So, this year I decided to take a nap before the Miss America pageant and ended up sleeping right through the entire thing. When I awoke, I checked the results and my first reaction was that something must have gone terribly, terribly wrong. I was immediately relieved that I didn’t watch it. Spared myself the anguish.
Four of the top five contestants did not come from my initial group of 20 contenders. Neither of the top 2 finalists were on my radar. My predicted winner, Miss Minnesota, did not even make it into the Top 16. Lo and behold the state of Wyoming — you heard me, Wyoming — had cracked the top 5 for the first time in history and beaten all but one of my favored contestants. I rolled over and went back to sleep.
Recently I sat down and watched a replay of the pageant. I realized, to my surprise, that I actually did pretty darn well. For the first round of finalists, Miss Kentucky was called. Yes, she was one of my favorites. Also Miss Maryland. She was one of my favorites too. Also Miss Oklahoma, Miss Illinois, Miss Texas, and Miss Florida. All of them were on my finalist list. Then came Miss Utah and Miss Indiana, who were among my initial list of contenders. (Sidenote: Miss Alabama somehow was left off my entire intro post, but I’ll have you know that I claim her as my own.) In fact, it seemed to take quite a while before anyone who didn’t draw my pre-competition consideration was called.
All told, four of my top eight picks made the Top 10, five of my top eight made the finals, and 8 of my original 20 were among the 16 finalists. Those last two numbers equal my results from last year, and all are better than the year before. Arguably, my predictions fared almost as well this year as they did last year, when I celebrated overwhelming success. I was left scratching my head as to why I was initially disappointed with the results at all. From the beginning, I was set up for a great night.
It just so happened that once they made the finals, all my favorites faded. Probably another reason why it was good I didn’t watch it live!
Anyhow, aside from grading my personal pageantry prognostication, this post is mainly intended to welcome the former Miss New York, Mallory Hytes Hagan, as our new Miss America. After watching a replay of the pageant, I can say that she is clearly deserving of the title. She is the first tap dancer in history to win the crown, and anyone who saw her perform “Get Up Off Of That Thing” at the competition knows why. I have never seen a tap dance routine that could easily be called the most crowd-pleasing performance of the night, but there it is. Anyone with legs surely felt the urge to get up off of their thang and start dancing along with her. She performed with the kind of carefree enthusiasm that you would only expect if she was dancing in her backyard in front of family and friends. For the first time in the history of prime-time television, a tap dance routine was the highlight of the night, a feat made possible only by Miss Hagan’s infectious personality.
Throughout the night, she seemed immune to the enormous, suffocating pressure of being evaluated by millions and millions of onlookers across the country. When I reflect upon the pageants I’ve seen, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone carry themselves the way she did. I have seen many examples of poise, elegance, and grace. The most memorable (e.g., Miss America 2009, Katie Stam, who actually served as one of the judges in this competition) shine with an angelic-like presence under the bright lights of the big pageant. But I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone who just seemed to simply be in an entirely different place than everyone else on the stage. Mallory Hagan might as well have been strutting around in her pajamas in her bedroom while everyone else was on eggshells at a stiff black tie affair. If she felt any pressure at all, she didn’t show it for a second. This was a girl being herself, having fun, and doing what she loved. The fact that she had superior talent, had a deceptively toned swimsuit body, and a glowing white evening gown were just background music to the cakewalk. Anyone watching the pageant was left with the unavoidable impression that Mallory Hagan simply seemed much, much more comfortable out there than anyone else.
I fully support the judges’ decision to crown her the winner, and truthfully, it wasn’t that close. True, she was not among my finalists. Neither was the runner-up, Miss South Carolina. That’s fine. I made a mistake by not including them. The judges were right, I was wrong. I really do feel like this was a well-judged pageant.
Of course, I would have loved to have seen Miss Minnesota included in the finalists, and I am puzzled by why she was left out. I still feel she would have made an excellent Miss America. There are some contestants who made the finals who I don’t necessary feel were deserving. But overall, I think the process worked out pretty well and that we ended up with a fine representative for the youth of our country.
So here is my long-overdue salute to our new Miss America 2013, Mallory Hytes Hagan!