Miss America 2016 Recap: Vanessa Williams Gets Her Apology and More Big Pageant Moments

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Vanessa Williams onstage during the 2016 Miss America Competition Credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp

14 September 2015

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Hello, glitz and glamour! The Miss America 2016 pageant aired live from Atlantic City Sunday night on ABC, and we’re bringing you all the highlights –– from the pageant CEO’s apology to Vanessa Williams, to the crowning of Miss America herself, to –– you guessed it –– the iconic bikini competition. Grab a tiara and find out who won!

PHOTOS: Miss America 2016 bikini bodies

Miss America Apologizes to Vanessa Williams

Executive Chairman and CEO for Miss America Sam Haskell III and Vanessa Williams speak onstage during the 2016 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 13, 2015 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Credit: Donald Kravitz/Getty Images for dcp

Vanessa Williams was crowned the first African-American Miss America in 1983, but was forced to resign after Penthouse magazine published explicit photos of her. In an unexpected turn of events, the Miss America organization apologized to the star on Sunday during the ceremony: “On behalf of today’s organization, I want to apologize to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams,” CEO Sam Haskell said. “I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less the Miss America that you are and the Miss America that you always will be.”

PHOTOS: Live TV flubs

Williams’ response? “So unexpected but so beautiful,” she said. “I love the girls and I’m so honored to be back.”

“From the state that bought you the hottest dancer, Channing Tatum.” –– Miss Alabama

“From the state where if you’re not a gator, you’re gator bait.” –– Miss Florida

“From the state that brought you Kool-Aid, ooooooh yeah.” –– Miss Nebraska

“Money can’t buy you happiness, but in my state it can get you a great chicken fried steak.” –– Miss Texas

“Representing the dairy state, come smell our derrière.” –– Miss Wisconsin

It’s Swimsuit Season!

PHOTOS: Stars who have been fired

Summa summa summa time! Nick Jonas picked out music for the age ol’ swimsuit competition (his job is really hard), and the final 15 strutted across the stage to Fifth Harmony. It goes without saying that everyone looked incredible, but let’s remember that this competition is about brains just as much as it’s about beauty!

Miss America Takes on…The Matrix?

Miss Alabama performs onstage during the Miss America 2016 competition Credit: Donald Kravitz/Getty Images

While all the contestants were equally skilled, special recognition needs to go to Miss Alabama (Meg McGuffin), who danced a contemporary number to “Clubbed to Death” from The Matrix soundtrack. Yep, amazing. Also worth mentioning is Miss Colorado (Kelley Johnson), who stood up in her scrubs and did a monologue about an inspirational patient with night terrors and Alzheimer’s disease.

And the Winner Is …

PHOTOS: Stars’ pageant pasts(Britney Spears,Justin Timberlake,Katy Perry)

Miss Georgia wins Miss America 2016 Credit: Donald Kravitz/Getty Images

There she is, Miss America! After narrowing down the top three to Miss Georgia, Miss Colorado, and Miss Mississippi, Miss Georgia (Betty Cantrell) took the crown with Miss Mississippi as the first runner-up. Naturally, Cantrell balled hysterically.

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