Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is an FBI agent who goes undercover in the fictional Miss United States scholarship program/beauty pageant in San Antonio, Texas on the lookout for a terrorist. She, who is not traditionally attractive, is turned into a more attractive woman going by the name of Gracie Lou Freebush, with the same tomboyish habits (eg. snorting while laughing). She is seen overreacting to a gun-toting Texan, wearing a Tyrolean for her talent competition, much to the dismay of her mentor, Victor Melling (Michael Caine) and the director of the competition and former queen, Kathy Morningside (Candice Bergen), and using her on-stage talent to demonstrate self-defense techniques.
In the pageant itself, Hart, competing on behalf of the state of New Jersey was tabbed to advance to the top 10, but gets through on talent alone for the rest of the pageant. She eventually places as runner up to Cheryl Frasier (Miss Rhode Island). It is revealed at the end of the movie that Morningside and her son, Frank Morningside (gone under the name Tobin to hide his many crimes) have plotted to sabotage the pageant. They are caught after the title crown (which is rigged with a bomb) detonates at conclusion of the pageant, and Gracie is awarded "Miss Congeniality" (although The Miss Congeniality award is usually given during the pageant itself, a custom in pageants such as Miss USA and Miss Universe) and starts a relationship with her partner Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt).
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