It's both a somber and celebratory day on which to hold the Miss America finals: September 11th. As much as people can criticize (with some validity, granted) various aspects of the Miss America program, remember that we are a country where women can decide to parade on live TV in skimpy bikinis while wearing the equivalent of 8-inch heels (with those platforms I refer to them as "stripper shoes"), or remain full covered. The fact we have a choice is what I embrace about America. In any case, it's been a relatively quiet build-up. The only "big" story this year is Miss Missouri, the first open lesbian to compete on the Miss America stage. I want to add, because it hasn't really been covered, that statistically speaking it is *highly* unlikely that Erin O'Flaherty is the first lesbian to compete on the Miss America stage. It's also possible that a former Miss America is a lesbian. O'Flaherty isn't the first out Miss America contestant, but she is the first to win a state title. In 2013 Analouisa Valencia competed at Miss South Carolina, for example.
There have been other minor stories (Miss Michigan competed in evening gown in a jumpsuit; only one contestant, Miss New Hampshire, a Type I diabetic, competed in a one-piece swimsuit), but nothing that stands out to the more general public, or even pageant insiders from what I can tell.
With all that said, here are my picks for the Top 15, in no particular order. You can see all 52 contestants here.
- Missouri- For reasons mentioned above I can't imagine she will be left out, perhaps as the voted in "People's Choice." Though I don't think she'll go deep.
- Michigan- Ditto, but she also won preliminary talent, and I DO expect her to go deep. But not win, likely too outspoken for what Organization wants to recover from some bad press from the outgoing queen this year.
- DC- Won prelim swimsuit, cute, apparently good speaker, but can't see her winning given similarities with Miss USA this year
- Maryland- Very beautiful, won prelim swimsuit as well, singing patriotic song for talent (good choice for tonight)
- Arkansas- People were surprised she won a prelim talent, but it wasn't awful and was certainly entertaining. And her name! "Savvy Shields" was born to be a beauty queen...
- South Carolina- Was Miss America's Outstanding Teen, strong dancer, gorgeous, needs to step up on stage presence to win, but definitely a contender for me
- Georgia- Seems strong all around, would be back-to-back win for state which I don't see happening right now
- New York- Intriguing, always send strong contestants
- Oklahoma- Ditto Miss New York
- Alabama- Won a ton of lesser prelim awards
- Alaska- I simply find something about her interesting
- Idaho- Won Miss Sweetheart last year (though in some ways that hurts her-- a story for another time!), but good dancer, and I like the red hair
- New Jersey- I judged her a few years ago and then thought, "She looks like a classic Miss America." She switched talent from dancing to singing, so not sure what to think there... Sentimental choice then!
- Mississippi- I just hear her name a lot, no other reason.
- OHIO- As of right now, if I had to choose a single name to win, this is it. From the NIGHT SHE WON HER STATE, I picked her. Strong talent (singer, which is easier when Miss A travels), beautiful, won prelim swimsuit. Young, but I think they want that this year...
Note I am leaving one other prelim winner off my list, TN. Prelims are super important indicators, but not always. And I didn't like her in evening gown. [edited: TN WON TALENT! Whoops! Ok, I still just didn't feel performance enough)
To see why swimsuit prelims don't matter as much look at the scoring breakdown, and you'll see why I put all three talent winners in.
"Composite" is the part of the score that carries over from prelims, especially when a new set of "celebrity" judges come in today who didn't do the 10-minute interview with each contestant (but they do watch videos of finalists). Unclear to me who gives the composite score this year-- prelim or final night panel. Anyone know?
Also, for the record, if only Miss Puerto Rico would make the talent cut, she would BREAK THE INTERNET. (Note the video comment, total bummer, trust me.)
EDITED WITH RESULTS: I did well, and yet I didn't. I predicted only 8 of the Top 15, not bad, but not great. What was more shocking is that THREE of the prelim winners didn't make the cut, and they were three that were on almost everyone's watch lists (Ohio [my pick!], Michigan, and DC). That said I picked FOUR of the five finalists, so that seems very good. I totally missed Washington all the way around. Very interested fact as reported by Pageant Junkies is that those same four finalists were all Outstanding Teen participants. Not sure if this is causal, a selection effect, or a mix of both, but it is certainly noteworthy.
Not at all surprised by the winner, thought deserving. Just the name still gets me!
And I must say (in addition to all my Twitter comments), I was strangely uncomfortable that they played the new Daya hit, "Sit Still, Look Pretty" during the (abysmally rated, only 6 million, a sure sign should be moved back to Saturday nights!) live broadcast.