The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Sunday, September 18, 1994             TAG: 9409180079
SECTION: FRONT                    PAGE: A1   EDITION: FINAL 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   95 lines


Cullen Johnson, a 23-year-old pianist from Virginia Beach, was chosen first runner-up in Saturday evening's Miss America Pageant.

Heather Whitestone, 21, a deaf dancer from Alabama, won the 68th annual pageant, becoming the first woman with a disability to wear the crown. The Birmingham native was the only contestant to win two preliminary competitions, in the swimsuit and talent categories.

While the crowd in Atlantic City greeted Johnson enthusiastically at each stage of the competition, one of her biggest fans wasn't there to root her on. Her father, Vice Adm. Jay Johnson, was aboard the Navy command ship Mount Whitney en route to Haiti.

``I hope he had a satellite dish,''she said in an interview with pageant host Regis Philbin shortly before the final results were announced.

As commander of the 2nd Fleet, her father is in charge of all naval forces preparing for a U.S. invasion. But no one doubted where his heart was Saturday night. Not even his commander-in-chief.

While at the Pentagon for a video teleconference with military commanders in the Caribbean, President Clinton set aside talk of beach landings and paratroop drops.

``The president wished his (Johnson's) daughter well,'' Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said.

Cullen Johnson's mother was with her in Atlantic City for the final moment as Miss Virginia and Miss Alabama faced each other.

When Miss Alabama was announced as winner, it was Johnson who got the word across, pointing at Whitestone with both hands to make it clear she had won.

Whitestone made the joyful, tearful victory walk while Johnson stood back, applauding graciously.

During the evening-gown competition, home-video and film clips were shown of each contestant. For Johnson, they included pictures of her playing with her two dogs. Tapes of interviews with the contestants played simultaneously.

During her interview, Johnson said, ``I've moved 22 times in 22 years,'' a situation familiar to many people who have grown up in military households. But where others may lament the lack of roots, she saw the experiences as an opportunity.

``I've been exposed to many different cultures,'' Johnson said, ``learning as much as I can'' from each experience. And any time she is feeling a little down, she said, ``I just think about my family.''

During the final phase of the competition, Johnson was asked about her desire to encourage multicultural awareness.

She said she first wanted to make clear that ``we are the greatest country in the entire world,'' but, she added, ``it's up to us to keep it that way.'' To do that, she supports more emphasis on foreign languages and other cultures, in this country and worldwide. With that, ``we can all function together in society.''

Earlier, in the talent competition, she played piano.

Despite the complexity of the piece, her hands moved gracefully across the keyboard and applause broke out midway through her performance.

Johnson smiled slightly on occasion, but mostly remained intent on mastering the piece. A grin of success broke across her face, however, as she struck the final, emphatic chords.

Johnson's pageant career began in Virginia Beach in 1988 when she won the Miss Cox High School title. The next year she entered Longwood College and came in second runner-up in the Miss Longwood pageant.

In 1991 Johnson won Miss Northern Virginia and was second runner-up in her first Miss Virginia pageant.

She graduated from Longwood in 1992 with a 3.2 grade point average and a degree in modern languages. That year she returned to the Miss Virginia Pageant as Miss Longwood College and was named first runner-up.

In 1993, competing as Miss Norfolk, Johnson again was first runner-up in the state pageant.

She finally was named Miss Virginia this past July, competing as Miss Central Shenandoah Valley.

The vital statistics: She's 5 feet 5 inches tall, 105 pounds and wears a size 4. Her 34-22-32 figure is maintained with daily jogging and free weight exercise. She is a brunette who prefers a natural style - no spray, no teasing. She has what The Washington Post called a ``killer smile,'' and speaks fluent French.

As first runner-up, Johnson received as $20,000 scholarship and would step into the role of Miss America should Whitestone not be able to fulfill the duties.

The five finalists were Johnson, Whitestone, Miss New Jersey Jennifer Makris, Miss Indiana Tiffany Storm and Miss Georgia Andrea Krahn. ILLUSTRATION: Color photos

Miss Virginia Cullen Johnson, left, and the winner, Miss Alabama

Heather Whitestone.


Vice Adm. Jay Johnson