Miss Wisconsin - Laura Kaeppeler - was crowned Miss America 2012 in Las Vegas, on Saturday night. Kaeppeler, 23, was handed her title by Miss America 2011, Teresa Scanlan. She won the pageant ahead of 53 contestants.

Miss America 2012 attended Carthage College in her hometown of Kenosha and performed an operatic piece for the talent show, Associated Pressreported.

Miss America represents everyone, so I think the message to political candidates is that they represent everyone as well, Kaeppeler said, And so in these economic times, we need to be looking forward to what America needs, and I think Miss America needs to represent all.


Miss Wisconsin Crowned Miss America 2012 Pageant

The first runner-up was Miss Oklahoma - Betty Thompson; the second was Miss New York - Kaitlin Monte; and the third runner-up was Miss Arizona - Jennifer Sedler.

Kaeppeler won a scholarship $50,000 worth and the title of Miss America, which she will hold for one year.

The pageant, which was telecast live on ABC, was judged by a panel of seven.

The other contestants in the top 15 were:

1.       Miss Iowa - Jessica Pray

2.       Miss Texas - Kendall Morris

3.       Miss South Carolina - Bree Boyce

4.       Miss Florida - Kristina Janolo

5.       Miss Virginia - Elizabeth Crot

6.       Miss Illinois - Hannah Smith

7.       Miss Alabama - Courtney Porter

8.       Miss Tennessee - Erin Hatley

9.       Miss North Carolina - Hailey Best

10.   Miss California - Noelle Freeman

11.   Miss Louisiana - Hope Anderson

As the winner of the pageant, Miss Wisconsin - Laura Kaeppeler - will tour the country next year to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network, the Miss America Organization's official charity, Associated Press reported.

The pageant was hosted by Chris Harrison, host of ABC's dating reality show The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars co-host, Brooke Burke-Charvet.

Incidentally, former Miss America, Teresa Scanlan of Nebraska, who won the title at 17 is the pageant's youngest ever winner.

You can always breathe a sigh of relief once the live pageant begins, Scanlan said.

Miss Hawaii - Lauren Cheape, Miss Oklahoma - Betty Thompson and Miss Wisconsin - Laura Kaeppeler were announced as the winners of preliminary competition for the talent portion and Miss New York - Kaitlin Monte, Miss Texas - Kendall Morris and Miss Utah - Danica Olsen were announced winners for the swimsuit competition.

Miss America must be talented, intelligent and well-spoken, a leader, have a commitment to her community, be contemporary in her style and fashion - a relatable and individual 'it girl' who can connect with today's modern woman, as well as being physically fit, organizers said in a statement.