Rosanne Tueller Nielsen (BA ’67) is back on stage. The former BYU cheerleader, Curtain Time USA performer, and first runner-up for Miss America has had a full life of community service, church service, and motherhood. Now she and her husband, Norm L. Nielsen (BS ’63), have produced a patriotic show to spread a love of country and promote religious values through music.
“I’ve used entertainment as a vehicle for missionary work all my life,” Rosanne says. This time the preaching is of a different sort. After entertaining audiences with jokes, show tunes, and quotes from former U.S. presidents, Rosanne and Norm give out phone numbers for local and national lawmakers and even the White House. “We leave them without excuse,” she says. “We tell them to call and let their voice be heard.”
Rosanne has been connecting with audiences for decades. As Miss Washington, D.C., she won the preliminary talent portion of the 1964 Miss America Pageant, for which she sang in French and performed a jazz-dance routine. She also took top honors in the swimwear portion of the competition and ended up in second place overall. Beyond the scholarship she received from the pageant, Rosanne says the experience was a springboard. “It opened the door to many other things,” she says. “I got an audience with the pope in Rome; I was picked up by Curtain Time USA. Those things never would have happened without Miss America.” It also led her to meet her future husband.
After Rosanne’s success with Miss America, Janie Thompson (BA ’43), director of BYU’s Program Bureau, and her assistant, Norm Nielson, recruited Rosanne for Curtain Time USA, but Norm was wary. He was so convinced she would be a high-maintenance beauty queen that he sent 15 young men to her house to pick up her luggage for her first tour with the group.
“I picked up a brown paper bag, and I said, ‘This is it. I’m ready to go,’” Rosanne recalls. “Norm couldn’t believe it.” Growing up in a military family with five siblings, Rosanne had learned to pack light. “Norm admitted he had misjudged me.”
In the decades since Rosanne graduated from BYU with a degree in French, she and Norm have lived an active life. They became parents of eight and grandparents of 15. For 22 years she was the executive director of the Miss Utah Pageant, where she implemented a community-service component that was later adopted into the national pageant in the form of platform issues. While Norm served as a Utah state legislator and worked on the Miss America program, Rosanne served as president of a women’s organization in Utah and was active in other women’s organizations. She promoted making sacrifices for motherhood and living a balanced life.
In 2006 the couple served in the Washington, D.C., North Mission. Now they are retired in Orem, Utah, and use their time to work on the patriotic show. Thus far they have performed several times throughout Utah, including one show in which they received a standing ovation from 400 people.
Rosanne strives to live her family motto: “Be good. Do good.” She says it will take a lot to stop her from trying to do good in the world.
“I’ll keep on singing,” she says, “as long as my vibrato does not get wider than my hips.”