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The new Miss America may still be growing accustomed to her crown and sash, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t already plotting out her life post-reign.

“From there I’m going to go to law school, so I’m going to use the scholarship dollars I earned through Miss America – which is actually over $45,000 prior to winning (Miss America),” Cara Mund told me as we stood atop the Empire State Building. “So I’ll be out of student debt, I’ll be able to go to law school and hopefully run for office one day.”

However before that, Mund faces a whirlwind year that will push her to every corner of the U.S. as a motivational speaker, ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network and public figure; her deal as the new Miss America includes a six-figure salary and an appearance contract with dick clark productions, which produced the competition telecast in addition to “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” the “American Music Awards” and the “Billboard Music Awards.”

“I think each Miss America makes the year her own,” Mund responded when I asked if she had a chance to receive any tips or guidance from previous crown-holders on what’s in store. “And so while they can give me tips, they’re going to help me figure it out along my way too.”

Mund is the first contestant from her state to crack the Top 5, let alone win it all. The Bismark, North Dakota native graduated from Brown University in Rhode Island and interned for Sen. John Hoeven in Washington D.C. The new Miss America’s resume also includes four summers of training courses with the Radio City Rockettes.

“It was right at Radio City Music Hall and it was (The Rockettes’) summer intensive,” Mund explained. “So I did it for four years, I was getting ready to audition. Didn’t work out because I was too short but I ended up going to Brown instead so it was a good tradeoff.”

She was also able to use some of the skills learned with The Rockettes on the Miss America stage, so suffice to say, everything happened for a reason.

I caught up with Fifth Harmony’s Normani Kordei on the red carpet of Miss America 2018 in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Kordei was there to support her friend Miss Texas Margana Wood; Normani herself was a former Miss Teen Texas. The artist chatted about the quartet’s self-titled LP, the group’s VMA performance and more.

When I think back to the Miss America red carpet earlier this month at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, a number of moments and interactions immediately come to mind…

– This was my third consecutive year covering arrivals and the carpet was in a new location within the hall; a floor I didn’t even know existed let alone had visited!

– The obligatory red carpet photo.

– Chatting with Normani Kordei of Fifth Harmony, which was a complete surprise. She was the last person I spoke with there and was in attendance because she is good friends with Miss Texas, Margana Wood. Kordei was once a Miss Teen Texas in the Miss America Organization.


– Sage Steele, one of the co-hosts, was there on the first NFL Sunday of the season. The next morning she was scheduled to co-host SportsCenter AM. Seemed like quite the feat.


– Her co-host for the program was the venerable Chris Harrison, who doesn’t seem to mind people bugging him about “Bachelor” drama and gossip.


– Sam Haskell is Chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization. I remembered after Savvy Shields won last year; in the subsequent press conference he mentioned how happy MAO was with the pick. This year, I was sure to ask Haskell how exactly he is able to get to know every contestant ahead of time.


– Speaking of Savvy – what’s next for the outgoing Miss America?


– Country music superstar Thomas Rhett was one of the celebrity judges tasked with picking her replacement.


– And Miss North Dakota’s contingent erupted when Cara Mund was crowned Miss America 2018 inside Boardwalk Hall.

For my third consecutive year, before traveling to Atlantic City for the Miss America competition, I chatted with some of the contestants and celebrity judges. The participants from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island called in along with Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri and first-time judge/country music superstar Thomas Rhett.

A new Miss America was crowned on Sunday night in Atlantic City, although you can count her in the court of Queen Beyonce.

“Oh, I’m a dancer,” Savvy Shields, a 21 year-old entered the competition as Miss Arkansas, replied when I asked her about her obsession with the “Formation” singer. “Every single dancer’s dream is to be a backup dancer for Beyonce.”

And Shields knows a thing or two about dreaming big and watching that dream become reality, as it did for her a few nights ago at Boardwalk Hall.

“Ever since I was eight years-old and I watched my first Miss America pageant,” the University of Arkansas senior revealed. She’ll continue school after completing her reign with the crown. “I think my mom goes, ‘The southern states always do well.’ That’s my first memory of the Miss America pageant!”

It’s true; I’ve likened southern states’ passion for pageantry to their love for college football, a comparison Shields agreed with.
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“Pageants are a big deal (in the south),” she said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to whenever I’m traveling the country get to see how pageants are in different regions.”

At the moment, Shields is spending her time in the northeast. I caught her in the middle of a whirlwind media tour in New York City that included “Good Morning America,” “Live With Kelly,” “CNN” and a number of other media outlets.

“My first journal entry was (Monday) night,” Shields said, noting that she is trying to jot down memories on a nightly basis. “I wrote down the very first day of Miss America and what that means.”

Some other fun facts about the new titleholder: she loves lipstick (“I have about five in my purse and six in my makeup box”), enjoys people (a job prerequisite) and knits, as in scarves.

“I taught myself when I was around 13 years-old how to knit on YouTube,” she explained while also inadvertently yet perfectly encompassing the idea of Miss America (this was the organization’s 96th pageant) in the 21st century. “Every winter I’ll whip out my knitting needles and I will knit scarves for all my friends.”

Shields once tried to make a hat with her knitting skills, but wasn’t impressed with the final product.

“It didn’t turn out that well. It was more like a sock.”

Thankfully for Shields, she has her headgear planned out for at least the next year anyways.

The 96th Miss America pageant took place Sunday night in Atlantic City at Boardwalk Hall. I was on the red carpet before the show and spoke with a few of the judges (Cole Swindell, Gabby Douglas, Mark Cuban, Laura Marano) and one of the co-hosts, Sage Steele, about the big event.
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On Friday night I was in the middle of my nightly Facebook Live broadcast when my buddy Nick from back home commented – Nick wanted to let me know that he was going to Saturday’s Yankees game.

Nick and I both grew up in Western New York and then in a strange twist, both ended up in Northeastern Pennsylvania around the same time for a few years. In yet another crazy turn, we both moved to the tri-state area too; he’s up in Connecticut with his wife and I’m of course in Manhattan.

We’re also both diehard Yankees fans. Yet despite this, I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw Nick, and neither of us had attended a game in the Bronx together this year.

That was until last weekend of course.

I met Nick at a place we’re both fans of by the ballpark, Stadium Pizza. Why are we fans? Well I enjoy it because it’s a bit out of the way at 157th and River. But what keeps me coming back to the place is their drink special: three domestic bottles for $10. A bucket of 6 for $20. It’s a deal you can’t beat anywhere near the Stadium.


I joined the group mid-buckets. We had a few rounds then made our way in to the game. A great feature of Yankee Stadium is the open concourse and wide array of standing room areas. I think the original plan was to make our way out to center field and the Batter’s Eye Café but we settled on the area behind one of the Main Infield sections.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


The Yankees won, the celebration commenced across the street at Stan’s and then I headed home. The 4 p.m. first pitch worked perfectly because I was home in bed by 11.

The reason I retired so early on a Saturday night is because my Sunday was jam-packed. I ran, showered, changed, went to the radio station to grab an audio recorder and then cabbed it to Port Authority where I hopped on a bus to Atlantic City. I arrived in AC around 5:30, grabbed a quick sushi dinner and then walked to Boardwalk Hall.


For my second straight year, I attended Miss America. This year, I was covering the red carpet for my radio station.

Some of the highlights: interviewing gold medalist Gabby Douglas and Laura Marano at the same time, Mark Cuban telling me after this election season he’ll never talk politics again and ESPN’s Sage Steele revealing that she didn’t check football scores so she could focus on rehearsing her lines for the show. Ciara didn’t stop and talk with any media outlets but did say hello to me, which was very kind of her.


Miss Arkansas, Savvy Shields, won the crown and after her press conference I headed to the after-party. And then to a blackjack table or three. And then, $75 lighter, back to New York City.

After all, I had my radio show Monday night, and another Facebook Live broadcast to host.

Ahead of Sunday night’s competition, five Miss America finalists from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island called in to talk about prelims and their path to the crown.
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A new Miss America was crowned Sunday night on ABC.

Atlantic City, a red carpet, two album release parties, zero hours of sleep. It was one for the books.

Betty Cantrell won the 95th edition of the Miss America competition last Sunday in a live telecast on ABC from Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Cantrell did not celebrate her Miss America win with an extravagant dinner or over-the-top bash, although she attended the pageant’s after-party for about five minutes.

But after showing face, Cantrell retreated to a more intimate post-crowning setting.

“My after-party was in my hotel suite with my family and friends,” Cantrell revealed in an interview that aired Wednesday on “Ralphie Tonight.” “That’s pretty much how I celebrated; by eating like little cheese and crackers.”

For Cantrell though, the real celebration was when the crown went atop her head. In person, the crown is quite stunning; even the box it travels in looks elegant. There are four points on the crown signifying service, scholarship, success and style. And while Cantrell is looking forward to her $50,000 scholarship and the success and style that the title tows, she was quick to point out first and foremost that the next year for her will be one of service.
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“Miss America has to have a servant’s heart and be service-oriented,” she noted. “I love being a servant to the people and catering to the children that I so dearly love.”

“Healthy Children, Strong America,” is the platform that Cantrell plans to speak about in schools around the country. As Miss America, the Georgia-native will also represent the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

And she will travel, a lot. Cantrell’s schedule won’t keep her in the same city for more than three days. But the Broadway-hopeful, who wowed the likes of Brett Eldridge and Vanessa Williams with her Opera performance during the talent portion of the show, doesn’t seem to mind.

“I’ll just get sleep next year!” she joked, while also noting that “home base,” if you can even call it that given her schedule, will be Atlantic City.

Maybe one day she will call New York home. But Cantrell has much to accomplish before she can entertain those thoughts. Besides, the next stop on her press tour was a place she would be visiting for the first time, and also one associated with stardom and big dreams.

Hollywood.