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Molly Pesce: Kellye Cash Least Liked Among Miss America Contestants

September 16, 1986

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Miss Florida Molly Pesce says Miss America winner Kellye Cash was unpopular and arrogant and won in part because she traded on her famous name and because the judges didn’t appreciate feminism, a newspaper reported Monday.

Ms. Pesce, a 23-year-old singer from Longwood, failed to place among the 10 finalists and lost the talent contest, on which she had pinned her hopes, to Ms. Cash of Tennessee, the grandniece of country singer Johnny Cash.

Eating french toast and drinking coffee for the first time after months of strict dieting, Ms. Pesce on Sunday told The Orlando Sentinel that Ms. Cash distributed autographed pictures of herself while everyone else gave out mementos from their states.

″Honey, between you and me, that girl was the least-liked girl around. ... She acted like she knew she was going to win.″

Ms. Pesce said some contestants believed Ms. Cash was helped to victory by her relation to the legendary singer and her ‘country’ background.

″The judges were looking for a different type of girl than I am,″ Miss Pesce said. ″They wanted a sweet kind of non-aggressive Southern belle.

″The judges apparently wanted country. All those girls in the top 10 were alike.″

Miss Cash, contacted at her New York City hotel, said Miss Florida might have been quoted out of context.

″I do not think I was the least liked,″ said Miss Cash.

″I made a lot of friends at the pageant. I don’t know why or if she said that. I do not think my relation with my uncle had anything to do with my winning,″ she said.

″It wasn’t Johnny in the swimsuit who won, it was me,″ Miss Cash said. ″He didn’t get up on the stage. I did. I really hope she didn’t say it.″

While Ms. Cash avoided questions Sunday about abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment, Ms. Pesce was describing her answers to judge’s questions: ″I walked into my interview and said that the women of America are going to take this country by storm.

″It was last Tuesday and I said, ″Isn’t it fabulous, it is women’s day in the elections. There are 49 women running for office and by the year 2000 half the people in medical, law and other professional schools will be women.′

″I don’t think that went over too big.″

Ms. Pesce, who had hoped to use the contest to further her career, said losing to singer-pianist Ms. Cash was ″the ultimate humiliation because performing is what I came here to do. That is my profession.″

Leonard Horn, an attorney for the pageant, denied that the judges were biased against contestants with feminist views.

″I’m not aware of anybody looking down upon a girl who expresses a particular viewpoint,″ Horn said in a telephone interview Monday night. ″I don’t know why she (Ms. Pesce) would say that. But she’s wrong.″

He said the judges are ″carefully appointed to be as fair and objective as they can be.″

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