Miss America 2009 airs live tonight on TLC, 7 p.m. CST, from The Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas, NV. The all-too-darling Mario Lopez hosts.

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Mario Lopez

The Swimsuit competition, as usual, is a hot topic. The UK’s Daily Mail refers to our ladies as “beefy.” The Brits believe the contest is losing it’s “girl next door” identity. Scroll through a gallery of “muscle babe” contestants here and here.

Katie Stam

Miss Indiana, Katie Stam 2009
Night One Preliminary Fitness-Swimsuit Winner
Crowned Miss America 2009

Galen Giaccone

Miss Delaware, Gina Giaccone 2009
Night One Preliminary Talent Winner

Since losing network sponsorship several years ago, the pageant has floundered but recently began gaining credibility once again. While many see the contest as a beauty pageant, the participants see it as an education, a chance at the world stage to further their talent or careers, and a vehicle for raising funds for their chosen platform. Art McMaster, president of Miss America, said the 1998 winner, Kate Shindle raised $20-$30 million for AIDS during her reign.

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Miss Mississippi, Christine Kozlowski 2009
Night Two Preliminary Swimsuit/Fitness Winner

Leigh Taylor Smith Miss New York

Miss New York, Leigh-Taylor Smith 2009
Night Three Preliminary Swimsuit/Fitness Winner
Miss America 2009 Third Runner-up

This year’s Miss America will receive $50,000.00 in scholarship money, with smaller scholarships awarded along the way leading up to the big night in Las Vegas. This year, Miss Kentucky Emily Cox, won the Quality of Life Award and a $6,000.00 scholarship. Her platform is promoting self-esteem in adolescent girls.

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Miss Georgia, Chastity Hardman 2009
Night Two Preliminary Talent Winner
Miss America 2009 First Runner-up

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Miss Vermont, Ashley Wheeler, 2009
Night Three Talent Winner

Today’s Miss America logs 20,000 miles a month and changes her location every 18-36 hours.

Former Miss America winners gathered at the Las Vegas Neiman Marcus this week for lunch and a fashion show. Miss America 2006, Jennifer Berry Gooden (Oklahoma), serving as spokesman for the group of “formers” said that their bets are on Misses California, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

Three states hold the honors for the most Miss America winners: California, Oklahoma, and Ohio are tied with six winners each.

Twenty states hold no Miss America titles: Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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Mario Lopez – Photos

Miss America 2009 – Video

Mario Lopez Photos: wenn.com