Miss America 2012, Part 2 (The Pageantry of the Pageant)

As promised, here are some of my thoughts on this year's Miss America Pageant. 1) This year's Pageant was a real Pageant, complete with an entertaining production. The crowning moment of Miss Wisconsin, Laura Kaeppeler, captured this well.

Yes, those are mascara-tinged black tears running down her face.

My first reaction via Twitter (I LOVED live-tweeting the Pageant this year) was that this was a major pageant faux pas. I mean, we have waterproof mascara and/or false eyelashes for a reason. But upon further reflection I feel that this Tammy Faye Baker-esque moment was actually pretty amazing and encapsulates the return to glamor I think marked the 2012 Pageant.  What says pageantry more than too much make-up? And, what says pageantry more than a dramatic crowning moment? I mean, the black streaks didn't approach reality starlet Lauren Conrad-level of black streaks, but combined with that completely ridiculous crowning bouquet, the whole picture is deliciously over-the-top.

I also think that most of the Top 16 (exception Miss Alabama, who I TOTALLY didn't get, but more on her below) were a glamorous and beautiful bunch. It was one of the best Top 5s in recent memory. And more people than usual got to see it.  Apparently the number of viewers grew over the two-hour broadcast, which some attribute to the blowout in the Patriots-Broncos game (One of my most popular Tweets during the Pageant/football game was: "Switching between Pats game and #MissAmerica. It's not fair that Tom Brady is prettier than pretty much all the contestants.").  Interestingly, I've always said that pageantry and football are good female/male counterparts to one another; and, as I've written about elsewhere, parents have a better chance of having a son play in the Superbowl (don't get any ideas Little Man!) than having a daughter compete in the Miss America Pageants.

2) Speaking of the Top 5, my pre-Pageant predictions were pretty much spot-on.  It was clear based on preliminary winners (including the final two standing, WI and OK), that the judges picked early faves and stuck with them.

I predicted four of the Top 5 (AZ, OK, WI, and NY) so I feel like a cemented my status as a pageant prognosticator for the next year!

[Note: I find it fascinating when looking at this picture (though the fact that the crown is askew bothers me!) that three of the five are wearing white dresses (but, good Lord, don't get me started on NY's strange gown with that thigh-high slit, pointy boob neckline, and those awful earrings) and AZ's silver/nude is pretty neutral as well. Miss WI/America's black dress really helps her stand out.  She claimed her dress reminded her of Kate Middleton's wedding dress, a comparison I still don't get beyond the color difference.]

3) While I did enjoy this year's Pageant quite a bit, there were two things I disliked.  Well, the first thing I HATED. That would be the way that the Top 12/13 was formed. Based on judges' scores three contestants were eliminated.  Then, in a "twist," the other "eliminated" contestants were able to vote one of them back in.  How? Well they had to physically line up behind one of them.  Seriously. It was like an awkward game of playground dodgeball where instead of throwing balls, pointy and painful crowns were hurled instead.  And, of course, Miss AL who was voted back in was immediately eliminated again by the judges who clearly had already eliminated her. A humiliating exercise for all involved.

Similarly, I still dislike the way the Talent portion has been handled the past few years.  The hosts announce the contestants only seconds before they are expected to perform, which makes it really hard to be prepared whether you are a dancer, singer, or musician.  Most people love the talent part (which sometimes can be deliciously awful-- Memory sung in Italian by Miss TN this year anyone?!), so why not just make it standard for all the Top 10 and let them know in advance?

I understand that the Pageant is trying to add in more reality TV elements. However let's not forget that, really, Miss America was the first television reality show.  As such, it is the Grande Dame of reality programming. Miss America, please conduct yourself with a bit more integrity and gravitas. Next year, drop these awful elements!

One thing I would like to see included more in the live broadcast is the contestants' platforms.  For example, the winner, Miss WI, had a very interesting platform about providing support to children with parents in prison, inspired by her personal experience.  This is clearly part of the reason the judges loved her, but the casual viewer at home wasn't at all privy to her interesting story.  If platforms aren't used at all in the Saturday night broadcast, why have them at all?

It will be interesting to follow Miss America 2012 throughout her reign this year to see how she manages to continue to incorporate her platform with the business of beauty Miss America calls for. And to see when she starts using waterproof mascara.