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This past Saturday night while much of America was watching the 49ers destroy the Packers, several millon of us were watching the Miss America pageant (Beth made me watch–that’s my story). While it was another successful installment of the prestigious pageant, it featured a few “you gotta be kidding me” moments.

Including this one:

That’s Miss Iowa Mariah Cary (yes, that’s her name, and no, she didn’t sing Dream Lover or Hero for the talent part, much to my disappointment) mixing up her words and advocating for recreational marijuana use.

The world of social media had a field day with this and several other moments throughout the show. To be honest, the Twittersphere was brutal on the show and the girls. The snark levels were at all-time highs last Saturday night.

So to add some balance, I contacted Courtney Porter, a fellow church member from our church in Birmingham who was Miss Alabama 2011, and asked her if she’d be willing to do a quick interview for the blog. She was gracious and agreed to help me out.

Social media provides for almost immediate feedback for the pageant. To be honest, for much of the night it wasn’t the kind of feedback the organizers wanted—especially during the talent portion. Are the contestants aware of this after the fact? Does potential social media feedback increase the pressure on the contestants?

Every girl gets feedback from MANY sources throughout her year.  It is difficult to stay away from the various opinions so many people form about you just by watching you from a distance throughout the year, and in particular your week at Miss America.  Each contestant has to make a conscious effort to make sure to listen to those who truly know her and have her best interests at heart.  It would be incredibly easy to get discouraged and defeated if a contestant is to base her self-worth and quality of performance on total strangers who share their opinions on the internet (whether it be facebook. twitter, mesasage boards, etc) It definitely has the potential to add pressure to the contestant and her level of competition, but only if she allows it.  I am a firm believer that everyone has their opinions, but that didn’t mean I had to listen to them.  If nothing else, I would use negative comments as fuel to prove that I had what it took to be successful at Miss America.

Of the two major pageants, Miss America has always been by far the classier of the two—in fact, the other has always had a made-for-tv image it is yet to shed. Are you concerned that the new edgier intros and in-show stunts (doughnuts anyone?) might be diminishing the image of the Miss America pageant?

While I understand the importance of ratings in the entertainment industry, I do think Miss America could stand on its own should it be given the chance.  Miss America has such a legacy of class, integrity, and poise throughout the country that I think it is a shame we lose sight of that just to make sure more people watch the pageant than the NFL football game that is in the same time slot on a different channel.  The intros do not bother me because that is a fun aspect of the show where we get to know a little bit more about the contestants.  However, the fact that the pageant is becoming more of a reality show (which let’s face it, ANYBODY can sign up for a reality show these days) than the elite competition among the most well-rounded, beautiful, intelligent, and philanthropic women around the nation- is a shame.  Miss America stands for style, service, scholarship, and success.  These are the qualities that should be highlighted for the country to see.  It is all about educating the public about an incredible opportunity for young women to be able to obtain scholarship money and better themselves along the way.

For many viewers, there is a slight bit of confusion regarding the scoring and event order. While the preliminary competition (not televised) determines who makes the cut at the beginning of the night. However the stated scoring and the cuts after each event doesn’t seem to provide for a fair experience in the finals. For example, neither you nor Anna Laura Bryan were able to compete in talent. Maybe if talent and evening wear were reversed, you or Anna could have placed. It’s like eliminating athletes in the olympic decathlon before their best event. Why not let all finalists compete in every round?

While this is a great question, it seems that this issue lies within the time alloted for the pageant in the television lineup.  At the State level, all finalists are able to compete in every phase of competition, with the exception of on-stage question.  This phase of competition is reserved strictly for the top 5. There is more information on the judging process at  This spells it all out.

One more question on the scoring. Other than the talent portion, viewers at home are probably looking at different criteria for who has done well and who has not. In each round, what are the judges looking for? 

Interview is always the first area of competition.  This gives the judges the best opportunity to get to know each contestant on a personal level.  What she stands for, how she conducts herself, what her beliefs are, who she is as an individual, etc.  They are able to ask the contestant anything they wish.  This area of competition is the most nerve-wracking of all.  However, it is also the best opportunity you get to let a panel see how real and relatable you are as a human being.  That is the most important aspect of the competition.  The judges are looking for someone who is relatable, relevant, confident, a role model, and someone who is driven to make a difference in the world she lives in.  She has to be well-rounded and not necessarily the best in all categories- but the most consistent across the board.

Swimsuit- These judges are looking for someone who is confident in her own skin.  No matter what Miss Alabama/America is wearing, she has to be confident and comfortable.  She should be able to practice healthy eating habits, exercise regulary, and balance a full-time job of appearances with a healthy lifestyle.

Talent- Many times, Miss Alabama/America is asked to entertain an audience.  To ensure that she is able to do so, the talent competition exists.  Although Miss Alabama/America does more speaking than performing, many times she is asked to do both.  The judges are looking for creativity, showmanship, stage presence, and charisma.  They are also told to judge the performance based on the premise of “Would you pay to see it again?”  Talent is important and another way to show your personality, individuality, and interests to an audience. This is one characteristic that sets the Miss America Organization apart from the rest.

Evening Gown- Miss Alabama/America is asked to attend many “red carpet” events during her year.  This is an excellent opportunity for the judges to see the glamorous/sohpisticated side of each contestant.  The judges are looking for poise, posture, carriage, and grace in this phase of competition.  Sense of style really shines through during the evening gown competition.

On-Stage question- This area of conpetition exists solely to see how the contestant responds to pressure.  Answering a question in front of a live audience, and get judged on it, can be an intimidaing experience. Miss Alabama/America will be participating in many interviews and she should be ablet o formulate an answer on the spot.  The judges are looking for conviction, confidence, knowledge of self, and execution in this phase of competition.

Again, the winner doesn’t have to be the best in all categories, but the most consistent across the board.

Many in the television viewing audience only see Miss America once a year—the night of the pageant. Others may see her in once or twice at a local appearance. So what does the rest of the year look like for the winner?

Mallory will start a whirlwind of a year immediately after having the crown placed on her head.  In fact, she had 3 live television appearances the following Monday in New York City.  There is a great deal of traveling making appearances all over the country.  She will be promoting her personal platform “Stop it Now: Child Sexual Abuse Prevention”  as well as the national platform of the Miss America Organization which is Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. She will be promoting the numerous sponsors of the Miss America Organization, especially Artistry by Amway who funds the $50,000 scholarship Miss America is awarded along with her new crown, sash, and title. There will be speaking appearances, fundraising events, sporting events, fashion shows, photo shoots, and much much more. There is very little down-time for Miss America and before she knows it, the year will be over.  The year of service for any state titleholder is an incredible experience with countless opportunities to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t, participate in events you otherwise wouldn’t, and open doors for future endeavors.  It truly is the experience of a lifetime.

With the rise of “pageant-mom” shows, what would you tell to a young mother wanting to enter her daughter into pageants but who is concerned with the often unflattering image portrayed through the media?

My number one piece of advice to a young mom who wants her child to do pageants is to make sure it is something the child enjoys.  I know that in today’s society little girls are forced to grow up prematurely as it is.  I know as a child, I wasn’t even allowed to wear makeup until 7th grade.  This is something that has gotten away from society, Unfortunately, there are so many women that look past the well-being of their child to get their 15 minutes of fame, and this breaks my heart. As long as the pageant is seen as a productive and positive way to earn money for college, gain self-esteem, and help the child learn interpersonal skills- I see nothing wrong with it.  I, however, didn’t compete in a pageant until my sophomore year in high school.  Therefore, I do not believe a child has to start at an early age in order to achieve her dreams of competing for Miss America one day.

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