County native is Miss America – Former Miss Shelby County crowned

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Before she won over judges at the Miss America pageant this weekend, Deidre Downs wowed crowds in Shelby County.

The 24-year-old Pelham native won the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., Saturday night.

Downs entered pageant contests for the first time in 2000, when she was crowned Miss Shelby County.

After winning the state title in June, her first appearance was back where it all began at the Miss Shelby County pageant, which was held in Columbiana.

Downs hosted the pageant which &uot;started it all&uot; in June.

Following her 2000 win in Shelby County and a trip to her first Miss Alabama pageant, Downs went on to win other preliminaries and compete in the Miss Alabama pageant five more times. She placed third twice and once as first alternate.

She finally won the Miss Alabama competition this year.

Her reign as Miss Alabama alone was short-lived, however, after winning the national crown this weekend.

Downs’ beauty is matched with a sharp intellect and athletic ability, according to those who know her.

Following her graduation from Pelham High School, she attended the University of Virginia for a year on a full volleyball scholarship.

Then, she chose to return to Alabama to pursue academics instead of athletics.

And this year, she was accepted to medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she was set to begin this fall.

Her plans to become a pediatric oncologist will be put on hold, however, as she enjoys a year as Miss America.

&uot;In the pageant process, I’ve grown up a lot. Competition is such a challenge,&uot; Downs said following her state title.

&uot;It improves your confidence and helps to conquer your fears. It definitely develops your interview skills which really helped when I applied to medical school.&uot;

Nan Taninbaum is president of the Miss Alabama pageant. She accompanied Downs to Atlantic City during the three-day competition this weekend.

Taninbaum said she had a feeling that Downs would win the national crown.

&uot;I was with her the whole time. Deidre and I left Sept. 1. It was a wonderful 17 days,&uot; Taninbaum said.

Although competing in a national competition is challenging, Downs brought grace and confidence to the stage, Taninbaum said.

&uot;During the week, it gets very stressful when you are competing,&uot; she said. &uot;She stayed focused.

&uot;I was very confident. I had the feeling all along that she was going to win,&uot; Taninbaum said.

Since Downs was selected as Miss America, she will not serve as Miss Alabama.

&uot;We’re sad to lose her as Miss Alabama,&uot; Taninbaum said.

First runner-up in the Miss Alabama pageant, Shannon Camper, will now serve as the state’s winner