Miss Missouri Sarah French may not have been crowned Miss America on Monday night. But that didn’t stop her from smiling her way to the top.
French, an MU broadcast journalism student, received the Miss America Smile Award, an accolade given to the contestant online voters think has the best smile.
“We’re so thrilled! She definitely deserves it,” French’s friend Kim Beirich said in a text message from Las Vegas. She traveled to the city to see her friend compete live.
Voting for the smile contest took place on CMT.com, and the winner was announced live during the 2007 Miss America Pageant.
Earlier in the night, members of French’s sorority gathered at T.K. Brothers to watch the pageant on television. Many were saddened when French did not place in the top 10.
“I hope she doesn’t feel like she let us down,” said friend Ashley Anderson. “I feel like she was definitely among the best.”
French has been competing in pageants since high school. She won the mid-Missouri pageant in February and then became Miss Missouri in June. Her platform, Health and Fitness for Life, was inspired by living in a family in which her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all have diabetes.
“She’s not at all what you would think of as a pageant girl,” said friend Jackie Gaughn, the former president of French’s sorority Pi Beta Phi.
The last Miss Missouri to win the national crown was Debbye Turner, who graduated from MU with a doctorate in veterinary medicine. She won in 1990.
Friends said they had been hopeful about French winning this year’s Miss America, and they said they were proud she had made it this far in the competition.
“I think she’s top 11 for sure,” Gaughn said. “If they’d said one more name, it would have definitely been Miss Missouri.”