Miss America 2016: Your not-so-serious, totally informative guide


On Sunday evening, 52 young women will compete to become Miss America 2016. And if there were any doubt that the venerable 95-year-old institution operates in a segment of ultra white bread America that has little overlap with my own universe, the fact that the pageant is being held on the first night of Rosh Hashanah pretty much seals the deal. (Did no one involved realize that this might exclude some people? What would Bess Myerson say?)

The unfortunate timing means that I won’t be traveling to Atlantic City to watch the proceedings in person, as I have in years past. My resentment at the pageant’s oversight notwithstanding, I hereby present my annual look at the field of contenders for the illustrious Miss America crown. (Right now my money’s on Miss South Carolina, for what it’s worth, in no small part because she is mellifluously named Daja Dial.) And if you’re still holding on to the illusion that Miss America is a scholarship organization, do yourself a favor and watch John Oliver’s brilliant skewering of that pretense. Here we go!

Contestant Who Appears to Have Been Dressed at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Disney World: Miss North Dakota.

Talent We Must See to Believe: Miss Vermont, who’ll be doing a “Dramatic Science Experiment.” We can only hope it’s like that Brady Bunch episode where Peter’s volcano exploded all over Marcia’s friends. Word on the street is that she wears rhinestoned eye protection for this performance. As one does.

Runners up: Miss Delaware, who plans to twirl a baton while tap dancing, and Miss DC, who has a “postmodern jukebox version of a Taylor Swift song.” Which is apparently a thing.

Most Likely to Host a Local News Entertainment Segment: Miss Alabama. She actually wants to be the head of student affairs at a university. But come on. Her name is “Meg McGuffin,” which might as well be Perky McPerkerson for God’s sake.

Runner up: Miss New Mexico, who looks like she should have an “Action News” logo right behind her.

Most Unfortunate Name for a Beauty Pageant: Miss Kentucky won “Miss Horse Capital of the World.” In other news, can we please discuss what kind of voodoo goes on in pageantland that churns out photographs of 17-year-old girls that make them look like 45 year old HR professionals? In what universe does this girl look 17?

Platform Title Most in Need of an Editor: Miss Pennsylvania’s “Strong Women, Strong Girls Mentoring Organization: Impacting Our Communities…One Girl at a Time,” which could actually be four different platforms for all the punctuation it uses. We’d also like to recognize Miss Utah for brevity, for a platform simply entitled “Live Well.” That’s one pretty much everyone can get behind.

Cutesiest Platform: Miss America contestants just luuuurve to give their platforms names that rhyme or involve plays on words. But the winner in this category is Miss Louisiana, who went with “I.O.U. –Improving Others Through U!”

Contestant You Should Probably Feel a Teensy Bit Bad For: Miss New York.

Not because she’s not super adorable – she is! – but because the Empire State has brought home the crown for three years running. THREE YEARS RUNNING. I guess she couldn’t just not show. But seriously, she has no chance, right? If I were her, I’d dress in a bear costume and make my talent something like drinking from a beer bong.

Headshot That Most Looks Likes It Was Taken at an Olan Mills Portrait Studio: Miss Oregon.

The “I’m So Sorry, Honey, But You’re 33 Years Late For The 1983 Pageant” Award: Miss Wisconsin. But we hear there are openings for lounge singers on the Love Boat, so there’s that.

The Please Step Away From the Photoshop Award: to Miss Michigan, who is so airbrushed she looks like a video game avatar. Also: props on the earrings.

Contestants Who Aspire to Run for Congress Whose Cleavage is Probably best Left Off Campaign Posters: Miss Virginia

…and Miss Rhode Island, who also looks as though she’s no stranger to Bibbidi Bobbidi.

Honorable cleavage mention: Miss DC, who, despite hailing from the nation’s capital, actually does not plan to run for Congress. Her bio says she wants to be the communications director for the Kennedy Center. Or a professional stuntwoman. Because who hasn’t been tugged in those two directions?

Looks Most Likely to Have Been in That University of Alabama Sorority Recruitment Video: Miss Florida, who has already won a preliminary swimsuit competition.

Runners up: Miss California

and Miss West Virginia, who’s got a little Sarah Jessica Parker thing going on.

Most Impressive Statement Earrings: Miss America contestants love them some colorful doorknockers. But special props to Miss Colorado.

Are they pineapples? Shrinky Dinks? Are they Christmas tree ornaments? Wiccan symbols? Where can we get some? We must know.

Runners up (and there are several): Miss Kansas

Miss Illinois, who appears slightly disappointed to be part of the proceedings.

Miss Pennsylvania

…and Miss Missouri.

Contestant Who Shockingly Actually Looks Like a College Student: In a sea of 20-year-olds done up to look like middle-aged anchorwomen, Miss Indiana is a breath of fresh air. We totally just texted her to get the notes for Art History.

Favorite Clogger Who Aspires to be a Dental Hygienist: OK, so maybe she’s the only clogger who aspires to be a dental hygienist, but you gotta love Miss Maine. Bonus points for her platform, which involves giving children capes. I don’t know. Kids. Capes. What’s not to like?

Headshot That Most Looks Like It’s From a Feminine Hygiene or Pharmaceutical Product Ad: Miss Massachusetts. Related: IS THAT BEDAZZLING?

Best Recreation of a 1990s Glamour Shot: Miss Nevada.

Honorable mention: Miss North Carolina, who also wins bounciest hair.

And now, some celebrity doppelgangers:

Miss Oklahama = former Bachelorette Andi Dorfman

Miss Tennessee = Maria Menounos

Miss Washington = Michelle Obama

Miss Nebraska = Jewel

Miss Arkansas = Eva Longoria

That’s all, pageant fans. L’Shana Tovah!

Images via Miss America Organization.

Jennifer Mendelsohn is a Baltimore-based journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, People, Slate, Tablet, McSweeney’s and Jezebel.

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