Miss America 2016: Betty Cantrell

Good morning America, wake up and greet your new shining star, Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell of Georgia! This was the first Miss America pageant I’ve attended and I must say that I am thrilled beyond words with the results. Yes, another year and another complete whiff on predicting the winner, but I’ll be the first to admit that the judges made a great choice. Miss Georgia was a great overall competitor from start to finish. During the evening gown session, I recall thinking to myself “I bet that’s the girl who will win it”, even though, of course, I was rooting for my own selections. Her talent (operatic vocal) blew me away. She was the last one to go and really stood out among the vocalists.

The onstage question did not go smoothly, as she had to ask the questioner to repeat, and her answer showed a lack of knowledge about the “Deflategate” football scandal in the NFL. Clearly she deserved a complete pass on that portion since what pageant girl would possibly have an opinion about whether the New England Patriots quarterback deflated footballs? The presumptuousness of the question was outrageous. “Deflategate” is not an issue of national importance. When was the last time Tom Brady was asked about a pageant controversy at a press conference? He would have been just as dumbfounded (and surely far less composed).

It is the rare MAP that I wake up the next day feeling fully satisfied with the selection of a contestant which was not in my finalist predictions. (The last time that happened was Teresa Scanlan in 2011.) But that’s how I feel. I was there and I concur. She was the right choice.

I think what really puts the icing on a great pageant is seeing the winner overcome with emotion. They did the final selection differently this year. I can’t remember ever seeing it. There were not two, but three contestants — Miss Georgia, Miss South Carolina, and Miss Oklahoma — whose names had not been called. The first, second, third, and fourth runners up had been announced, so the ladies who remained were either the getting the crown or finishing outside the Top 5. They did not know which it would be.  

Miss Georgia had to be thinking that she would be one of the odd ladies out after stumbling over her onstage question.  Her nerves also had to be wracked from being the last contestant called for both the Final 15 and the Top 10.
When they announced her as Miss America, her reaction was as authentic as they come.  Pure shock mixed with hysterical joy.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

So here’s to a memorable reign for a special lady who I will always remember as the first Miss America I ever saw crowned in person!

As for my picks overall, I didn’t do half bad.  My first three picks (Florida, South Carolina, & Alabama), all finished in the Top 10. Miss Alabama finished just one spot away from my prediction (4th instead of 3rd).  Miss Oklahoma, Miss Mississippi, and Miss Louisiana all made the Top 10 as I predicted.  Miss Iowa did not crack the Top 10, but that was more or less a pleasant surprise since I did not understand how she won two preliminaries anyway.  Although I will say I think she did surprisingly well in the swimsuit portion and I was disappointed that she did not get to show off her talent.

I was very pleased to hear Miss Arkansas’s name called for the Final 15, even though I did no think she would make it.  I feel like she did the best should could and am very proud of her.

Miss Texas showed me up, as usual. That is a yearly occurrence.  Both she and Miss Georgia made my Top 20 but were left out of my Top 16.  Foolish me.  For the second year in a row, Kansas let me down in a big way.  I will be extra cautious with picking Miss Kansases in the future.

Overall, it was a fantastic pageant.  Great people, worthy causes, and terrific competition.  Until next year!

Miss America 2016 Pregame: Live From Atlantic City

Hello there from Atlantic City! So after many years of following the Miss America pageant, I finally decided to make the trek out to the east coast to partake in the festivities. It was a remarkably smooth flight to Philly and train ride to the coast. At first blush, the city strikes me as a more extravagant and vibrant version of Galveston. I was greeted by rain upon arrival, but that did not stop me from making it to the Show Us Your Shoes Parade (and indeed, I can be seen in the photo on the headline – an Arkansas boy really stands out!).

But now that the parade and preliminary competitions are over, it’s time to get down to business and make my selections for the 2016 Miss America pageant. To get caught up, the preliminary winners were:

Miss South Carolina for lifestyle & fitness:

Miss Iowa for talent:



Miss Florida for lifestyle & fitness:

Miss Georgia for talent:



Miss Iowa for lifestyle & fitness:

Miss Louisiana for talent:


My Predictions

First, here is my traditional Top 20 list of “regional representatives” and “wildcard contestants”:

Regional Representatives

The South – Miss Florida

Southern California – Miss California

Texas – Miss Texas

Northeast – Miss New York

Psuedo South – Miss Kentucky

Alaska – Miss Alaska

Upper Midwest – Miss Wisconsin

Lower Midwest – Miss Iowa

Pacific Northwest – Miss Washington

West – Miss Idaho

Rust Belt – Miss Ohio

Big Sky – Miss Montana
Wildcard Candidates

Miss Alabama

Miss Georgia

Miss Kansas

Miss Louisiana

Miss Mississippi

Miss North Carolina

Miss South Carolina

Miss Oklahoma

Now, for my Top 16.  My motto this year: Anyone but Miss New York! (Though nothing against her personally, she seems like a very sweet and well qualified girl.)

16.  Miss Montana.

I’m going completely with my heart on this one.  I know Montana hasn’t cracked the finals in decades, but here’s something about her that is completely genuine and inspiring.  She has the charm of a Miss America, and I could see her talent going over really well with the judges.  Seriously, if she went all the way, they would have to carry me out.

15.  Miss Alaska.

I have never predicted a finalist from the Great White North, but that all changes with Miss Alaska.  Another charming girl who soaks up the spotlight.  Also one of the prettiest in the field.  Would love to see her make a deep run… but the odds are stacked against her.

14.  Miss Idaho.  

Already a professional musician, Miss Idaho brings some borderline celebrity appeal to the pageant that could boost the TV ratings.  I’m all in on her, but can the she convince the judges that being a national role model is more of a priority than her solo career?  Judge Vanessa Williams may be able to weigh in on that.

13.  Miss California.

I have to be honest, I have seen much that stands out about Miss California.  She’s not very flashy.  But she has a quiet confidence about her and has been vetted by the most populous state in the country.  I have no doubt she would do a fine job as Miss America, and that’s why she makes this list.

12.  Miss Wisconsin.

 This girl stands out from the pack. The short hair style, tattoo, and laidback demeanor show that she is confident in herself. But talent is a major question mark.

11.  Miss New York.

Oh no, not again! By this point, I have no illusions that Miss New York will skip the finals in her quest for an Empire State four-peat (I shudder to even write that.) Fortunately, this young lady makes a graceful exit right before the talent round, as the rest of the country lets out a collective sigh.

10.  Miss Oklahoma.

I saw Miss Oklahoma win her crown, so she has a special place in my heart. That being said, I just don’t think she has the “It” factor of a Miss America. This Tulsa native is a good bet to make the finals, but more than likely will bow out in the first or second round.

9.  Miss Louisiana.


Ah, a girl who hails from one of my favorite cities, New Orleans, and added the word “langiappe” to my vocabulary. I don’t see how she makes an early exit since she clearly has talent (prelim award) and a stunning physique to go with it.  The only question mark here – and it’s a big one – is poise. Also, I skipped her pageant to attend Miss Mississippi, and don’t want to deal with the guilt of knowing I blew off the future Miss America!

8.  Miss Mississippi.

Speaking of Miss Mississippi, I watched her bring home her home state’s crown in one of my most memorable pageant nights.  This is a girl who I can just as easily see winning it as missing the finals altogether. She has a huge heart, the hottest violin this side of Georgia, and I truly believe she would make an amazing Miss America.  The only problem I see is that she seems to shy away from the limelight. If the judges are as captivated by her true character as others, she has a chance. But her lack of “pageant girl” chops make her a Cinderalla in a city where the clock can strike midnight all too soon.

7.  Miss North Carolina.


Miss NC is a special young lady. She is an authentic example of grace and Southern charm. However, Miss America is still a competition. Miss North Carolina will have to prove how badly she wants the job on stage… and, if she makes the finals, I’ll be rooting for her every step of the way.

6.  Miss Iowa.

Being honest here, Iowa was not even on my radar until she won two preliminaries and became the de facto front-runner. And frankly, I still don’t get what makes her so special. But if you consider how many ladies have won the pageant from off my radar since I’ve been prognosticating– probably about half — I have come to terms with my own blind spots.  The bottom line is the judges like her, and that’s what counts. 

5.  Miss Kentucky.  

Everything about Miss Kentucky screams uniqueness and feminity. She might be the most approachable contestant in the field.  But grace can only carry you so far.  In the past, the judges have been impressed by tenacity.  She will need show America that she can compete like a champion under pressure.

4.  Miss Kansas

I got burned last year when I picked Miss Kansas to go all the way only to watch her miss the finals.  But I’m back for more!  With this year’s Miss Kansas, it all come down to being well rounded.  I feel like she is a threat in every category, has a great story, and the look of a competitor.  Fool me once, shame on me, but this time will be different.

3.  Alabama.


Miss Alabama caught my eye from Day One and hasn’t lost my attention since. She oozes relatability, it’s my favorite platform, and Alabama is due!

2.  Miss South Carolina.

Miss South Carolina is a polished candidate with all the skills needed to take the crown.  Her preliminary win confirms that she is for real.  Given the recent events in South Carolina, she would be a great sentimental choice.  She exudes strength, confidence, and maturity. The judges can’t wrong here.

And my pick for Miss America 2016 is…



A year after her older sister had to return the Miss Florida crown due to a scoring error, Miss Florida 2015 can let her sister have hers… because she will have a new one.  An extremely mature, well-rounded candidate with a great pedigree and, as a college cheerleader, competitive  fire.  She’s ready for the job, and now it’s time to go win it! Gator chomp!

Those are my picks folks!  Enjoy the pageant!