Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mario Lopez to host Miss America pageant

"I'm honored. I think it's going to be great," Lopez told The Associated Press from Los Angeles prior to the announcement by Country Music Television Inc.'s officials in Nashville, Tenn. The pageant will air Jan. 29 from the Aladdin Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Having proved he can dance on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," the 33-year-old actor ("Saved by the Bell") said he didn't plan to sing the pageant's "There She Is, Miss America" theme made famous by longtime Miss America host Bert Parks.

"I really don't sing," Lopez said. "I like to sing, but I don't sing well."

Lopez replaces James Denton, a star from ABC's "Desperate Housewives," who hosted last year's 85th annual pageant in Las Vegas.

A recorded version of Parks singing the anthem played as Miss Oklahoma Jennifer Berry was crowned at last year's pageant, held for the first time outside Atlantic City, N.J.

Sarah Brock, CMT executive producer and vice president, said show producers were excited about Lopez's popularity, previous pageant hosting experience and "undeniable charm." Terms of his one-year deal weren't made public.

Lopez recalled hosting other pageants including a Miss Teen USA pageant in 2003 in Palm Springs, Calif. He attributed recent scandals involving beauty queens in other pageants to mistakes by a select few contestants.

He also downplayed reports that he was linked romantically with his "Dancing With the Stars" partner, professional dancer Karina Smirnoff. The couple placed second in the ABC program to former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith and partner Cheryl Burke.