When Mallory Hytes Hagan was crowned Miss America a few weeks ago, she made history. She was the first contestant in over 50 years to win with a tap dance—to James Brown's "Get Up Offa That Thing," no less—in the talent portion, where vocals, piano-playing and ballet-dancing often dominate among the crowned. She was also the first contestant ever to win while wearing a ponytail. Not surprisingly, this beauty queen has some unique views on beauty.
We caught up with the 23-year-old from Brooklyn, NY, to chat about hairstyles, pageant makeup musts, what she plans to do with her $50,000 scholarship provided by Amway (they involve cosmetics) and how she defines gorgeous.
What inspired you to pair a ponytail with an evening gown?
It was actually a split-second decision. I was planning to wear my evening gown with a high bun. But with the live-telecast timing, I ran out of time and was forced to put my hair in a ponytail. Sometimes you just have to relax and go with the flow. It turned out to be a winning decision!
How did you make a simple ponytail look Miss America-worthy?
I made sure all stray hairs were sprayed back, so that it looked polished. I think it's important to create height so I teased my hair at the crown. Last, I wrapped a piece of my hair around the ponytail holder to hide it and to create a sleek look.
You're not the typical pageant queen. How do you think your win reflects how pageants have evolved?
I think I won Miss America because I'm reflective of the way young people are today in America. I took some time off before heading back to school to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and I worked full-time while doing so. I think I'm the prime example of writing your own story and following your heart. So often we fall into doing what others want us to do instead of figuring things out and making decisions on our own. I hope I showed the judges that I have a lot of spunk and charisma.
You're planning to major in cosmetics and fragrance marketing at FIT. What made you fall in love with the industry?
My mother is a cosmetologist, and I grew up in the salon and behind the makeup counter. Everything about the industry keeps me endlessly intrigued, and I think it's important to feel excited by whatever you want to do for years to come.
You love makeup, yet you're not big on wearing tons of it. Do you think the pageant world could stand to learn something from that?
I hope that the industry takes notes from New York. I love the simplicity of everyone's look here. I think makeup looks best when it enhances your best features and helps inner beauty shine through.
Have any beauty icons inspired your own beauty look?
I love Charlize Theron. She always looks amazing, whether she's wearing a more natural look or a glamorous one. I look up her latest red-carpet photos for makeup inspiration before I do an event. She's most recently encouraged me to experiment with gold eye shadow, which looks so subtle yet sophisticated for evening.
What are the beauty must-haves for your winning look at Miss America?
The most important thing for me is to wear a foundation primer. I have combination skin that can look really oily after an hour under stage lights. I also always finish with translucent powder to minimize the look of pores, and to give a flawless finish to my skin for photos and for onstage events.
And like most pageant girls, I'm addicted to fake lashes. I don't think I'll go a day without them this year. Lashes give you instant glamour.
What does Miss America look like on her days off?
I prefer to give my face—and especially my eyes—a break from makeup on those precious days off. I'll just wear a tinted moisturizer for some subtle color correction. And I try to store up on the best secret of all: beauty sleep.
Now our final question. You have 20 seconds to answer it. What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty means that who you are on the inside far outshines whatever you may look like on the outside. Outer beauty is truly subjective, and that's why the cosmetic industry has something for everyone.

Photo: Getty Images