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    Image: Laura Kaeppeler

    Miss America 2012

    In dazzling gowns and sexy bikinis, 53 contestants competed for the pageant’s coveted crown.

  • Image: Laura Kaeppeler

    Miss America 2012

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    Miss America 2012 -

    For the Miss America pageant, 53 contestants competed in dazzling gowns and bathing suits in Las Vegas, Nevada on Jan. 14, 2012.
    Left: Laura Kaeppeler, Miss Wisconsin, is surrounded by her fellow contestants as she reacts after being crowned Miss America at The Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

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  • Image: Laura Kaeppeler

    Miss America 2012

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    Crowning moment -

    Laura Kaeppeler, Miss Wisconsin, is crowned Miss America 2012 during the Miss America pageant. Kaeppeler won a $50,000 scholarship and a yearlong run with the crown.
    Her platform during the competition was supporting and mentoring children of incarcerated parents.

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    And the winner is... -

    Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler, left and Miss Oklahoma Betty Thompson react after Kaeppeler is named Miss America 2012.

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    Miss America 2012

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    Strutting on stage -

    Laura Kaeppeler, Miss Wisconsin, competes in the swimsuit competition during the 2012 Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada.
    "Miss America represents everyone, so I think the message to political candidates is that they represent everyone as well," Kaeppeler said when answering a question about whether beauty queens should declare their politics.
    "And so in these economic times, we need to be looking forward to what America needs, and I think Miss America needs to represent all."

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  • Image: Laura Kaeppeler, Betty Thompson, Jennifer Sedler, Kaitlin Monte, Noelle Freeman

    Miss America 2012

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    Final five -

    Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler, left, Miss Oklahoma Betty Thompson, Miss Arizona Jennifer Sedler, Miss New York Kaitlin Monte and Miss California Noelle Freeman compete as the top five finalists during the 2012 Miss America Pageant.

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  • Image: Laura Kaeppeler

    Miss America 2012

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    Opera singer -

    Miss Wisconsin performed opera in the talent competition category during the first round of the Miss America.

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  • Image: Laura Kaeppeler, Kaitlin Monte

    Miss America 2012

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    Swimsuit style -

    Miss New York, Kaitlin Monte, placed third in the Miss America Pageant. Monte scored honors in the lifestyle and fitness category.

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    Here she is... -

    Laura Kaeppeler, Miss Wisconsin, was chosen as the winner by a panel of seven judges. The event was the culmination of a week of preliminary competitions and months of preparations for the titleholders from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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    Class act -

    Laura Kaeppeler, Miss Wisconsin, dazzled in a black beaded evening gown during the 2012 Miss America Pageant.

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  • Image: Laura Kaeppeler, Betty Thompson, Kaitlin Monte

    Miss America 2012

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    The last three -

    Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler, left, Miss Oklahoma Betty Thompson and Miss New York Kaitlin Monte react as Monte is named second runner up.

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  • Image: Laura Kaeppeler, Kaitlin Monte

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    Singing her heart out -

    Miss New York, Kaitlin Monte, sang Marvin Hamlisch's Disneyland in the talent portion of the competition. Monte placed third.

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  • Image: Laura Kaeppeler, Betty Thompson

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    Luck of the Irish -

    Betty Thompson, Miss Oklahoma, performed an Irish step dance for the talent portion of the competition. Thomson placed second in the Pageant.

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  • Image: Laura Kaeppeler, Kaitlin Monte

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    Stunning and stylish -

    Miss New York, Kaitlin Monte, dazzled in a white evening gown during the 2012 Miss America pageant.

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  • Image: Laura Kaeppeler, Betty Thompson

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    The runner-up -

    Miss Oklahoma, Betty Thompson, placed second in the Pageant while Laura Kaeppeler, Miss Wisconsin, went on to win the crown.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Laura Kaeppeler, Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke

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    Hosting the event -

    Hosts Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke stand with 2012 Miss America winner Laura Kaeppeler, Miss Wisconsin.

    AP / AP