Laura Kaeppeler, Miss America 2012
Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler competes in the evening gown portion of the Miss America Pageant 2012 at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada January 14, 2012. Kaeppeler was later crowned Miss America. Reuters

Laura Kaeppeler of Wisconsin was crowned Miss America 2012 Saturday night. The gorgeous 23-year-old brunette said her crowning moment was a blur. Through excitement and tears she accepted the glittering tiara, a bouquet of roses and the Miss America sash. I was crying even before my name was called, Kaeppeler told the Associated Press. It was just surreal to have this honor.

But Kaeppeler is not your typical beauty queen. The personal struggles she and her family faced were the foundation upon which she dedicated her run.

Instead of pushing causes similar to her competitors -- like the health benefits of drinking milk and protecting the natural environment -- Kaeppeler said she will work toward helping children of incarcerated adults to feel less alone, to have mentoring and as much of a relationship with their parents as possible.

There are many of you out there -- and I was one of them -- but it doesn't have to define you, Kaeppeler told The AP after winning Saturday night. Her father, Jeff Kaeppeler, served 18 months in a federal penitentiary for mail fraud. At the time, Laura was just finishing high school and on her way to college.

What happened with my father is not what my year is going to be focused on, she said. It's going to be focused on looking forward and moving to the future because that's what my family has done and that's what I'll encourage others to do, as well.

Jeff Kaeppeler was very supportive of Laura making his personal story her Miss America platform. It taught us that God can turn anything into good if you let him, he said. Laura is totally on board with that idea. She let that drive her and inspire her this past year to get ready for this.

After Laura won, Jeff was filled with joy. We've seen a miracle, he said backstage. Laura called her father her best friend. The two said I love you as photographers snapped shots of the beautiful new Miss America.

Laura Kaeppeler showed a lighter side when she first introduced herself, referencing Wisconsin's Green Bay Packers, defending Super Bowl champions. If you're watching, Aaron Rodgers, call me, she said, shouting out to the football team's superstar quarterback.

Kaeppeler strutted down the stage in a white bikini, showed off her opera talents singing Il Bacio and wowed the judges in a black evening gown.

When asked about her politics, the beauty responded, Miss America represents everyone, so I think the message to political candidates is that they represent everyone as well. 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.

Lauren Kaeppeler attending St. Joseph High School and Cathage College. She hopes to obtain a Master's degree in Speech and Language Pathology. She receieved honors in college including: Dean's List, Outstanding Senior Music Major Award, Music Department Honor's Recital Participant for her opera talents. With her win, Laura Kaeppeler received a $50,000 scholarship.

She replaces Teresa Scalan of Nebraska, who is just 18years old. Kaeppeler will stay in touch with fans and share her journey via Twitter, @MissAmerica. She will spend 2012 touring the country and raising money for the Children's Miracle Network, the Miss America Organization's official charity.

Miss Oklahoma Betty Thompson came in second, while Miss New York Kaitlyn Monte placed third.