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Lee Meriwether, Miss America 1955: Pageant Is 'Very Special'

Now 77, she's fit, beautiful, and planning her future

Lee Meriwether Miss America 1955 2010 wave conversation with

Las Vegas, 2010: Lee Meriwether makes an appearance at the Miss America pageant. — Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Planet Hollywood

Q: What do you say to the people who think the Miss America pageant is old-fashioned or anti-feminist?

A: They're thinking of the wrong pageant! These girls [in the Miss America pageant] today are brilliant. The judges fly these questions at them, giving them a [preview] of what it's going to be like as Miss America being bombarded at press conferences. I think all of them read a newspaper from cover to cover every day. If they don't, they're not truly prepared.

Q: Could you see the pageant disappearing in your lifetime or do you think it's here to stay?

A: Good heavens, if it fades away, they lose something of history. I mean, it's very special, I can't imagine it going away.

Q: You have been an actress all your life. What are you working on these days?

A: I'm working on a memoir, and calling it From the Boardwalk to the Catwalk. I'm still doing my one-woman show, The Women of Spoon River. I do 23 women in an hour. … In August I won best solo performance at the New York International Fringe Festival! Just to get into the Fringe is amazing. Today I'm auditioning to do a Tom and Jerry cartoon, a voiceover.

Q: Do you have any desire to slow down?

A: Oh no, it's fun. I love it.

Q: What is your secret to aging so beautifully and gracefully? You look so pretty in the picture on your website.

A: Well, there is airbrushing on that picture, I'm sure! [laughs] No, it's genes. My mother looked great at 96. And, you know, I realized that the more you're around, the more that gravity pulls you down. And so I started rubbing up. I wash my face rubbing up, I put my makeup on up and in the shower I rubup — anyplace I can.

I'm going to the gym three times a week. That also helps. And it helps to have a good feeling about people. The laugh line is going to be there whether you like it or not, so keep it there — keep it in a laugh line.

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Getting fit: Here are some tips from AARP Ambassador and tennis legend Martina Navratilova about how you can stay healthier by thinking like an athlete.

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