Miss Oklahoma Alicia Clifton has been impressing judges for years, and Saturday night on a national stage she was named second runner-up at the Miss America pageant at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
Clifton, 21, of Oklahoma City, is an accomplished tap dancer and a junior at OU.
Miss New York Mallory Hytes Hagan was named Miss America.
Oklahoma's own Jane Jayroe, who won the national title and crown in 1967, said she thought Clifton did a fabulous job and represented Oklahoma well.
“We have one of the strongest pageants in America and she just proved that over and over again tonight,” Jayroe said. “She was stunning in everything she did. She was poised and articulate and I was very, very proud of her.”
Taylor Tomlinson, Clifton's Tri Delta sorority sister, said, “Alicia has always been very hardworking and determined in all that she does. If she sets a goal, she will do all that she can to achieve it. Her dream has been to serve as Miss Oklahoma and she has done so passionately and elegantly.”
Clifton had plenty of friends and family there for support, including five sorority sisters who are more than 30 years her senior. They got to know Clifton because of their involvement in the house corporation and as advisers.
The group included Jackie Jones, Sonja Pellow, Sallie Cavin and Marylee Strange, all from Oklahoma City, and Betsy Hibbard from Cushing.
“She's just an adorable girl,” Strange said. “We like her. She's the kind of girl you want to win, so we decided to come to Las Vegas with her.”
Clifton's platform is TAP Into Lifelong Volunteerism. She is a broadcast journalism major and was a member of the OU pompon squad for two years.
The pageant culminated a strenuous week of interviews and preliminary judging. Clifton won the talent competition on Tuesday, performing to “Money Can't Buy Me Love.” She repeated that routine Saturday evening after receiving the judges' third top score in the evening wear competition.
Clifton began dancing at 3 and competing at 5. She has won thousands of awards, including one gold and two silver medals at the World Dance Championships. She was the first American Dance Idol winner and holds Guinness World Records for the most consecutive pirouettes and the most fouettes in 30 seconds.
In an interview after her preliminary talent win, she said her mother encouraged her to continue practicing so she could become the best she could be. So she practiced her pirouettes.
“I love spinning,” she said.
Her father, Ron Clifton, said his daughter shines on stage. “She always has.”
Even with all her awards and accomplishments, she's a down-to-earth girl, he said. “It's just natural for her. She has this innate ability to win your heart.”
He said she has worked hard not only during her reign as Miss Oklahoma and during preparations for Miss America, but in the years leading up to the pageant.
She wanted to be able to say that she did everything she needed to do, he said.
“We are really, really proud,” her father said before he and his wife, Tammy, rushed backstage to give their daughter a big hug.
Alicia was planning to celebrate with a dinner of queso, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.