OCEAN CITY — The routine didn’t go as planned.

While dancing to Pitbull’s “Fireball,” Miss New Jersey contestant Lindsey Giannini was supposed to make a fireball of her own. She went to ignite a firework, but it didn’t work.

But Giannini’s routine didn’t go up in flames. She shook, spun and kicked her way through the rest of the dance and was later crowned Miss New Jersey Saturday Night at the Music Pier. The Hammonton resident will go on to compete for the title of Miss America in September in Atlantic City.

“I knew I had to just keep rolling with the punches and end strong,” Giannini said of the dud firework. “I’m just so glad the judges knew that I’m someone who can handle adversity well.”

Runners-up were Anna Negron of Vineland; Brenna Weick of Mantua; Olivia Michael of Tenafly; and Kelcie Klauss of Pitman.

Giannini, 21, had been close to the crown before. This was her fourth Miss New Jersey contest, and in years past she had finished in second- and fourth-place.

“To me, it’s always something I’ve wanted,” she said. “I live 25 minutes from Atlantic City and it’s truly just a dream come true.”

Giannini’s platform is raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. During the discussion portion of the final round, when the field of 28 was down to five, Giannini said she helped install permanent street signs that raise awareness of the issue. She said the signs are in 25 states and that she testified before the Senate and municipalities about the issue. She said as Miss New Jersey, she will continue to promote that platform.

“If I can save one life, or get one teen to put the phone down because of the work that I’m doing, then everything I will do this year will be worth it,” Giannini said.

"I would really like to expand the education of Dangers Of Distracted Driving this year, my year of service. I have already been traveling to parts the state of New Jersey but I hope to expand that throughout the state."

Giannini also won the preliminary talent award on Friday night and the preliminary lifestyle and fitness category on Thursday. She wore a black dress with woven white stripes down the left side for the evening wear portion on Saturday.

This moment may have been a long time coming for Giannini. She said as a little girl her grandmother would say “There she is, Miss America” when Giannini entered the room.

She has the chance to prove her grandmother was right.

As the competition opened earlier in the evening, the 28 women vying to represent the Garden State in this fall’s Miss America Competition were reduced to 11 who sang, danced and strutted down the runway one last time to take the state’s crown, and then a Top 5 who participated in a discussion portion.

The other contestants that made the top 11 were Melissa Hoffman of Cranford; Jessica Milne of New Milford; Kyra Seeley of Middlesex; Alyssa Sullivan of Cape May Court House; Devon Vanderslice of Ocean City; and the People's Choice winner, Ashlyn Laveson of Ventnor.

The remaining contestants either sang, danced or played piano. Negron belted out “What Kind of Fool Am I?” by Sammy Davis Jr. to loud applause. Laveson played “Hungarian Rhapsody” on the piano.

Former 1987 Miss New Jersey Robin Lange, a judge of the competition, said before the final round that she was proud and impressed of this year's contestants.

“I don't know if I could win today,” she said.

Alex Marino, an Atlantic County freeholder and judge, said he’s “looking for the whole package when judging contestants.”

“You’re looking for depth, you’re looking for composure,” he said. “And you’re looking for the best candidate to represent the state.”

Audience members were in suits and dresses for the final night. There were many teen pageant winners wearing their crowns and gowns.

Giannini succeeds last year’s winner Cierra Kaler-Jones, of Galloway Township. The winner will take on 51 contestants from around the nation at the Miss America Competition, which culminates Sept. 13 in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.

She also receives a $12,000 scholarship from the Miss New Jersey Scholarship Foundation, $2,000 cash from the Former Miss New Jerseys Alumni Association and optional $36,000 St. Norbert In-Kind scholarship for more than four years.

Contact: 609-272-7215


Twitter @_Hetrick

Print Director

Press copy editor since 2006, copy desk chief since 2014. Masters in journalism from Temple University, 2006. My weekly comics blog, Wednesday Morning Quarterback, appears Wednesday mornings at PressofAC.com.

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