by MIKE CHAIKEN
The first night of preliminary competitions for Miss America, and the first night of the revamped structure of the competition dubbed Miss America 2.0 is over.
On Sunday night, the audience that arrived at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. saw the first fruits of the latest evolution of format, in which the emphasis was put on talent (with it counting for 50 percent of the final score as opposed to 25 percent in the past).
Contestants also spoke a lot on stage. There was the onstage interview (in which many contestants opted to skirt the lack of an evening gown category this year by wearing spectacular dresses for the segment). Additionally, the candidates – typically dressed in pantsuits or other office appropriate attire – and made a pitch for their social impact initiative. Miss America has likened the new segment to “Shark Tank” or “TED Talks.”
All segments of the preliminary competition unfolded without the presence of press cameras – video or still- this year.
The private interview with judges occurred behind closed doors in the days proceeding the public portion of the Miss America competition.
Jillian Duffy, Miss Connecticut, participated in the talent competition on Sunday. On Monday night, Duffy was slated to compete in the on-stage question and the social impact initiative pitch. Her pitch will be about “Jillian’s Journey: Pediatric Cancer Research.”
The winners for Sunday’s preliminary event were: on stage question, New Jersey’s Jade Glab; private interview, Michigan’s Mallory Rivard; and talent went to Georgia’s Victoria Hill, who sang an opera piece.
At a post-competition press conference, Rivard said the new Miss America 2.0 plays to her strengths as a candidate for the national title. “I think Miss America 2.0 is all about being yourself and I really embodied that in my personal interview by just being who I was.”
“I am a first-grade teacher and I work full time that was something that was really important to me,” said Rivard. “I didn’t want to give that up in order to be the best Miss Michigan I could be. I felt I could do both and I think that in an era of Miss America 2.0, we need to show that women who are working full time can do it too.”
Glab said “One of the things about 2.0 that I embraced and loved is we can really be out of the box. That’s one thing I talked a lot about in interview is that I’m very out of the box. I consider my social impact initiative ‘Healthy Children Strong America’) to be innovative in the sense that I’m able to combine my passions for music and composition with getting that important message out there that it’s important for kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.”
“Also, Miss America 2.0 really embraces diversity and I believe that I’m a reflection of this entire class as 2.0,” said Glab. “We are so diverse racially and experientially. There’s so much to love about 2.0.”
When asked about how it felt to win the talent preliminary competition on Sunday, Hill said, “I dedicated my life to music… so it’s a wonderful moment for me to see all of the hours and hours I have put in my career have (paid off).”
The Miss America finals will be broadcast on NBC Thursday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m.