While there weren’t any accidental mis-crownings during Sunday’s live show [cue the aw-shucks-where’s-Steve-Harvey], the Miss America 2017 pageant did set a new record: Arkansas now has its third winner since the pageant began in 1921.
Savvy Shields, Miss Arkansas, strutted her way quite literally through the Top 52 and into the cup-hand-waving winner’s circle. She said her life’s philosophy has always been to believe her best day is still yet to come; that optimism obviously paid off big-time for the wannabe Beyoncé backup dancer when she won this year’s crown along with a $50,000 college scholarship.
Also raking in some scholarship loot were the competition runners-up, who get more than just the consolation prize pack of flowers to take home with them tonight:
But there were some other prizes they forgot to hand out during the contest, so to make up for the snubbery, here’s who else won the night, by our measure:
Weirdest state claim to fame: With respect to Miss Wyoming touting her state’s plethora of hot cowboys (how’s *that* for a tourism booster) and Miss New Mexico paying homage to her homestead’s delivery of Neil Patrick Harris to the world, we’ve gotta give this one to Miss Illinois, who overlooked the state’s many ordinary accomplishments — the sitting President being a former Senator there, Chicago-style pizza, OPRAH — and bragged about her home state being the HQ for John Deere tractors.
Best letdown reaction: Per usual, the cuts were fast and furious from the very get-go on tonight’s competition, as a whopping 37 women were given the cut almost immediately. Props are in order for Miss Minnesota, though, because she successfully led three dozen other castaways in an, um, spirited a cappella rendition of Shania Twain’s “Man I Feel Like a Woman.” Everyone grieves differently under most circumstances, but for these twinning women, it was all about sharing in a sisterhood of smiling (and here, singing) through the sadness. Well played, ladies.
Best H/T to her celebrity look-alike: Miss California, Jessa Carmack, said The Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev was her style inspiration — and lo and behold, that’s pretty much exactly who she looked like during the evening-wear portion of the evening. Maybe now that this is all over, she can audition for one of the 11 billion Elena Gilbert doppelgänger gigs on that show’s final season?
Most disturbing Disney reference: Miss Mississippi went to a very unsettling place when she talked about the inspiration for her evening wear, saying she was looking for some kind of a sexy-garb morph between Cinderella and Elsa from Frozen when she picked out her silvery white gown. It’s not even Halloween yet, Mississippi. Geez.
Most surprisingly awesome song selection: The talent portion was a mixed bag of ear-splitting octave reaches (and holdddddddds forrrrrrrrr daysssssss), impressive dance routines that had Olympic gymnastics’ golden girl Gabby Douglas smiling, and, yes, even the requisite baton-twirling number — where else would you get to see that? Miss Iowa takes the cake, though, for picking the most shockingly awesome soundtrack to her stage play by picking the theme music from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and owning her plank-proof ballet bit. Aye aye, matey.
Best unintentional question prep: Former Miss South Carolinas haven’t always been so on-point in the lightning question round, but Rachel Wyatt was pretty much made for the question she drew from former Miss America-turned-judge Sharlene Wells Hawkes. When asked about the nation’s immigration issues, she could speak from experience — her own grandfather was part-Japanese. It was the first of several, surprisingly epic mic drops these girls pulled out in the 20-second speed-chat series, followed by the call from Miss New York, Camille Sims, for “celebrating all people from all backgrounds.” Heavy stuff, but consider it handled by these two ladies.
Best judge reaction: This show would have probably benefited from a picture-in-picture feature giving viewers an uninterrupted pan on Ciara’s face throughout the competition, but it was Mark Cuban who gets the accidental reaction of the night, as he was shown licking his lips after Miss Massachusetts got it done in her blue-swimsuit stride sesh. He looked like a shark ready to bite… Oh wait, that’s another show.