June 23, 2006

Georgine DiMaria named Miss NJ on 5th try

Staff Writer

Perseverance paid off for 21-year old Georgine DiMaria of Lodi last weekend on the Music Pier. In her fifth year at the Miss New Jersey Pageant she won three of the four preliminaries and was selected to represent the state in the Miss America Pageant.

It's not that DiMaria had not had success before, she had fallen just short of winning the title. She was among the top 10 last year, first runner-up in 2004 and third runner-up in 2003. DiMaria is 22 and attends Montclair State University. She hopes to become the sixth attorney in her family and is a spokesperson for the American Lung Association of New Jersey. Georgine is a singer-violinist and her platform issue is Living with Asthma.

This marked the 11th consecutive year Miss New Jersey was selected on the Ocean City Music Pier. There were 26 young women competing to succeed Moorestown's Julie Robenhymer as Miss New Jersey. DiMaria will now compete with Jamie Ginn, the Ocean City High School graduate who won the title of Miss Delaware the previous weekend.

The pageant week in Ocean City started with the boardwalk parade on Wednesday night. Preliminary competitions were Thursday and Friday nights. The panel of judges was Michelle Dawn Mooney, news anchor on NBC-TV 40; former Miss America Maria Beale Fletcher; Dr. Paul Brown, from the Miss Manhattan Organization; Broadway choreographer Michelle Lynch; businessman Robert Lipinski; and Miss Oklahoma director Debbie Kendall.

The pageant show was emceed by Dena Guerubin Blizzard, who was Miss New Jersey 11 years ago. Guest performers were John Zisa, an American Idol finalist, and former Miss New Jersey runner-up Kameelah Majied. The show was produced by Mike Ciuffo with Robin Filippone serving as associate producer.

DiMaria will step into a Miss America competition that will look quite different. After being dropped by broadcast network television for low ratings, the pageant managed to arrange a contract with CMT (Country Music Television), a cable network that carried the pageant finals for the first time last January. The CMT telecast continued the pageant's fall in the ratings, though it was the highest rated program in the history of the cable network.

Miss America will be back on CMT in 2007 - probably in January and probably returning to Las Vegas - though no dates or location have been confirmed. Pageant officials claim the delay in announcing the location for the finals is because of attractive offers from other cities.

Earlier this week, however, a decision announced by Comcast Cable might cut into the potential pageant TV audience. Beginning on June 28, CMT will be moved from the Comcast basic tier to its Digital Lineup, moving from Channel 69 to Channel 146 on most systems. This means less than half of the 1.4 million Comcast households in the Delaware Valley will be able to see the pageant unless they pay the extra monthly fee for digital cable. It has not yet been determined whether a similar change will be made on other Comcast systems around the country.

One thing, however, is for certain. DiMaria, Ginn and the other 50 young women who compete for the title will travel to Los Angeles from Sept. 5-13 for the taping of "Finding Miss America", a seven-part series that will run for the seven nights prior to the Miss America final telecast. The women will be divided into groups of seven or eight, largely by geographical location. At the end of each preliminary night, the viewing audience will vote - much like American Idol - and select one of those women as a semi-finalist. Eight others, selected by the usual panel of judges, will join those seven to form the Top 15, who will compete for the title.

The decision to offer more than one televised night of Miss America, suggested in some quarters for nearly 10 years, is a positive step. The one thing that may create concern is the decision to have the audience vote.

First of all, it will put smaller states at an even bigger disadvantage than they are already. What chance will Miss Rhode Island have against Miss New York, for example, if those two women are competing for telephone votes?

While no changes have been made in the voting system for state pageants, despite the changes at Miss America, Miss New Jersey director Lou Barthold believes that won't be a problem. "The judges at the state pageants all know about the changes at Miss America," he said, "and it will probably have some impact on their voting."

Another possible problem is the editing of Finding Miss America. The job will undoubtedly be done by the CMT technicians and their editing decisions will be guided by what's best for the television show, not for the pageant competition.

"It's only my opinion," said Barthold, "but most of the good stuff probably won't get on the TV shows. They'll be looking for controversy and anything else that can boost the ratings."

And those things that will boost the ratings could have an unfair impact on the voting decisions being made by the TV audience.

Miss America CEO Art McMaster said the new format will ensure that "ratings are going to go through the roof." Maybe. Or maybe he's just being optimistic.

Regardless, after years of silly gimmicks (quiz show competitions, televised reports from pageant parties) and foolish decisions (minimizing the talent presentations), it looks like Miss America has taken a positive step.

And both Georgine DiMaria and Jamie Ginn will be excited to be part of the experiment.

(Alas, CMT and the Miss America Pageant later cancelled the seven-night Finding Miss America, the ratings were closer to the basement than the roof and CMT declined to televise the pageant again.)

Miss New Jersey
1st Runner-up
2nd Runner-up
SHERRI DRACH, Miss Champaign Springs
3rd Runner-up
KRISTA RICHMAN, Miss Brigantine Resort
4th Runner-up
STEPHANIE GARLAND, Miss Gloucester County
Other Finalists
CARRIE GELNAR, Miss Bergen County
SAMANTHA HAHN, Miss Queen City
LACEY JOHNSON, Miss Garden City
DIERA SHAW, Miss Smithville
JENNIFER STELLA, Miss Columbus Day
Thursday Preliminary Winners
Community Service: SAMANTHA HAHN, Miss Queen City
Evening Wear: KRISTA RICHMAN, Miss Brigantine Resort
Swimsuit: KRISTA RICHMAN, Miss Brigantine Resort
Talent: GEORGINE DiMARIA, Miss All State
Friday Preliminary Winners
Community Service: GEORGINE DiMARIA, Miss All State
Evening Wear: GEORGINE DiMARIA, Miss All State
Swimsuit: SHERRI DRACH, Miss Champaign Springs
Talent: JAMIE MAGLIETTA, Miss Highlands
Miss Congeniality
KATIE HOPE, Miss Cape May County