Miss America 1985 Sharlene Wells Hawkes recalls the day she was crowned as a "really out of body experience. It was pretty surreal."

That September day millions to tuned it to watch, she said, because she was crowned the year after the controversy surrounding Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams.

"That entire year (1985) was press conferences every day. Every single question had to do with following Vanessa Williams," Hawkes said.

Hawkes, now 49, said the issue turned into a broader discussion about American women and the direction they were heading.

"They wanted to know if American women were becoming more liberal," she said.

After that hectic year, Hawkes returned to Brigham Young University and then went on to take a job at ESPN as a broadcaster and reporter.

She didn't put her stint as Miss America on her resume because she didn't want that to factor into her work.

"People have this stereotypical image of what Miss America is supposed to be," Hawkes said.

From there, she went on to earn a master's degree in integrated marketing communications and today she works for Remember My Service Productions, recording the achievements of the nation's military service members, something she calls a labor of love.

She credits Miss America with preparing her for the roads she has traveled in her life.

"What I learned during that year, that Ph. D. in PR that you get, is invaluable," Hawkes said.