Colleen Kay Hutchins Vandeweghe
Colleen Kay Hutchins Vandeweghe was Miss American 1952 and considered to be the first American Mormon media superstar.
She was born on May 23, 1926 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was raised in Arcadia, California. She was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a teen, she was chosen “Sweetheart” of her ward ball. As a sophomore at Brigham Young University in 1947, she was crowned homecoming queen. She transferred to the University of Utah to pursue a drama degree and was there crowned Miss University of Utah. She was crowned Miss Armed Forces of Salt Lake City in 1950, Miss Utah in 1951, and Miss America in 1952. She was the first Miss Utah to win the competition. Sharlene Wells Hawkes is the only other Miss Utah to win the pageant. Colleen attracted much attention for her LDS faith. She said that she had been told many times that her “philosophy of life and expression of my belief in God made me stand out before that great crowd of fifty thousand people.”
Colleen settled in New York City after her reign and performed on Broadway for a few years. There she met Ernest Vandeweghe who played for the New York Knicks and they married and had four children—daughters Heather and Tauna, and sons Kiki and Bruk—all of whom are athletes. Although they always watched the Miss America pageant on television, Colleen never mentioned that she once wore the crown. Only when her daughters found the trophy and a scrapbook hidden in a closet did they know anything about this part of their mother’s past. “We were flabbergasted!” said Heather. “She didn’t want us to think that defined who she was or that that was important in life. She wanted us to know that it’s not the trophies that you come home with that’s important; it’s how you love.”
Colleen was an active member of the Church throughout her life. Her husband joined the Church three days before she passed away from a seventeen-year battle with intestinal issues. He had decided the previous December to be baptized, but was waiting until each of his children could also be there. She died on March 24, 2010, in Newport Beach, California.
- Doyle L. Green, “Colleen Hutchins—Miss America—1952,” Improvement Era, June 1952, 464.