimia, Scanlan said the issue isn’t brought to the forefront enough.

“We simply can’t afford to let this issue go on because millions of girls and boys are out there dying form eating disorders. You can be this successful and you don’t have to hurt yourself, you don’t have to go to extremes,” she said. “I never passed up a cookie on my journey here.”

As the first runner up, Miss Arkansas Alyse Eady will take over the crown if Scanlan is unable to perform the duties of Miss America. Scanlan’s victory denied sentimental favorites Miss Arizona Katy Bulkley, a college student who dedicated her vocal performance her mentor U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and Miss Delaware Kayla Martell, a bald beauty who suffers from hair loss due to alopecia areata.

Following her reign, Scanlan plans to enroll in Patrick Henry College in Virginia.