Spork Dresses and Smiles: The Ladies of Tonight's Miss America Pageant


It’s possible you may have been going about your business entirely unaware that one of those rare calendar events is upon us. Much like the appearance of Halley’s comet or the upcoming convergence of Thanksgiving and Chanukah, Sunday night marks the second Miss America pageant of 2013.

I know, right? Mind: blown.

I was, naturally, in Vegas last January, where I watched Miss New York Mallory Hagan tap dance her way to the crown. And then the Miss America powers that be went and got all crazy on us. After an almost eight-year sojourn in Sin City that will no doubt go down as something akin to the Pam Ewing-realizing-it-was-all-a-dream episode of Dallas, the pageant announced it was headed back to its longstanding home in Atlantic City. And to its traditional mid-September date. (Pageant in September, corn be heavy soon, isn’t it? Or is that something else? Never mind.)

So here we are, just eight months later, all abuzz with excitement over who will win the coveted tiara. I mean scholarship. One of the umpteen aspiring broadcast journalists? The Princeton student? The clogger? The “electro-acoustic violinist?” Or one of the two – count ‘em! – Bollywood dancers? Personally, I’m waiting for the day contestants start embracing more contemporary talents like Candy Crush and competitive hot dog eating. But I digress.

Unfortunately, convincing my long-suffering husband that I needed to attend two Miss America pageants in the course of a year may have been a bit much. So I’ll be watching from my living room Sunday night, drinking cosmos with my girlfriends and probably doing some live-tweeting. But just as I do every year, I have scoured the field, sifted through the buzz, and analyzed what awaits us. And that included spending embarrassing amounts of time in the amazing Voy forums, where people know and care more about the Miss America pageant than you ever thought humanly possible, so you’re welcome. (In the forums, comments like “Georgia is everything for me. Everything,” and “Any list without CA and VA is HIGHLY SUSPECT,” and “It is laughable – ludicrous – that anybody could call either VA or NJ consistent” are par for the course. Not to mention: “I haven’t seen this look on a contestant’s face since Kirsten [Haglund, Miss America 2008] in swimsuit. I gotta tell ya…I can see it in her eyes. I think she may have this folks.”)

The mainstream media has already pounced on the tattooed, squirrel-cooking Army sergeant Miss Kansas who aspires to be a prosthodontist (a sentence I feel very confident has never, ever once been uttered before this very moment) and the pretty Miss Iowa who was born with one arm, but don’t you worry your pretty little head. I’ll tell you everything you really need to know.

Like…is there a classical pianist who will ham it up while wearing a thigh-skimming, backless, sequined evening gown? CHECK. That would be Miss Wisconsin.

Did Miss New Hampshire win a preliminary talent competition while wearing a dress perhaps best described by my friend Hilary as looking like “Rainbow Brite threw up”? Why, yes. Yes, she did.

Did Miss Florida go through with her baton twirling routine despite being in a knee brace after tearing her ACL in rehearsal? Yuppers! AND SHE WON. You go, girl!

Bonus question: Is her name Myrrhanda Jones? Or course it is. (Very Bible-meets-Sex And The City.)

Does Miss Virgin Islands intend to dazzle us with a combination of baton, hoop, AND flag twirling? Um, duh! WHILE IN TOE SHOES, YO!

Is the spork dress still alive and well? Of course it is. God bless Miss Iowa.

…And Miss Virginia.

Herewith some other musings on the field:

Quizzical Headshot For Which the Caption Should Be, “I Don’t Know. Do You Think I Should Be Miss America?” Miss AR. The only thing missing is a shoulder shrug.

Headshot Most Likely To One Day Be Pored Over, Framed, on a Table on The Bachelor set: Miss Georgia, aka JV Jessica Simpson.

Runner-ups: Miss WV and Miss TN.

Most Likely To Be on the Real Housewives Franchise: Miss Montana.

The Pantene ™ Hair Volume Award: Miss Illinois

The Pantene ™ Hair Volume Honorable Mention: Miss Pennsylvania

The “Watch What You Do With Those Things!” Biggest Earrings Award: Miss Maine

The Old School Pageant Throwback Award: Miss North Carolina

Best Eyebrows: No contest. Miss New York.

Contestant Who Just May Have Been a Little Goth in High School: Miss Missouri.

The Vonda Kay Van Dyke Honorary “Best Miss America Name” Award. I’m sad to report that with the exception of Indiana’s Terrin Zoe Thomas and New Mexico’s Alexis Victoria Duprey, there was an underwhelming showing amongst three-named contestants this year. So I’m giving the award to Miss AL, Chandler Champion (at left), with honorable mention to Miss Nebraska, JaCee Pilkington and Miss South Dakota, Tessa Dee. And Props to Jezebel commenter Allibgood, from whom I learned the awesome Create Your Own Pageant Name game: Characteristic associated with femininity plus single syllable female name plus Presidential last name. That’s Perky May Van Buren to you, ok?

Academic Credential Perhaps Best Left Off the Ol’ Resume: Miss NH won a Burger King scholarship, while Miss NV’s bio boasts that she was her intermediate school valedictorian. Miss ND — bless her heart! — lists “accelerated math placement,” and Miss WA graduated high school with AP credits.

Most Adorably Named Platform Issue: Oh, so many to choose from here! The plays on the words! The clever rhymes! But we’re singling out NH’s “Kick Butts: Tobacco Education and Prevention,” and MS’ hunger themed “Full Plates: Healthy States.”

Platform Names So Grammatically Jacked That Somewhere, Fifth Grade Teachers Are Weeping: This field was alarmingly packed this year, but the hands down winner has to beMiss DC, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UNC, who went with “Makeup’s Should Be Makeup.” I mean, I…can’t even. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Runner ups: Miss PR’s yodalike “Children’s Neglect and Abuse, Preventing with Love,” (OK, OK, maybe English is not her first language?) Miss AL’s “Chandler’s Challenge: Reading is Believing – Don’t Stop Believing” and Miss UT, with “Child Sexual Abuse; Recognition and Recovery.” (My platform? Friends Don’t Let Friends Abuse Semicolons.) And a special grammar police shoutout to Miss Virgin Islands, whose bio tells us she attends the “Universitty of The Virgin Islands.” Proofreading matters, people.

So tune in tonight on ABC, won’t you? Because, well, because…this:

Oh, and if you’re keeping track at home, my picks for the Top 15:

  • IOWA

America’s choice, voted in by fans: KANSAS

On the bubble:


Jennifer Mendelsohn is a seasoned journalist and ghostwriter. She currently serves as one of Us Weekly’s Fashion Police “Top Cops” and helped TV star and fashion guru Carson Kressley pen his New York Times best-selling style manual Off the Cuff. Mendelsohn was a longtime Washington, DC-based special correspondent for People and wrote the satirical “Keeping Tabs” column for Slate. Be sure and follow her on Twitter during the pageant!

Images via The Official Miss America Facebook page and MissAmerica.org.

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