1948 Miss America Pageant - BeBe Shopp Miss Minnesota wins
BeBe Shopp, Miss Minnesota won the 1948 Miss America pageant. The eighteen-year-old from Hopkins, Minnesota was crowned by outgoing Miss America 1947 Barbara Jo Walker of Tennessee. Miss Minnesota played 'Caprice Viennese" on the vibraharp during the talent competition and won the preliminary swimsuit competition.
The 1948 contest was the first year that Miss America was crowned in an evening gown, rather than the traditional swimsuit. Pageant director Lenora Slaughter, who was determined to guide the pageant in a more wholesome, respectable direction, announced that the new queen would be crowned in her pageant gown. Her announcement outraged the newsmen who covered the pageant and they reacted by boycotting the contest and leaving town before the finals began. Their editors, however, quickly set the newsmen straight and they returned to cover the event.
Miss America 1948, BeBe Shopp, with her runners-up. Movie star Vera Miles is second from left. Shopp was the first winner crowned in an evening gown.
Shopp was a Minnesota farm girl who amused reporters when she admitted she enjoyed riding a tractor around the family farm and had killed and plucked chickens for dinner. The Miss Minnesota beat out future movie star Vera Miles for the crown. Miles, who would later appear in the classic Hitchcock horror film, "Psycho", had to settle for third runner-up.
The 1948 Miss America pageant was noteworthy on several accounts. First, it was the only year that contestants wore peculiar - and exceedingly unflattering - zebra-print knit swimsuits. "We looked like a bunch of zebras onstage," Shopp would later quip.
During her reign, BeBe became the first Miss America winner ever to travel overseas when she appeared on an appearance tour in Europe. There, reporters asked the titleholder what she thought of the newfangled "bikini" that had been introduced a few summers earlier - and which was considered shocking at the time. She innocently answered, "I don't know what to think about them - except that American girls wouldn't certainly wear them!"
The incident led to international headlines with Shopp's father, a Quaker Oats executive remarking that he thoughts communists were behind the verbal attacks on his daughter.
After her reign, she returned to Atlantic City to crown her successor, Jacque Mercer, Miss Arizona, as Miss America 1949.
BeBe graduated from the Manhattan School of Music and married Air Force Lieutenant Bayard David Waring. Following their wedding, she relocated to Texas to follow her new husband to the Texas Air Force base where he was stationed. Waring eventually became a business executive, and the couple raised four daughters together.
Shopp is a licensed lay minister who enjoys conducting motivational seminars for children, and she remains very involved in supporting the Miss America program.
Sources: "Miss America: In Pursuit of the Crown", New York Times
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