Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell wins Miss America pageant

Vanessa Williams
FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2014 file photo, Vanessa Williams arrives at the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. The Miss America Organization, Dick Clark Productions and the ABC television network announced Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, that they are bringing back the actress and singer to serve as head judge for the 2016 competition. Williams won the title in 1984 but resigned after Penthouse magazine published sexually explicit photographs of her taken several years earlier. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell is the new Miss America.

Cantrell rode an opera performance to the title in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall Sunday night, besting 51 other competitors in the nationally televised pageant.

The pageant also marked the return of Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams, who was back for the first time after resigning the crown following a nude photo scandal. Pageant executive chairman Sam Haskell apologized to Williams on behalf of the pageant.

“I want to apologize for anything that was said or done,” Haskell told Williams as they stood on the stage. “Vanessa: Welcome back!”

For Williams, who went on to stardom on television and on the Broadway stage, it was a triumphant return to the Miss America stage.

“I did the best I could in my reign as Miss America,” she said during Sunday’s pageant.

Cantrell sang an opera number for her talent performance.

She won a preliminary competition earlier in the week, also with an opera performance.

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