Joell Posey Grager


Miss America 2017 Preliminary Recap and Final 15 Predictions
It was exceptionally hard to narrow the choices for the top 15 this year because of the parity among contestants. It was easy to guess the first 7-8 finalists whose names will likely be called at the start of this evening’s 2017 Miss America Scholarship Pageant; however, after the first handful of seemingly locked spots there is no easy break in the list of competitors for the top 15 overall scores. This year’s class of state titleholders features a couple dozen women who are particularly dedicated to making positive changes in the world with substantial resumes to prove it. They’re obtaining degrees in fields of study untraditional to women, and the category of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) award-qualified state applicants is impressive. The contestants are brainier and more civic minded than ever with many working towards higher level degrees while still maintaining artistic performance skills. When you think about it how often do young women pursue their performance talent lessons beyond high school curriculum if they haven’t chosen their performance skill as a major field of college study? Some women performed outstanding in two or three areas of competition in addition to being finalists for the Jean Bartel “Quality of Life” or STEM awards. In addition several of the contestants were nominated for the new Miss America Women in Business scholarship award category. This award recognizes state titleholders who are making strides in the business career field. The influence of these significant categories of recognition on stage in front of judges’ eyes, as well as their impact in the private interview sessions, have an impact in determining overall preliminary scores in addition to the traditional stage competitions. There were many contestants who exemplify what’s great about the Miss America program by their tremendous involvement in philanthropic endeavor. This is my best guess whose names will be called at the start of this evening’s competition to move forward towards the Miss America crown. In fairness, I have chosen to deliberately hold back the names of two titleholders from the list below because I have a personal connection to them and know I’m biased towards hearing their names, Jessa Carmack Miss California and Alicia Cooper Miss Washington, called this evening.

Top 15 Predictions – In Alphabetical Order
Miss Alabama, 22, Platform: Sight for Small Eyes – Haley Barber’s fundraising on behalf of the Children’s Miracle Network, won the Jean Bartel Quality of Life Award for Community Service and she won a STEM award. She’s upbeat and pretty with a good talent and solid onstage question answer which usually indicates a solid judge’s interview session. Haley has proven she’ll be a hard working Miss America if crowned.
Miss Arkansas, 21, Platform: Eat Better, Live Better – Savvy Shields was awarded the talent preliminary for her high energy jazz dance on a very competitive night. She also competed solidly across the board in each night of preliminaries while keeping up a warm and sparkling energy throughout the week which bodes well for the daunting personal appearance schedule she would be expected to fulfill as Miss America.
Miss Connecticut, 23, Platform: “Smiles for Seniors” – Enriching the Lives of Seniors Across America – Alyssa Rae Taglia is strikingly beautiful and has a positive “can do” energy. Her on-stage question answer was one of the most impressive I’ve heard. She spoke with conviction and grit. I believe her dedication to philanthropic endeavor is quite genuine. Not many woman will rappel down the side of a 22 story building to draw awareness to a good cause, but Alyssa did. Her confident beauty in both her swimsuit and evening gown competitions along with her sharp tap dance performance make her a very solid contender.
Miss District of Columbia, 24, Platform: Behind the Frontline: Supporting Military Children – Cierra Jackson is very pretty and has a bright, cheerful smile that won me over in the press room after she captured the first preliminary award in Life Style and Fitness. Through the week Cierra delivered very respectable talent (vocal), swimsuit and evening gown presentations. I liked her onstage question answer and am betting it’s a good indication she did well in her judges’ interview.
Miss Georgia, 22, Platform: Promoting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals – Patricia Lin Ford is very sweet and one of the consistently strong performers all week during preliminary competitions. Patricia has a very dynamic personality and it came across during her on stage question answer which I felt was the best of the evening. The only thing working against Patricia is the fact that Miss America doesn’t generally crown the same back to back winners from the same state other than the Three-peat with Miss New York 2013, 2014, 2015.
Miss Kentucky, 23, Platform: W.A.I.T. (What Am I Thinking?) – Laura Jones delivered a very entertaining violin performance and a solid onstage question answer. She looked great in both swimsuit and evening gown. Her platform is a great one and stems from her own experiences in dealing with bulimia nervosa. Laura’s upbeat, joyful demeanor in Atlantic City makes it hard to believe she has ever struggled with an eating disorder or self-acceptance. I admire any person who suffers with an affliction and then in their wellness helps others overcome the same affliction.
Miss Maryland, 19, Platform: Hannah’s Heroes – Supporting Our Military – Hannah Brewer is a standout beauty in a Miss America class that is uncommonly beautiful. She performed consistently across the board in all areas of onstage competition and is the recipient of a Jean Bartel “Quality of Life” scholarship award and was a “Women in Business” scholarship finalist as well.
Miss Michigan, 23, Platform: Being America: Immigration & Citizenship Education – Arianna Quan stated that she was worried going into her talent competition and said a quick prayer with the results being an incredible piano performance. Arianna’s skill level probably would have won her the talent preliminary even without the prayer, however her humble perspective regarding her amazing performance skill and candid dialogue about it is what endeared her to me. Arianna is a very pretty, statuesque woman who is earning a degree with honors in the unique field of Automotive Design. I think her creativity shined through in her competition fashions which I was impressed with and think the judges might be too.
Miss Mississippi, 23, Platform: Mentoring Matters – Laura Lee Lewis is as warm and friendly as any contestant I’ve met. She is a Jean Bartel, “Quality of Life” scholarship finalist who graduated with honors in the field of Elementary Education. Laura was one of the strongest competitors in the preliminary competitions across all categories. She’s pretty, articulate and has a terrific anti-bullying platform that she has successfully lobbied to get legislation passed for.
Miss Missouri, 23, Platform: Suicide Prevention (People’s Choice Candidate) – Erin O’Flaherty’s pretty, sparkling clear eyes capture you and there is an immediate inner strength you sense from her. She is the first openly gay Miss America state titleholder. However, she hasn’t made a fuss about it or used this to draw attention to herself. She came into the week of competition to obviously compete at her best level across the board and to be a great role model which I feel she did. I expect the LGBTQ community to get behind Erin with the People’s Choice votes as a finalist, but would not be surprised to see her top on the judges’ score sheets as well.
Miss Ohio, 18, Beauty Unedited – Redefining Beauty for the Next Generation – Alice Magoto was selected by a state judging panel that included a personal friend of mine whose selections always perform well at Miss America and Alice was no exception. She won the swimsuit preliminary, her talent was well-regarded, and she was a standout in evening gown. I would say the only handicap for Alice going into tonight’s competition is her young age of 18 years; if the judges can get past that, I think they’ll put this mature, lovely young lady into the top round of contention.
Miss Oklahoma, 24, Platform: Supporting Our Troops from Deployment to Employment – Sarah Klein stair-stepped her way through the runner-up positions in six Miss Oklahoma competitions to finally win the state crown in her last year of age eligibility. She is as strong a competitor across the board in competition as I’ve ever witnessed and is also one of the most likeable, humble ladies this year. She’s uniquely beautiful, elegant and warm in her presentation and will wow home audiences with her astounding piano performance should she get the chance to perform and I personally hope she does!
Miss Pennsylvania, 22, Platform: Brain Injury Awareness – Samantha Lambert is one of the most beautiful contestants this year and competed strong in every area of competition. I especially enjoyed her bold, fiery paced tumbling routine. Her impressive physique made her a standout in swim and evening gown too. With making the Dean’s list while earning an engineering degree, I’m going to bet she landed a smart judges interview as well.
Miss South Carolina, 21, Platform: Autism Speaks – Rachel Wyatt is a former Miss America Outstanding Teen so I was surprised at how subdued she seemed in her public persona. Rachel competed strongly in her performances and provided one of the best dance routines during the preliminaries. She is stunningly beautiful and that, along with her precision delivery of all performances, will score high enough with the judges for her to make the top 15 despite her lack of vivaciousness.
Miss Tennessee, 22, Platform: Childhood Literacy: Ready, Set, Read! – Grace Burgess is very warm and outreaching with a platform promoting literacy for children which is one of my favorite philanthropic endeavors. She performed strong across all areas of competition, winning a talent preliminary for her vocal performance of “Desperado” which she dedicated to her beloved Uncle Larry who lost his life to cancer. Refreshing in her beauty and a “Quality of Life” community service award finalist, Grace is a lock for the top 15 in my book!
The following are additional contestants who performed very well across the board and were impressive in their personal and academic accomplishments. They were all very pleasant and charming women who I believe have the same chance to be in the top 15 as those listed above.
Miss Alaska, 24, Platform: The Power of One- Making a Difference – Kendall Bautista – She’s gorgeous in all areas of competition and gave a solid onstage question answer which makes me feel she did well in her judges’ interview. Kendall is thought to be one of the most well rounded and strong Miss Alaska contestants in recent history. I was pleasantly surprised by her very good piano performance in a year marked with outstanding piano performances.
Miss Idaho, 21, Platform: Our Words Have Power – Kylee Solberg – Last year’s Miss National Sweetheart winner. Fresh and pretty she presented a lively and talented ballet en pointe performance and was solid across the board in all competitions.
Miss Iowa, 20, Platform: Pinky Swear Foundation – Kelly Koch – There was a spark and strength in every stage performance. Kelly is very eye catching in her styling and dynamic in personality.
Miss Kansas, 22, Platform: Stay Alive, Don’t Text and Drive – Kendall Schoenekase – Absolutely beautiful and a brainy lady winning a STEM award and Quality of Life Award for community service. She was a top competitor in on stage question, swimsuit and evening gown performances.
Miss Louisiana, 22, Platform: A Beautiful Mind- Promoting Positive Mental Health – Justine Ker – Delivered one of the most impressive talent performances and competed well in every other category, very sweet and pretty, my only concern was she might be too understated for judges to take notice, but she would be on my top 5 list. I like quietly determined people.
Miss Minnesota, 19, Platform: The Arts Project – Madeline Van Ert – I can’t imagine anybody meeting this lovely, fun and joyful person and not liking her. I also enjoyed her talent competition she has a very pretty voice and did an admirable job accompanying herself on the piano. Her onstage question answer was both intelligent and genuine.
Miss New Hampshire, 18, Platform: 1, 2, We: Diabetes Advocacy – Caroline Carter – There is an undertone of feisty fun to Caroline. She made the confident choice of wearing a one piece bathing suit on stage with a notable accessory in the form of her mandatory insulin pump. She lives her platform daily and is a great role model for those dealing with diabetes. Her talent performance was very good. Caroline is a bigger contestant than most, however she is one of the healthiest looking and most graceful of all those competing.
Miss New York, 23, Platform: Encouraging Wellness and Fostering Food Justice – Camille Sims – I heard early on that Camille needed help in styling, well I commend her for getting it because she looked wonderful in every area of competition and delivered a good talent performance. She’s pretty, bright and presents herself with a winning smile.
Miss North Dakota, 19, Platform: You Decide the Road Ahead: Don’t Drink and Drive – Macy Christianson – She impressed me with her vivacious personality, bright eyes and warmth. She’s good humored and has a solid talent, swimsuit and evening gown performance, I would really like to see Miss North Dakota in the finals.
Miss Oregon, 21, Platform: Mentoring to Develop Leaders – Alexis Mather – Impressive opera voice, great physique and beautiful eyes. She’s smart and stylish, her evening gown presentation was a favorite of mine.
Miss Texas, 20, Platform: With + Me = I Can – Caroline Carothers – I was very entertained by her baton twirling routine to one of my favorite musical show tunes, “Hot Honey Rag”. Texas usually can be counted on to send a strong contender and I don’t think this year is any exception. Caroline is warm, friendly, pretty and smart.


(c) miss america 2017

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