ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Miss South Carolina Nancy Evelyn Humphries won the second round preliminary swimsuit competition Thursday evening in the race for the title of Miss America 1988.
Humphries, 21, a 5-foot-9, 119-pound beauty from Myrtle Beach, S.C., earned the judge's favor in a white suit. The brown-eyed blonde is a senior in graphic communications at Clemson University.
During each of the three preliminary nights preceding the nationally televised Saturday night finale, the 51 Miss America hopefuls split up into three groups to compete in talent, swimsuit and evening gown contests.
The results of the evening gown preliminaries are not announced in an attempt to dampen speculation about which of the contestants have the best shot at making Saturday night's 10 finalists.
Miss Louisiana, Patricia Brant, won the first night's talent round with a ventriloquism act and Miss Georgia, Kelly Jerles, earned top honors in the first round swimsuit competition wearing a fuchsia-colored suit.
Earlier Thursday, Miss America Pageant host Gary Collins, also the husband of a former Miss America, said that despite the gifts and scholarship money bestowed upon the crownholder, being named Miss America is a burden as well as a benefit.
Collins, who will host his sixth Miss America Pageant Saturday night, said his wife, actress Mary Ann Mobley, has benefited from her reign as Miss America 1959.
'At the same time there are certain disadvantages that it may bring with it, carrying this crown for the year and then for the rest of your life,' Collins said.
'Just to show you how it is thought of by the Americans and the public, no matter what you do, go to the moon, whatever your accomplishments are, you will always be referred to and introduced as a former Miss America,' Collins said.
Collins, who is also the host of the syndicated 'Hour Magazine' on television, said Miss America's identity problem stems from erroneous perceptions about the pageant and confusion with other pageants.
Miss America officials insist that, despite the swimsuit and evening gown judging, theirs is not a 'beauty' pageant but a nationwide competition for a total of $5 million in scholarships. The 61st Miss America will receive $30,000 in scholarship money, in addition to a year of personal appearances worth thousands of dollars.
'Miss America stands on its own,' Collins said. 'It's completely different from all the others. It certainly has more substance, but somehow or other it is just sort of lopped in with all the rest of them.'
While perceptions seem to be changing, Collins said, Mobley had a difficult time getting acting parts after she won the Miss America tiara.
'There is just an immediate reaction, 'Well, gee whiz, not a Miss America. This is a serious role,'' Collins said. 'That's something she has had to fight. On the other hand, doors would not have opened had she not been a Miss America. It's a Catch-22.'
Miss America 1987 Kellye Cash, who plans to return to Memphis State University to finish her communications degree after crowning her successor Saturday night, agreed with Collins.
'I remember when I registered for school last week, people would look at me like, 'Well, who do you think you are coming to school?' People were very surprised that I am going back to finish my education, because that's not their perception of a Miss America.'