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Sure some women grow up with the dream of one day becoming Miss America – but how many of them also envision the crown’s travel schedule, which involves a different state every 48 hours?

“I live in airports and in hotels out of my suitcase,” the current titleholder, Savvy Shields, told me on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The two of us chatted for a few minutes on the third floor of the Good Morning America building after her TV appearance. “It’s been good. I don’t really remember much of it so that’s why I’m trying to journal and if I look at my social media then I remember everything I did.”

The journal idea was something Shields, who represented the state of Arkansas in last year’s competition, mentioned to me when we chatted the day after she won. Since that interview, the 21 year-old hasn’t sat still, but has experienced some cool moments including a trip to the American Music Awards where she joined Florida-Georgia Line on stage.

“(B.K. and Tyler) were fantastic,” she noted. “I mean, we’re southern people so we get along right away.”

With Shields’ personality, it’s hard to envision her not getting along with anyone, nor is it a stretch to think that she’s now getting recognized throughout these travels.

“I’ve gotten a lot of ‘Are you on TV?’” she said. “So it’s like, they know who I am, but it’s not until I have the crown on that they put two-and-two together.”

And contrary to popular belief, Shields isn’t always wearing the crown. Matter of fact, it wasn’t on her head at the AMAs; that and her new hair style that night which featured bangs lead yours truly to not recognize the titleholder, an occurance Shields did not let me forget during our interview. However she also joked that there is another time when people don’t realize she’s Miss America.

“If it’s an ‘airport day,’ they don’t really believe me,” Shields said. “So I mean it really depends!”

There are certainly more “airport days” on her docket, but also some once-in-a-lifetime destinations such as the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards, both of which take place this spring. “Miss America” is produced by Dick Clark Productions, which also handles all of the aforementioned award shows along with “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” another show that Shields participated in. The Arkansas-native didn’t seem to mind the December climate in New York too much.

“Maybe it’s everyone dancing that’s making it not as cold?” she wondering out loud. “I was expecting to be layered in like 7 parkas but I’m actually just down to one so we’re good to go.”

Hopefully for Shields that meant not having to pack or travel with as much; right after witnessing the ball drop she skipped the champagne toast and received an escort out of Times Square to grab a head start on the next part of her never-ending itinerary. Although I’m sure at this point, she couldn’t envision her night any other way.

Imagine standing in the middle of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Now picture that you’re live on the radio. And add in the fact that you have no producer, no intern, no assistant… no one. Well, no one to help you; there are obviously plenty of (read: a million) people surrounding you.

Welcome to my New Year’s Eve broadcast in Times Square on 95.5 PLJ. This was the third straight year that I had the honor of hosting the show and the second consecutive broadcast where we partnered with Dick Clark Productions so that I had space inside ABC’s Good Morning America studio. Thanks to our friends at Times Square Alliance, I had full-run of the “Center of the Universe” as well; I spent my evening literally running between the third floor of the GMA studio (without using the elevator mind you) and the crowd with stops in between to interview DNCE, Miss America, Gavin DeGraw and a few revelers.

But even as I managed to book, edit, produce and host the show, there were some difficulties simply out of my control. No my in-ear monitors didn’t go out, rather our entire wireless broadcast system went down. So as the clock struck midnight and the 11,800 pound crystal ball completed its descent, I dialed in to the studio to ring in 2017 over the phone.

When you’re live in a setting like Times Square for New Year’s, these are issues that you actually can prepare for; you simply create backup plans for everything because anything can go wrong. Over the 7 hours I spent in the Theater District I dealt with a broken audio recorder, a late interview and faulty internet connections on top of everything else you would normally expect: heightened security, large crowds and the weather.

Although the temperature hovered around a balmy 40 so that wasn’t awful, but I digress.

It’s stressful but in the moment, a lot of fun. At any moment I’m in a hotel suite with Joe Jonas, editing audio on my laptop, talking with a couple from the Philippines who is visiting the city for their first time or simply pausing to take it all in. Because despite all of the difficulties that I encounter with the show, I still couldn’t imagine spending my New Year’s Eve any other way.



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.

Jamie Lynn Macchia, the current title holder of “Miss New York,” lists her visit to the White House as one of the coolest things she’s done since taking the crown.

“I got to go there after ‘Miss America’ to attend the Childhood Cancer Month Awareness briefing,” she said via telephone from her native Staten Island. “I was actually there, and it’s pretty awesome.”

Macchia’s White House visit came after months of preparation and a two-week stint in Atlantic City to vie for the “Miss America” crown on ABC. Her visit to the President’s home is symbolic for multiple reasons. The distance from Staten Island to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is 213 miles, and that number is the catalyst for the title holder’s current campaign: Run For The White House. The national program works like a marathon in that donors pledge a dollar amount for participants to travel. The difference is that the miles can be traveled in any manner – from running outside to using a stationary bike.

Money raised from the campaign will aid in pediatric cancer research. Run For The White House was started in 2012; Macchia joined it in January and aims to work out her 213 miles by September.

“It culminates with CureFest,” she explained, “which is a big pediatric cancer rally in the middle of September.”

This year’s event will be held in our nation’s capitol on September 17 and 18. The two-day fundraiser includes live entertainment and a candle-light vigil. Last year’s headliners were The Plain White T’s. For more information and to pledge money for Macchia’s miles, click here.

Our last guest of 2015 was the lovely Miss America, Betty Cantrell. I was in Atlantic City the night Betty was crowned, and she was nice enough to stop by and visit us just a few days after the pageant. In her dressing room at the Good Morning America building in Times Square, we chatted about some of the celebrities she has met so far and Steve Harvey’s mess-up on stage at Miss Universe (which by the way, is a different organization than Miss America).
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I was live in Times Square for New Year’s Eve on 95.5 PLJ. In addition to counting down in to 2016, I chatted with Charlie Puth, Miss America and George Zimmer. Check out some of the sights and sounds below!



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.