I normally have friends over to watch Miss America (this year will just be me and my men though); they often wonder how I so accurately predict members of the Top 15 at the start of the pageant. I have two "insider" tips: 1) Follow who wins the preliminaries during pageant week; 2) Read some pageant message boards. 1) This year saw six preliminary winners. I believe, and many agree, that the Pageant is won in the interview room on Monday. If the judges like you, they are more likely to give you a boost during other phases of the preliminary competition (like swimsuit). So it's a fair bet that at least half of these women (UT, WI, TX, OK, NY and HI) will make Top 15. (I REALLY hope HI makes it far enough into tonight's live broadcast so that we get to see her jump rope talent routine that actually won the prelim-- last year people made fun of AR ventriloquism act and it was actually impressive!). NY, TX, and OK have been especially hyped, so I'd say they are good bets, and I also expect WI to be there. 30% of tonight's results are based on the contestants "composite" score from prelims, so these winners tend to not only make Top 15, but go deep (rest of score is 20% swimsuit, 20% evening gown, and 30% talent).
Miss KY won the Quality of Life award, based on her platform, and she has some pageant links (former Miss America 2000 Heather French Henry is apparently a close family friend-- a fact that seems especially relevant if you read this hilarious Jezebel take on this year's crop of contestants, since Henry's husband is a former lieutenant governor of KY).
2) Certain states get talked up a lot on pageant message boards (I find this Voy board, Pageant Central, funny at times, and they will run a live Pageant chat, if you are interested.) Many of the prelim winners have been Internet standouts from the start. Other "hyped" contestants include CO (daughter of former Miss America), SC (media darling for weight loss story), AZ, GA, IA, and NH. I would love to see NH go far and perhaps bring home the crown to New England, though this is probably less likely (while I enjoyed seeing Miss MA crowned in July, I don't think this is the year MA will *finally* get the crown). I personally think GA and IA have the Miss America "look," but don't know how far she will make it.
Carston and I have been studying this year's Program and here are a few random observations he wanted me to share with you:
* As I've mentioned, Miss Colorado, Diana Dreman, is the first daughter of a former Miss America to compete. I found it interesting that in her mom's "former" update the same picture is used that appears on Diana's contestant page. I guess they don't want people to forget...
* I also wonder if there will soon be another daughter competing. Miss America 1988, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, has a daughter who is Miss Monroe County (MI) Outstanding Teen 2011. (Note that Miss NJ, who could also be a contender, was Miss NJ Outstanding Teen in 2008.)
* Standouts OK, TX, and SC have the most ads in the program book.
* At first I thought saying that Miss OK was first Oklahoman to medal at All-Ireland Irish Dance Championships was a bit much (especially in light of Jig). But then she won talent, so perhaps she is quite amazing!
* NY would appear to be the most academically advanced/accomplished (like the reigning Miss A, who is only 17 and was homeschooled until her senior year of high school). NY was accepted to college at 16 and finished at 19; she is now 22.
*I found it fascinating that Miss VI, who goes to Barnard, listed Keeping Up with the Kardashians as her favorite show in the program book. Why? Well, because Kris Jenner is a judge!
Hope you feel more prepared to watch tonight and pick out some of these early standouts during the parade of states (my FAVORITE part of the pageant). Carston is all ready, with belles on! I hope to write more early next week with my thoughts on the final result. Until then, enjoy singing "There she is, Miss America, there she is, your ideal..."