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.