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The show
Palmetto power

South Carolina is the smallest state in the pageant-loving Deep South. But acre for acre, it probably has the best record in competition in the whole United States. What other state has produced a Miss America, a Miss USA, a Miss Teen USA, a Miss Universe and a Miss World? (In some of these categories, it has produced more than one.)

Just walk any thoroughfare in the state, and you'll start to see why South Carolina is so successful. Beautiful women abound. And such good manners! This is why the Southern belle became a symbol of gracious and graceful femininity.
Shelley Benthall
Shelley Benthall

All photos by Joe White/PNB

Shelley Benthall with Angela Walker
Shelley Benthall with first runner-up Angela Walker, Miss Charleston.
Shelley Benthall
The new Miss South Carolina Shelley Benthall
Angela Walker
First runner-up Angela Walker
Second runner-up, Mandy Ticknor, Miss Greater Greer.
Laura Stamm
Laura Stamm, Miss Greenville County.
If you want to see this phenomenon in full flower, go to the Miss South Carolina Pageant. That's what PNB did on July 8, 2006. (July 8 is a great day in pageant history, as every fan knows.)

On that day in Spartanburg, Shelley Bryson Benthall, 20, was crowned Miss South Carolina, winning the right to compete at Miss America. She became the first former winner of the state's Miss America-affiliated teen pageant to go on to win the "big-girl" title.
Erika Powell
The outgoing Miss South Carolina, Erika Powell.
Maggie Hill
South Carolina's Outstanding Teen, Maggie Hill of Gilbert, S.C. gets her crown.
Maggie Hill
Maggie Hill
The national teen pageant that's affiliated with Miss America, known as Miss America's Outstanding Teen, is only a year old. It's one of the few major pageants that a South Carolinian has not won. That brand-new drought is not likely to last for long.

Maggie Hill, 17, was crowned South Carolina's Outstanding Teen on the same night as Ms. Benthall's triumph. Pageant fans in the state would love to see both women capture national glory this year. The odds are long, but in South Carolina, that's the kind of challenge they love.
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