updated 01/15/2012 AT 11:35 AM ET
•originally published 01/15/2012 AT 10:00 AM ET
Smiling and sobbing, Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler’s dream was realized on Saturday evening – she was crowned Miss America.
“In that moment I didn’t know what to think,” Kaeppeler says. “It was all kind of a blur.”
The odds-on favorite was crowned on the 91st anniversary of the pageant. Aside from the shimmering crown, Kaeppeler, 23, receives a $50,000 scholarship and represent the Miss America pageant for the next year.
Kaeppeler, a.k.a. Miss Wisconsin, breezed through the always tricky Q&A segment after being asked whether Miss America should make her political party publicly known. Claiming politicians need to represent the masses, she replied, “Miss America needs to represent all.”
The stunning brunette performed operatic vocals as her talent, and sashayed in a white bikini and black beaded evening gown during the two-hour competition at Las Vegas’s Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino.
Over the next year, Kaeppeler – only the second Miss Wisconsin to be named Miss America – said she will focus on stressing the importance of education. She plans to use her scholarship money to go to law school and hopes to mentor children of incarcerated adults.