Celebrity Names Blog

Miss America 2012: Which Historic Miss America Name Wins Our Crown?

Miss America 2012: Which Historic Miss America Name Wins Our Crown?

Miss America 2012 was crowned this weekend, with the top award going to Laura Kaeppeler, Miss Wisconsin. That got us thinking about the names of the Miss Americas and how the names have changed since the contest’s inception in 1921. The pageant is the very quintessence of Americana, with the winning lady representing the country for a whole year. What better vehicle to look at how American names have changed over the last 90 years than an award with the word “America” in it? 

The average age of Miss America is about twenty, so the names tend show the trends of twenty years prior to the pageant. With four pageant winners (1966, 1968, 1983, 1990), the most common unique name of Miss America is Deborah (or Debra/Debbye). The runner-up is Marilyn, with three (1938, 1946, 1958). However, if you combine all the Mary-variants -- Mary, Mary Anne, Marian, Marilyn, and Maria, this name group predictably wins.

But we won’t stop there -- below is our decade-by-decade list of all the first names of Miss Americas since 1921, including our winner for best Miss America name. 

1920s - Margaret, Mary, Ruth, Fay, Norma, Lois. Here we see some likely comebacks in the “grandma name” category, like Ruth and Fay, as well as some that are likely to stay grandmas, like Norma and Lois.

1930s - Marian, Henrietta, Rose, Bette, Marilyn, Patricia. We see more grandma-style names that are likely to stay that way, with possibly exceptions of Rose and Henrietta -- with Henry on the rise in the boy’s name world, it’s possible Henrietta could follow suit.

1940s - Frances, Rosemary, Jo-Carroll, Jean, Venus, Bess, Marilyn, Barbara Jo, Jacque. We could see Bess and Rosemary being used today, but Jo-variants are likely to stay in obscurity. Venus is an unexpected addition here, as the name didn’t catch on until its brief peak the 1960s. Miss America 1948 BeBe Shopp wins our sash for a second place finish. We love the double capital letters sans hyphen in this name, a nickname for Beatrice, and the possibility for mispronouncing it “Be Bop.”

1950s - Yolande, Neva, Evelyn, Lee, Sharon, Marian, Marilyn, Mary Ann. Neva is an interesting addition, similar to the modern Nevaeh (without the backwards-read connotation). Evelyn is also in the midst of a comeback.

1960s - Lynda, Nancy, Maria, Jacquelyn, Donna, Deborah/Debra, Jane, Judith. The 1960s was a rather bland decade for Miss America names, with the quite notable exception of Miss America 1965. That year’s pageant brought us Vonda Kay Van Dyke, who wins our crown for a seriously fabulous name. We love that her name managed to repeat the letters V, K, and Y. Vonda Kay Van Dyke has all the pomp and elegance that we associate with the pageant.

1970s - Pamela, Phyllis, Laurie, Terry, Rebecca, Shirley, Tawny, Dorothy, Susan, Kylene.  The 1970s is our first decade without a Mary-variant. We were intrigued by the inclusion of Tawny, which has never had much of a heyday (perhaps its association with a color described as “yellowish-brown” contributes to that). We also thought Kylene’s inclusion noteworthy, as this was years before Kyle and Kyla came to popularity for girls. We assume 2012 pageant judge Kris Jenner would approve. 

1980s - Cheryl, Susan, Elizabeth, Debra, Vanessa, Suzette, Sharlene, Susan, Kellye, Kaye, Gretchen. We have a bonus name due to Vanessa Williams’ resignation amidst scandal in 1984. It’s interesting that 1987 brought us Kellye and 1990 brought us Debbye, two names rather unlikely to have -ye endings.

1990s - Debbye, Marjorie, Carolyn, Leanza, Kimberly, Heather, Shawntel, Tara, Katherine, Nicole. We start to see standard ‘70s names here, with the notable exception of Marjorie, which peaked in the 1920s, and Leanza, which remains unique.

2000 - present - Heather, Angela, Katie (twice), Erika/Ericka, Deirdre, Jennifer, Lauren, Kirsten, Caressa, Teresa, and this weekend’s champion, Laura

What do you think? Which Miss America name wins your crown? Which names do you think should deserves better Miss America representation?



Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

January 24, 2012 2:59 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Katherine and Elizabeth are regal!

January 24, 2012 9:44 PM
By Tarmie (not verified)

My favourites out of the above?
Lois, Henrietta, Bette, Gretchen and Katherine.

Is it bad that I kind of like Tawny? Makes me think of the colour of lions. I know it sounds a bit (OK, a lot :D) stripperish, but I think it would be a good nickname for a little golden girl.

How would you pronounce Neva and Leanza? Would Neva be pronounced "never" or "knee-vah"? And I'm thinking "Leanne-zah", but it could also be "leen-zah".

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