RUSH TO RASH: St. Louis' Nicole Rash, 27, was crowned Ms. America 2012 at the national pageant held Sunday in Anaheim, Calif.
Rash, a native of Plymouth, Ind., was Miss Indiana 2007 and the first runner-up for Miss America in 2008. As Ms. America, Rash says, she will represent American women who are 26 years old and up and are single, divorced, married or widowed.
Rash competed in five categories -- interview, sportswear, fashion wear, evening gown and on-stage question -- before winning the crown.
Rash said in a phone interview today that she moved to St. Louis several months ago because her fiancee, Grant Cook, was transferred here by his employer, EnPro Industries. She said they live in the Brentwood area and have enjoyed discovering all that St. Louis has to offer. They are planning a Sept. 15 wedding.
Rash added that she won $75,000 in gifts and prizes from the Ms. America pageant and its sponsors, including the $15,000 crown that she gets to keep.
Rash is employed as a model, actress, and corporate spokesperson, and will complete her bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Ball State University in May. She also describes herself as a philanthropist and says she is especially passionate about her platform of service "Breath Easy - Keeping our Youth Smoke and Tobacco Free."
She lost three grandparents to smoking-related illnesses so says the cause is close to her heart, adding that she already has spoken to more than 25,000 students about staying smoke free.
Another interest for Rash is motorcycles -- she says she's owned three of them. Rash adds that she grew up on a farm in rural Indiana where they raise cows, that she will graduate from college with a 3.85 GPA.
The competition's other finishers were: Lana Henry, Ms. Southern California, first runner-up; Stephanie Mills, Ms. New England, second runner-up; Laura Hunter, Ms. Washington, third runner-up; and Carla Gonzalez, Ms. Oklahoma, fourth runner-up.