GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Miss Hawaii Kanoelani Gibson arrived home yesterday as first runner-up in this year's Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., posing with her friends and family at baggage claim. Gibson said that she feels like a winner through the support of her family and friends.
Miss Hawaii back,
feels like a winner
Friends draped Miss America first runner-up Kanoelani Gibson with leis yesterday after she stepped through the sliding glass doors at the Honolulu Airport.
"I'm very happy and excited where I am," said Gibson, the Miss Hawaii who lost out to Miss Florida, Ericka Dunlap, in the Miss America Pageant Saturday at Atlantic City, N.J. She returned to Hawaii yesterday.
Gibson, 22, of Kapolei, said she plans to take a year off for travel to promote awareness of learning disabilities. She plans to continue working as a spokeswoman for the Learning Disabilities Association of Hawaii and with special education programs in the state. She is also a part-time teacher at Aikahi Elementary School.
Gibson plans to attend the University of Hawaii-Manoa to pursue bachelor's and master's degrees in secondary education in hopes of becoming a high school mathematics teacher and a learning disabilities specialist.
Gibson said she was scared standing next to Dunlap on stage before the judges announced the winner.
"I would've done the best I could and I'm sure it would've been great, but I'm so thankful it turned out the way that it did," she said. "I know there's going to be a lot of opportunities."
Through the support of her family and friends, Gibson said she already feels like a winner.
"The thing is, I'm first runner-up, but I feel like I won because I'm not at the mercy of being Miss America and I could do whatever I want, but I got the scholarships and that's what I was there for," she said.
Gibson, who entered the competition with no pageant experience, described her time in New Jersey as surreal.
"There's something very genuine about her. She's very sincere and real," said Miss Hawaii Producer Ray Abrigano. "She projects that aloha spirit."
As first runner-up, Gibson won $40,000 in college scholarships and $4,000 for winning the talent preliminary competition in which she sang "Natural Woman," the same song she performed to win the Miss Hawaii title.