Miss America Disappointments

Ok, I suppose it’s time to write about my disappointments in the Miss America pageant before it becomes passe.

Disappointment #1 – Miss North Dakota Ariana Walker being left out of the finals.  I was heartbroken by this.  She was my #3 candidate and I was even compensating for the fact that she’s from, well, quite literally the middle of nowhere.  If I had gone with my heart rather than my head, she probably would have been my first choice.  I don’t think any contestant worked harder or was more prepared to be our next Miss America than she was.  At least it seemed that way to me.  That’s not to say that I necessarily disagree with the judges’ decision to leave her out.  Like I said, I didn’t watch the preliminaries except for the bits and pieces that were made public.  Maybe the numbers just didn’t add up.  I saw her evening gown and swimsuit competitions and she looked great in both, so I suspect she was weak in the one area where a Miss America must excel: talent.  Her talent was contemporary lyrical dance.  Maybe she wasn’t a stand-out dancer.  But she clearly has an exceptional talent for things that I would argue are more important qualifications to being Miss America than dance skills: inspiring others, serving as a positive role model, articulating her message, and representing herself and those she serves with grace and dedication.  That is why I was very disappointed that she did not make it further in the competition.  However, the future is bright for Ariana.  She is only 20 years old and working toward a doctorate in physical therapy.  I am sure she will continue to touch lives wherever she goes.

Disappointment #2 – The eliminated contestants voting to “save” a finalist from elimination.  This was a bad idea!  Actually, the concept itself was not so bad.  How it was done was the problem.  At the end of the swimsuit round, three contestants were culled out for elimination: Miss Virginia, Miss Alabama, and Miss North Carolina.  Rather than having the eliminated contestants vote in secret, like any civilized competition would have, the contestants were asked — with no prior warning — to line up behind the contestant they wanted to save!  The result was, at best, total chaos, and at worst, public humiliation for the two contestants who were “voted out.”  Not to mention that the two “losers” would be sent backstage to sit uncomfortably with dozens of contestants who had just voted them out of the biggest competition of their lives.  I cringe when I think of the look on Miss North Carolina’s face when she realized that far fewer contestants had lined up behind her than the other two.  She was struggling to hold back her tears.  Miss Alabama was the “winner” of the spectacle, but what did it prove?  Not surprisingly (given that she still had the lowest score), Miss Alabama was eliminated the very next round.  The “Survivor-style” charade improved her finish from ‘top 15 finalist’ to ‘top 13 finalist’ with an asterisk beside it — “saved by fellow contestants.”  In other words, that whole popularity contest was really for nothing.  All it did was lead to . . .

Disappointment #3 – Miss Alabama’s evening gown.  When Miss Alabama emerged from backstage with what looked like a giant wreath hanging from her shoulder, the room that I was in erupted with disapproval.  Although being a man, I could only stare helplessly at the TV like a color-blind person trying to decipher a traffic signal, something told me that dress did not look right.  I was disappointed.

Disappointment #4 – Anti-blonde sentiment!  When I began studying this year’s contestants, I was stunned by how many strong blonde contestants there were.  Ten, yes ten, of my initial list of top 20 candidates could have played Dagwood’s comic strip wife.  And I was even leaving some out.  Miss Utah was a preliminary swimsuit winner and Miss Virginia was chosen as a finalist.  I also considered Miss Wyoming and Miss Washington for my list.  That is fourteen competitive blonde contestants right there.  To my dismay, only one blonde (Miss Tennessee) made the top 10, and none made the top 5!  Now I can understand that the judges would have a tendency against them this year since last year’s winner was blonde, but this was ridiculous.  Of the first three contestants to be selected for elimination (AL, NC, VA), all three of them were blonde.  And of course, you can guess what Miss North Dakota’s hair color is.  Wasn’t it Martin Luther King Jr. who proclaimed that Miss America contestants should not be judged by the color of their hair, but by the content of their character?

Disappointment #5 – The end of Arkansas’ Miss America finalist streak.  This year was the first time in five years that my home state did not make the top 15.  And never did I imagine the streak would end with such a wonderful contestant like Miss Arkansas Kristen Glover.  I guess I should have seen it coming when Miss Alabama stole Kristen’s tap dance song before the competition began.  Yes, amazingly, both Miss Arkansas and Miss Alabama both performed tap dance routines to the same song — “I Got Rhythm” — in their state competitions.  I know, what a coincidence.  Well, two contestants are not allowed to use the same song at the Miss America pageant.  So based on the trivial fact that the Miss Alabama pageant ended earlier than the Miss Arkansas pageant, Miss Alabama was allowed to keep the song, and Miss Arkansas was forced to learn an entirely different routine just months before the competition.  The end result was that Miss Alabama made the finals, and Miss Arkansas did not.  Despite this incredible bad luck, we are very proud of Miss Arkansas for being a Quality of Life Award finalist, and for not complaining in the least for getting the short end of the stick.  Shame on you, Miss Alabama!  We will get our revenge in football next year.

Disappointment #6 – Miss Colorado Diana Dreman being left out of the finals.  Sadly, the much-anticipated mother-daughter Miss America final night drama never came to pass.  However, Diana will still be known as the very first Miss America daughter to ever compete in the pageant, and that is something she can always be proud of.

But my biggest disappointment is that the pageant is over.  Now I have to find something else to do for the next 359 days . . . any ideas?

Miss America 2012 Recap

What an amazing night.  I came so close — so close — to correctly picking the Miss America winner for the first time.  Miss Oklahoma Betty Thompson stood there in the middle of the stage holding hands with Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler, knees trembling, palms sweating, and thoughts racing.  I felt like I was right there with her.  I just knew the announcement was going to be, “And your 2012 Miss America is . . . Miss Oklahoma!”  But alas, it wasn’t in the cards.


Miss Wisconsin (left) and Miss Oklahoma (right) in the moments just before and after Miss Wisconsin is announced as Miss America 2012.

Things started off well when the host announced that Miss Oklahoma was the “America’s Choice” winner, meaning that more people voted on her intro video than any other contestant.  Plus, most of the girls I was watching it with agreed that she was the prettiest and most likeable.  So from the start, I had a good feeling that Betty was going to be there at the end.

Then came the big scare after the first round.  The swimsuit competition seemed to be Betty’s weakness, and her short stature (5’2) did not help.  Pageant judges tend to favor leggy contestants in swimwear and Betty’s short muscular legs are best suited for dancing, not prancing.  She gave it her best, but was it good enough?  Eleven of the twelve contestants to advance were called, and Betty was not one of them.  There was only one name left — who would it be?  Everyone in the room held their breath.  Miss Oklahoma, of course!

After that, it was smooth sailing for Miss Oklahoma.  She dazzled everyone in her evening gown while wearing a smile brighter than the lights in Las Vegas.  Her masterful Irish stepdance routine set the stage on fire.  She gave a great answer to the onstage question about childhood obesity.  It really looked like the stars had aligned for Miss Oklahoma until the final word of the competition.  All I know is she did the very best she could and that makes her a winner in my book.  I am proud of you, Betty!

Now with that said, I completely support the selection of Miss Wisconsin as our new Miss America.  After all, she was one of my top 5 ladies going into last night and my regional representative from the Upper Midwest.  Here was my logic.  I felt there were four contestants who were supremely qualified for the job of Miss America: Miss Oklahoma, Miss Wisconsin, Miss New York, and Miss North Dakota.  You could not go wrong with any of these ladies.  But given the nature of the competition, I knew it would come down to the top five and the judges would rank the contestants based on their impressions.  So I figured all four of the true contenders would make the top five, along with another contestant (Miss Hawaii) and the one with the most charm would win.  Miss Wisconsin was the least charming of the five, so I put her at number five.  Miss Oklahoma was the most charming, so I picked her to win.  Etc.  Well, charm did not carry the day like I thought it would.  The judges picked the one who they honestly thought was most deserving.  And I applaud them for that.

The judges in the past two Miss America pageants have shown a preference for substance over charm.  Teresa Scanlan (2011) was by all accounts a wonderful Miss America, but I would be hard-pressed to call her charming.  She is very goal-oriented and I admire that.  It is better to have a Miss America who is respected for her abilities and dedication to her cause than fawned over for her looks or manner of speech.  At the end of the day, I feel like Laura Kaeppeler was an excellent choice for Miss America.

Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler waves to the crowd after her victory at the 2012 Miss America Pageant.

Along with Miss Oklahoma and Wisconsin, I also want give a special shout out to Miss New York, my #2 choice who finished in third place!  She had a spectacular night.  Overall, my predictions did remarkably well.  Four of my top seven contestants (WI, OK, NY, and CA) made it into the final five, and when you include Miss Tennessee, five of my top eight picks cracked the top 10.  I also correctly predicted Miss North Carolina and Florida as finalists, and Miss Iowa and Alabama were both “Wild Card” contestants of mine who made the finals although I did not put them on my list of 15.  Miss Illinois, my Fashion Show Queen, also made the top 10.

The final five contestants after the competition.  From the left: Miss Arizona, Miss Oklahoma, Miss Wisconsin, Miss New York, and Miss California.


Miss America:  Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler

First Runner-Up:  Miss Oklahoma Betty Thompson

Second Runner-Up:  Miss New York Kaitlin Monte

Third Runner-Up:  Miss Arizona Jennifer Sedler

Fourth Runner-Up:  Miss California Noelle Freeman

Top 10:  Miss Tennessee Erin Hatley,  Miss Iowa Jessica Pray, Miss Illinois Hannah Smith, Miss Texas Kendall Morris, Miss Louisiana Hope Anderson

Top 12:  Miss Florida Kristina Janolo, Miss South Carolina Bree Boyce

Top 15:  Miss Alabama Courtney Porter, Miss North Carolina Hailey Best, and Miss Virginia Elizabeth Crot

The two big surprises for me were Miss Arizona making the top 5 and Miss Louisiana in the top 10.  Neither was ever on my radar.  I was not particularly surprised to see Miss Texas, a preliminary winner, and Miss South Carolina, a media darling, do well.  This makes the third straight year Virginia has produced a finalist.

Anyway, that is enough for now.  The next post will be about my disappointments from the pageant.

Miss America Pre-Game Show

The big day has arrived!  Tonight America will crown a new princess who will carry 90 years of tradition to every corner of the country.  Just like last year, I have evaluated the contestants to the best of my ability, trying to find the best jewels among the field of diamonds.  Although all of the ladies will be winners tonight, only one can take home the crown.

Here’s what you can expect when watching the competition tonight.  First, the judges will reveal the 12 finalists based on their scores in the preliminary competition.  Then, two more contestants will be selected based on the pre-competition voting on the introduction videos.  The fifteenth and final contestant will be selected by an anonymous vote of the other contestants.

Before the rounds begin, each contestant already has a “composite” score based on their performance in the preliminaries.  This composite score is comprised of the interview (25%), swimsuit (15%), evening wear (20%), talent (35%), and the onstage question (5%).  The composite score counts for 30% of the contestants’ final night score, which determines who is crowned Miss America.  So before the final night competition starts, 30% of the score has already been decided.

The first round is the swimsuit competition.  The ladies will parade in their most revealing summer attire with millions of viewers across the country watching them.  Not an easy task!  Confidence and attitude are essential.  The swimsuit round counts for 20% of the overall score.  After the first round, the three contestants with the lowest overall score are eliminated.

The second round is the evening wear competition.  The twelve remaining contestants will put their style and poise on display in their most exquisite evening gowns.  Grace and elegance will make the difference.  The evening gown competition counts for 20% of the overall score.  After the second round, the two contestants with the lowest overall score are eliminated.

The third round is the talent competition.  This is a big one.  Only ten contestants will be left.  The talent competition is worth 35% of the overall score, so this is a great opportunity for contestants who are lagging behind to mount a comeback.  Each contestant will show off her skills in front of the largest audience they’ve ever performed for.  Preparation and, of course, talent is the key here.  When the dust settles, only the top five contestants will move on to the final round, but we will not find out who those five are until the next round.

The final round is the onstage question.  All ten remaining contestants will line up together, not knowing when (or if) their name will be called to answer one of the final five questions.  There will be little time to react.  In a split second, each contestant will go from nervously waiting to hear her named called to walking to the front of the stage to answer a surprise question.  Although the final question is only worth 5% of the contestant’s score, it is the last impression the judges will have of them.  Being concise, thoughtful, and quick on your feet are necessary to make that last impression a good one.

After the onstage question, all bets are off.  The scores disappear and the judges are left to rank the top five contestants 1-5 based on their overall impression of their performances during the night.  In that sense, the fifth-place contestant has just as good of a shot at winning as the first place contestant (theoretically).  The final ballots are tallied, and the results are announced.  Fourth runner-up, third runner-up, and second runner-up are called first.  That will just two well-deserving young ladies standing in the middle of the stage, holding hands, neither knowing which of them is fixing to become the next Miss America.

Any questions?  Ok, I think we are all ready for an amazing night!

Now, I present to you my top 15 contestants for the title of Miss America.  Unfortunately, this year the preliminary competition was not made public online or on TV, so I did not have the benefit of watching the contestants in action before choosing them.  My choices are based on the contestants’ intro videos, their public appearances, their platforms, their talents, and their personalities.  Here are my choices:

1.  Miss Oklahoma

2.  Miss New York

3.  Miss North Dakota

4.  Miss Hawaii

5.  Miss Wisconsin

6.  Miss Colorado

7.  Miss California

8.  Miss Tennessee

9.  Miss Mississippi

10.  Miss North Carolina

11.  Miss Arkansas

12.  Miss Virgin Islands

13.  Miss Minnesota

14.  Miss Florida

15.  Miss Missouri

Like last year, I will also be posting pulses on my iPhone with my live reaction as the competition goes along.  Tune in on ABC at 8 pm CT to see how it all plays out!  May the best lady win!

Miss America Update

The preliminary rounds are finished and now we are just one night away from the grand finale to determine Miss America 2012.  Here are the six winners from the preliminary rounds:


Tuesday Night — Miss Wisconsin (Talent) & Miss Utah (Swimsuit)

Miss Wisconsin wowed the judges with a delectable performance of the opera classic “Il Bacio.”

Miss Utah showed off her toned body in a Deaville Komplique swimsuit with gold and crystal accents.


Wednesday Night — Miss Oklahoma (Talent) and Miss Texas (Swimsuit)

Miss Oklahoma lit up the stage with a rousing Irish stepdance routine to the song “Warriors.”

Miss Texas put her slender frame and smokin’ Texas tan on display in a black Monte Carlo Komplique swimsuit.


Thursday Night: Miss Hawaii (Talent) and Miss New York (Swimsuit)

Miss Hawaii hopped, skipped, and jumped her way to a preliminary talent victory Thursday night with an original jump rope routine to the tune of “Hawaii Five-O.”

Miss New York had the judges seeing red when she strutted across the stage in her Monte Carlo Komplique swimsuit.


Quality Of Life Award Winner — Miss Kentucky

Miss Kentucky (right) was awarded the Quality of Life Award for her platform “Alzheimer’s Awareness and Research.”  The platform is personal for her because her grandfather had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for five years before dying of a heart attack.  She recalls the day he could not recognize her as the worst day of her life.  Miss New Hampshire (center) took first runner-up honors with her platform “Stand Up: Bullying Awareness In Our Community.”  She also has personal experience with her platform issue, having been relentlessly bullied by other girls as a teenager.  Now she reaches out to teens facing similar problems to give them someone to talk to.  Lastly, Miss Michigan (left) was named second runner-up for her platform “Continue To Dream: Giving Hope To Children With Chronic Illness.”  She has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis from the age of three but went undiagnosed until she was thirteen.  Refusing to succumb to her doctor’s dreary prognosis, she has continued to fight the disease and is now in remission.


Feel Good Story?  Miss Colorado

Along with these preliminary award winners, there is another story brewing at the 2012 Miss America Pageant — that of Miss Colorado and her former Miss America mother, Rebecca Ann King.  Miss Colorado’s journey has been remarkable enough given that she is the very first daughter of a former Miss America to compete at the pageant in its 90-year history.  But this week the story took an emotion turn when it was revealed that her mother has been battling skin cancer for over a year.  One day, her mother starting experiencing severe pain in her back.  The pain was so bad, she almost couldn’t walk.  When Rebecca went to the doctor, they found a tumor nearly the “size of a basketball” in her lower back.  She was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma. 

Although the family has tried to keep the matter hushed, things are not looking particularly good.  Rebecca has been wheel-chair bound since her diagnosis and although fifty percent of the tumor is gone, the other fifty percent remains.  Fortunately, the cancer has stalled recently, which will allow Rebecca to be in the audience for her daughter’s big night.  Below are photos of Rebecca celebrating her daughter’s victory after the Miss Colorado pageant:

Naturally, Miss Colorado’s platform is supporting The American Cancer Society’s search for a cure.

Now that you are up to speed with this year’s pageant, stay tuned tomorrow for the pre-game show and my picks for Miss America 2012!

Fashion Show Video

The Miss America pageant just released a professionally-produced video of the Fashion Show.  Just thought I’d post it as a follow up to my earlier entry. 

The video is incredibly high quality, but unfortunately it shows fewer than half the contestants.  Somehow Miss New York, Miss Georgia, and Miss Illinois got left out . . . very upsetting.

A Flare For Fashion

Miss America week is off and running!  Today half of the contestants sat down with the judges for their personal interviews to explain why they should take home the crown.  The interviews generally are not made public until after the competition, so it’s impossible to for us know how they went.  What we know is that tomorrow is the start of the preliminary competitions, which hopefully will find their way onto the internet by the end of the night.  That will give us the first glimpse of how the contestants are stacking up.

In the meantime, here are some of the ladies who scored points (in my book) during the Fashion Show on Saturday:

Miss North Dakota’s got it all: the dress, the heels, the walk.

No surprises here.  Miss New York knows how to work the runway.

Miss North Carolina oozes class on the catwalk.

Miss Michigan can make the sun shine on a rainy day.

While she did not make my list of 20, my vote for Fashion Queen goes to Miss Illinois with the exquisite jaguar dress.

And then there was Miss Georgia . . . she made sure the South was well-represented.

I certainly am no expert on fashion, so ladies help me out here . . . who do you think looked the best?

Let The Games Begin

Thursday evening, fifty-three stunning contestants arrived in Las Vegas for the Miss America’s pageant’s customary welcome ceremony.  Since their arrival, they have been busy getting to know each other and preparing for the competition, but still managed to find time for a few other extra-curricular activities.  On Friday, the ladies took part in a charity cooking event and saw Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian.  And yesterday, they modeled their favorite designer dresses in the annual Miss America fashion show at Las Vegas’ Fashion Show Mall. 

Tomorrow, the Miss America pageant officially begins.  The ladies will start off with their preliminary interviews (25% of overall score), which probably narrow down the field more than the point allocation might suggest.  The interviews will continue into Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Tuesday, the preliminary talent (35%), evening wear (20%), and swimsuit (15%) competitions begin in front of a live audience at Planet Hollywood.  The contestants have been divided into three groups, with each taking part in a different preliminary competition each day from Tuesday until Thursday.  When the smoke clears, the stage will be set for the final night of competition on Saturday.

Notes from the first few days:

Miss California easily won the award for most scandalous attire at the arrival ceremony.  Not that the guys in the audience were complaining!

Miss Michigan scored major charm points at the arrival ceremony when she declared herself to be “Miss Mittens” because she is from the only state “where you can use your hand as a map.”  She then showed up to dance rehearsals with a shirt that warned her competitors, “Don’t Mess With The Mitten.”

Miss Arkansas is a Quality of Life Award finalist!  The other QLA finalists are: Miss Michigan, Miss Hawaii, Miss New York, Miss Minnesota, Miss New Hampshire, Miss Ohio, and Miss Kentucky.

The ladies at Phantom of the Opera and cooking pancakes for charity!

When the brave rescuer reached the top of the plateau, he was bewildered by what he saw.  There was no House of Horrors, as he had imagined.  What he found was a party scene.

For several minutes, he craned his neck through the crowd, looking for anyone who resembled her.  He stopped a kind-looking woman in a flamingo mask and asked if she’d seen a man pass by with a girl.

“I’ve seen plenty of them,” she said, amused.  “Good luck finding whoever you’re looking for.”

Frustrated, he rushed to the stage where the band was playing.  A note written on a napkin was handed to the lead singer.

“We have someone here who is looking for his friend,” announced the ainger.  He relayed a brief description of her appearance.

“She is in there!” cried a voice from deep within the crowd. 

He gazed up at the mighty palace.  He would find her if it took all night.