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Pageant News Bureau - Miss USA

Branson, Missouri
February 5, 1999

Stepping out

Contestants practice their opening number.


Photo courtesy of Miss Universe L.P., LLLP
Opening number
Shannon Grace Clark

Good influences

Shannon Grace Clark, Miss Michigan USA, is the daughter of a minister known for his work with the disadvantaged. As a spokeswoman for a major American automaker, she has traveled as far as China.

She is a country music fan, and especially enjoys contemporary country. She counts a leading country singer as one of her good friends.


Photo courtesy of Miss Universe L.P., LLLP
Elyzabeth PhamThe Photogenic Award was presented to Elyzabeth Pham, Miss Wisconsin USA, on Feb. 1. She was chosen by voting on the MissUSA Web site.





Photo courtesy of Miss Universe L.P., LLLP

Climbing many mountains

Amanda Michelle Burns, Miss West Virginia USA, is still young. She turned 19 after arriving in Branson. But she has gotten plenty of national exposure since taking up pageants in the mid-1990s. She was in the Young Miss of America Pageant in 1994, the Miss Teen All American Pageant in 1995 and the Miss Teen USA Pageant in 1997.

Photo courtesy of Miss Universe L.P., LLLP
Amanda Michelle Burns
Amy Alderson

Eyewitness to history

Amy Alderson, Miss District of Columbia USA, was working on Capitol Hill during the historic days of December 1998, when the House of Representatives was impeaching the president. Her boss was one of the most powerful men in the nation. But she doesn't like to gossip or brag about what she knows. She keeps politics and pageants separate.

Speaking of pageants, she had competed with distinction in the Miss America system in Tennessee and D.C. before trying for the D.C. USA title.

Photo courtesy of Miss Universe L.P., LLLP
Cara Lavern Makeeswa Jackson

Voice of experience

Cara Lavern Makeeswa Jackson of Arizona is the only African-American in this year's Miss USA Pageant. What does she think about that? "Well, they won't forget me," she says cheerfully. And she's right.

Ms. Jackson is modest about mentioning her pageant successes, but they are extraordinary. She was Miss Talented Teen Arizona at age 14, showing the singing ability that has become her trademark.

She was a Fiesta Bowl princess in 1993 and Miss Black Arizona in 1994. She was chosen Miss Arizona 1995 and competed for the Miss America title. And now she's Miss Arizona USA.

Some people believe Miss USA is easier than Miss America because there's no talent competition to worry about. But Ms. Jackson doesn't see it quite that way. "In the Miss America system, I always had my talent to fall back on," she says.

It's a talent that people notice. She spent much of 1998 in Japan, where she is building a reputation as a vocalist, and she recently cut a "half-album" there. She's even learning Japanese (she already has a degree in Spanish). The world will hear a lot more from her, if not in one language, then another.

Photo courtesy of Cara Lavern Makeeswa Jackson
Crystal VanDenBerg

Carrying on the dream

Crystal VanDenBerg's mother wanted her to be a beauty queen someday, but didn't live to see it. She was killed by a drunken driver when Crystal was 6 years old. The Minnesota beauty has done her best to fulfill her mother's dream.

Encouraged by her aunt and grandmother to be herself and be natural, she has modeled and competed in pageants since age 9. She won a car at 14, before she was even old enough to drive. By her own admission, she has entered more pageants than she can remember, and she has appeared in numerous commercials and public service announcments.

She says pageants and modeling have helped her become more outspoken and confident, and she plans to use her time in the limelight to teach students about the danger of drinking and driving.

Ms. VanDenBerg is a strong young woman, physically as well as spiritually. In high school, her strength coach was Jesse Ventura, a former wrestler who has since made history by becoming Minnesota's governor.

Whether she wins Miss USA or finishes her reign as a state queen, Ms. VanDenBerg is already planning her post-pageant future. She wants to become a flight attendant and see the world. And then she wants to get married -- and perhaps start a quest for a Mrs. title.

Reported by correspondent Pamela Faye in Minnesota
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