The big day is finally here! Fifty-three contestants will take the stage in Atlantic City tonight to compete to become Miss America 2015. Are you ready for our country’s ultimate showcase of fashion, talent, beauty and charm?
As always, I have ranked the top contestants in the order I think they will finish. In descending order:
THE TOP FIVE
Meet Your New Miss America – Miss Kansas
My Thinking: Miss Kansas has exceptional speaking skills and is an extraordinarily well-rounded competitor. She won both the preliminary talent and swimsuit competitions at her state pageant. She has an inspirational story of overcoming poverty and the loss of her father. At 23 years old, she is one of the more mature candidates on stage. This is a woman among girls. Although there are many worthy candidates in this year’s field, Miss Kansas would likely do the best job representing our country. Contestants like her don’t come around often.
Why She Comes Up Short: Does not quite seem like the pageant girl “type” and lacks the pedigree of some of her competitors. Sure, she would make a great Miss America, but can she earn the title on stage with the whole country watching?
First Runner-Up – Miss Oklahoma
My Thinking: It says a lot about the Miss Oklahoma Pageant when a girl who initially did not stand out to me as much as her predecessors winds up in the number two spot on this list. But the preliminary swimsuit award confirms that the judges like her, and her post-award interview confirms that she would be a superb choice for the job. This Midwestern pageant girl has it all going from a physical standpoint, is an excellent communicator, is a mature 24 years of age, and has that intangible “it” factor that pushes her to the top of the heap. If Miss Kansas falters, Miss Oklahoma could be the next best thing.
Why She Wins: Probably the strongest overall in the swimsuit and evening gown components, Miss Oklahoma looks to be a stone cold lock for the Top 10. Her only weakness is talent, which unfortunately is the largest component of the overall score. A candidate with her talent – “contemporary dance” – has never won the title of Miss America. If she can get past that hurdle, there is no stopping her.
Second Runner-Up – Miss Ohio
My Thinking: A preliminary talent winner with outstanding speaking skills, the task for Miss Ohio will be to survive the first two rounds of competition (assuming she makes the finals as expected). I think she does, but just barely. Her swimsuit and gown are not strong points. However, they are probably good enough to move her into the top 10. Once she gets to talent stage, she will get to show the world the same skills that impressed the judges this past week. She also has a sweet, girlish charm that should play well with judges and viewers alike. Although this could ultimately put her in the top five, she strikes me as being a little too one-dimensional to take home the crown. That said, many others would beg to differ.
Why She Wins: This is the 50th Year Anniversary of the first and only ventriloquist to win the Miss America Pageant. And the woman who won, Miss America 1965 Vonda Van Dyke, has been an outspoken supporter of Miss Ohio during the preliminaries and even appeared on stage to perform her act. Plus, the state of Ohio is long overdue for a victory – their last win was in 1978.
Third Runner-Up – Miss Virginia
My Thinking: Miss Virginia has not been getting a lot of buzz in pageant circles and is not the most popular contestant on social media. But I see some major darkhorse potential here. Only 21 years old, she is a former Miss Virginia Outstanding Teen and has already graduated from college. She is well-spoken and platform relating to disabilities goes well with the MAO’s affiliation with the Children’s Miracle Network. Her swimsuit and evening gown are strengths, so I don’t see her going home early. In my mind, it all comes down to talent, and I could certainly see her knocking it out of the park. Miss Virginia is a contestant who could just as easily take the crown as miss the finals altogether.
Why She Wins: A true pageant girl who glows under the bright lights. All she has to do is put it all together.
Fourth Runner-Up – Miss Mississippi
My Thinking: You simply cannot discount Miss Mississippi’s talent or star appeal. Her impeccable Pageant pedigree is highlighted by a Miss Mississippi Outstanding Teen Award in 2007 (at the tender age of 15.). Perhaps the most popular contestant on social media, she will likely ride a wave of support into the Top 10. Once she gets a mic in her hands, watch out. That being said, I do think she is more recording artist than national representative. The Pageant does not need another Vanessa Williams. Although all things considered, we could do a lot worse.
Why She Wins: A former American Idol finalist with experience performing under pressure in front of large TV audiences. A dazzling talent showing could make her the obvious choice, just like Caressa Cameron in 2010 and Mallory Hagan in 2013.
THE TOP TEN
6th Place – Miss Florida
My Thinking: Miss Florida is a preliminary swimsuit winner with a gorgeous evening gown, but her public speaking skills leave something to be desired. She does not seem to have the presence and confidence of a Miss America. Also, there have been mixed reviews about her talent. On the flip side, she won a highly competitive state pageant and has garnered a great deal of support from pageant followers and casual observers alike.
Why She Wins: Judges miscalculate the scores in her favor. (Just kidding!) After charming the judges win her beauty, she becomes the first contestant in recent memory to be crowned Miss America without ever being formally crown in her own state pageant.
7th Place – Miss Arkansas
My Thinking: You know where my sympathies lie. I am a firm believer that Miss Arkansas would make an exceptional Miss America, probably just as good as, if not better than, Kansas or Oklahoma. There is no question that she is the one I will be rooting for tonight, and I thought long and hard about putting her in my Top 5. The problem here is that there are just too many question marks in each phase of the competition. Although she is a former Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen, she is also from a small town and may be out of her element in Atlantic City. She does not have stunning beauty and her talent song – “Note To God” – may be too conservative for the tastes of some. However, her communication skills and attitude make her stand out from the crowd. The way I see, if my home state girl pulls off the upset I will be overjoyed beyond words, and if she doesn’t, well at least I was right. It’s a win-win for me.
Why She Wins: The strongest candidate from Arkansas that I have seen since I started handicapping the Pageant. She has been steadily garnering attention from others in the pageant community as a sleeper candidate. And doesn’t it make sense that Miss America should come from the same state as where all the dresses are designed?
8th Place – Miss Texas
My Thinking: One of the strongest talents in the Pageant, Miss Texas also benefits from the prestige of her home state. However, very little stands out to me. She is a polarizing candidate and her wardrobe has been sharply criticized by some Pageant commentators.
Why She Wins: I’ve been proven wrong on Miss Texases before.
9th Place – Miss Minnesota
My Thinking: Miss Minnesota is a natural born Pageant girl and she is good under pressure. That’s really all I need to know. You don’t need the hype when you’ve got the goods.
Why She Wins: The 19-year-old is coming off a dominant sweep of the Miss Minnesota Pageant where she won both the swimsuit and talent competitions against older, more seasoned competitors. She has all the tools, and a killer instinct to boot. Do you really want to doubt her?
10th Place – Miss Tennessee
My Thinking: Miss Tennessee looks to be a force in all phases of competition, from great vocal talent to a smoking swimsuit body and eye-catching evening gown. The missing elements here are the intangibles. She is not a particularly impressive speaker and lacks the poise of a Miss America. Not enough pedigree and too much of a girl-next-door to wind up with the roses.
Why She Wins: Tonight promises to be a battle of singers, and if Miss Tennessee comes out on top of the pack, she could become the logical choice for judges with lingering doubts about the others.
THE SWEET SIXTEEN
11th Place – Miss Illinois
My Thinking: Love, love, love me some Miss Illinois. In my eyes, she is strong from head to toe, and could be a real force tonight if she makes the finals. Well-spoken, mature, and a seasoned competitor, it’s hard for me to find any flaw in her game. Unfortunately, she is flying completely under the radar despite being from a large state. Her career path (music) and platform (fine arts education) may not be exactly what the Pageant is looking for.
Why She Wins: This girl is a complete package and is ready for the job. If the judges take notice before she gets eliminated, Atlantic City could be in for a big surprise.
12th Place – Miss New Jersey
My Thinking: The hometown girl will certainly have the crowd on her side tonight. She has been very popular with the press, but in my opinion lacks the poise and tenacity necessary for the job of Miss America. Also, with the past two winners coming from the Northeast, the cards may be stacked against her. I see Miss New Jersey advancing to the evening gown round and then bowing out gracefully.
Why She Wins: A popular top 5 pick in Pageant circles. Stranger things have happened.
13th Place – Miss California
My Thinking: California is long overdue for a win, but I don’t think this is the girl who ends the drought. To quote a Fall-Out Boy song, she’s “a little too much Sixteen Candles and not enough ‘Touch Me.'” The whole Seaworld thing kinda creeps me out, too. That being said, there’s a lot here to like.
Why She Wins: Anyone who wins the Miss California Pageant has the potential to make waves in Atlantic City. No question that she is qualified for the job.
14th Place – Miss Pennsylvania
My Thinking: A preliminary talent winner with major league spunk. I’ll be very blunt about why I don’t see Miss Pennsylvania advancing beyond the early stages of the competition: the swimsuit and evening gown are just not there. A great talent won’t help her if she never makes it to that round.
Why She Wins: Her preliminary talent score and overall charisma give her just enough to make the Top 10. She then grabs the mic and delivers a heart-stopping, crown-winning performance.
15th Place – Miss Michigan
My Thinking: With a solid swimsuit and gown, she has probably done enough to slip into the finals. Her ultimate fate will be decided by her talent and interview.
Why She Wins: An inspirational story and platform. She overcame hearing difficulties to get here, so the long odds shouldn’t phase her.
16th Place – Miss South Carolina
My Thinking: Miss SC is a pageant girl’s pageant girl. Gorgeous, ultra-feminine, and with a laid-back demeanor, she is the epitome of easy-going Southern charm. I just don’t see enough poise and competitive fire in her to make her a real threat tonight in a super competitive field. She seems to be more or less along for the ride.
Why She Wins: As explained by one SC writer, Miss South Carolina “has a bright personality, a glamorous look and a strong, consistent talent. While a clogger may have never won Miss America, the energy and consistency in her routine will not be ignored by the judges. [She] also won a preliminary swimsuit award at the state level, so she will be strong in that area of competition.” Or, in the words of Lloyd Christmas, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
THE ONES WHO DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT
Miss South Dakota
My Thinking: This one was really hard. Here you have a stunningly beautiful girl with a very athletic build and a solid pedigree (she is a former Miss South Dakota Outstanding Teen). She oozes confidence and has the look of a winner. My hesitation here is mainly because she is from South Dakota. She is not the strongest contestant from the Dakotas that I’ve seen in the past five years, and none of those girls, inexplicably, made the finals. I’m also not sure she would be a great Miss America if chosen to serve. In short, I’ve been down this road before and I’m not taking the bait this time.
Why She Proves Me Wrong: The winner of an unofficial “Face of Miss America” poll, Miss South Dakota’s confidence and physical fitness could make a lasting impression on the judges.
My Thinking: Another tough cut to make. She certainly has the potential for a deep run, and is a former Miss Iowa Outstanding Teen. She also has the intangible “it” factor that draws judges like flies to honey. But her physical fitness is only average and the talent come off as a bit stiff. What really tipped the scales for me was an interview in which she talked about coming back to Iowa after the Miss America Pageant, as if she didn’t think she would. Maybe I am reading too much into that or maybe she was just being realistic. Either way, somebody needed to be cut.
Why She Proves Me Wrong: She has a suitcase full of poise and charm, and absolutely nothing to lose.
My Thinking: Would love to see her do well. If we were choosing who would make the best representative alone, she would be in my Top 5. I’ve read rave reviews about her intelligence and maturity. I just don’t think she passes the test from an aesthetic standpoint and no one will be blown away by hula dancing in this strong of a field.
Why She Proves Me Wrong: Judges put brains over brawn.
Miss District of Columbia
My Thinking: She’s from D.C. and is one of the less physically gifted contestants. Meanwhile, she has a solid talent, a wealth of connections, and several intangibles working in her favor. This all probably leaves her standing just outside the finals.
Why She Proves Me Wrong: Piano skills and positive attitude are good enough for government work.
My Thinking: Miss Alabama is a very obvious name missing from this list. She was America’s Outstanding Teen in 2007 (the teen equivalent of Miss America) and was also awarded the Quality of Life Award in this year’s competition. Unfortunately, none of the past nine QOL winners have placed in the Top 10, and 2007 is so seven years ago. She is perhaps the most polarizing figure among pageant followers, with some ranking her as the favorite and others painting as one of the least impressive candidates in the field. I personally tend to lean toward the latter category. My sense is that most of the hype is based on past achievements. I have not seen or read anything that would lead me to believe she deserves to make the finals. Not impressed by the body, dress, talent or intro video. Bottom line: I’ll believe it when I see it.
Why She Crashes The Party: Big time hype and a top notch pedigree make her one of the better candidates on paper. And did I mention she’s won a national pageant competition before?
My Thinking: Came very close to making my list of 20, but she’s a young girl and I had lingering questions about her maturity. Also a former Miss Connecticut Outstanding Teen, she has earned some serious acclaim in the preliminaries and is favored by many to take home the crown. I have no doubt that she will bring her game on stage; it’s off-stage that worries me. At 21 years old, her career ambition is to be a sports broadcaster for horse races. That just seem like a Miss America to me. I tend to lean toward candidates that I feel would make excellent representatives of our country, and while Miss Connecticut has a great sense of humor, I am not sure she has the passion and focus to fit that bill.
Why She Crashes The Party: A stand out contestant with serious pageant chops. She can hold her own with anyone on stage and has the look of a winner.
My Thinking: A preliminary talent winner that never caught my eye when I put together my initial list. Miss Kentucky is charming, down to earth, and obviously very talented. She has made serious waves with Pageant followers and is widely predicted to be a Top 5 finalist. I’m not sure how much of that is based on her talent award and how much is based on her overall appeal.
Why She Crashes The Party: Miss Kentucky is the type of girl that has slipped by me in the past. I might have missed this one.
Miss New York
My Thinking: Similar to Miss Alabama, I just have not seen anything from her that would make her stand out. I also think there will be an inevitable bias against her since New York has won the past two Pageants. And in comparison with her recent predecessors, she seems very ordinary to say the least. Her talent (which apparently involves tapping a cup) has been widely criticized. New York has been spoiled enough lately; it’s time for other states to get a shot.
Why She Crashes The Party: The Miss New York Organization is obviously doing something right.
My Thinking: Yes, I realize she is the only person to serve as Miss Wisconsin twice. She is also a healthy 24 years old and seeking a Master’s degree in philanthropy. I can’t point out any flaws, but I’m just not feeling it given the other options out there. They can’t all be winners, now can they?
Why She Crashes The Party: Miss Wisconsin is a seasoned vet who will be competing in front of one of her home state judges, Donald Driver.
That’s it, folks! I hope you are primed and ready for the show. I will probably update again late tonight or tomorrow (given how late the Pageant usually ends). Good luck and may your favorites do well!