ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Miss New Jersey, Suzette Charles, won the second of three preliminary talent competitions at the Miss America Pageant Thursday night with a sultry rendition of the song 'Kiss Me in the Rain.'
Miss Charles, 20, of Mays Landing, a Temple University junior and professional singer, drew wild applause from hometown fans in the crowd of 8,403 at Convention Hall.
The brown-eyed brunette, who has studied voice for 15 years and performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, was a featured vocalist on soundtrack for the movie musical 'Hair,' and has appeared in 17 television commercials.
She has sung at a party hosted by Frank Sinatra and has opened shows for Gladys Knight and the Pips and Lou Rawls. She has appeared in two movies, 20 theatre shows and several television shows.
The swimsuit winner was Miss Ohio, Pamela Rigas, of Canfield. The 22-year-old Troy State University graduate hopes to obtain a law degree at the University of Cincinnati and some day plans a political career.
On Wednesday, the first night of preliminary competitions, Miss Missouri, Barbara Webster, won the talent event with a country-western fiddle medley, and Miss New York, Vanessa Williams, took the swimsuit event.
The 50 contestants are divided into three groups for three nights of talent and swimsuit competitions. The results are used by the panel of eight judges to reduce the field to 10 finalists who will compete for the crown Saturday night.
The women, who are competing for a top prize of $25,000 in scholarships and a chance to earn more than $100,000 during the year-long reign, also participate in evening gown competitions.
The preliminary nights are also rehearsals for Saturday night's nationally televised extravanganza.