Miss Georgia crowned Miss America; Contestants enjoy experience

Although she may be a bit confused about football, Betty Cantrell, from Georgia was crowned Miss America on Sept. 13 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Cantrell, a student at Mercer University, won the $50,000 scholarship and will serve as the spokesperson for Healthy Children, Strong America. She performed an operatic vocal of “Tu Tu Piccolo Iddio”as her talent.

Cantrell has been criticized for her answer in the onstage question portion of the competition, when she was asked whether or not New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady had cheated by deflating footballs. Cantrell, at first, asked for the question to be repeated, and then seemed to caveat her answer by saying she wasn’t there to inspect the footballs herself, but then said that if there was a question about the air pressure in the balls, then the world champion quarterback indeed cheated. The former Miss Georgia was apparently unaware that a federal judge threw out the NFL’s case against Brady because the evidence was circumstantial, and that science easily explains the differences in footballs’ air pressure that can take place during the course of a game.

Nonetheless, Cantrell had clearly earned high marks with her singing, as well as the lifestyle and fitness and evening gown portion of the pageant’s competition.

At the post-crowing press conference, Cantrell was asked about her platform, and said she’s excited to spread it across the nation.

“I really feel like the crown and title of Miss America are going to help me explode with this platform,” she said. “I can’t wait to enter all of these different schools and [shed] a whole different light on this subject. Having the opportunity to sit down with children and talk to them about what they’re going through – it will be an incredible opportunity for me to reach out a hand to those kids.”

During the week of competition, BeautyPageantNews was able to sit with several of the contestants, and asked them what they thought was being looked for in the next Miss America.

Miss Alaska Zoey Grenier said that while it’s a “crapshoot” as far as what that special criteria might be, she had an idea of how she would treat that role.

“My first order of business is to bring my sport into the public eye,” the 19-year-old biathlon competitor said. “It hasn’t caught on in the U.S. yet. It requires a duality of focus. It has a lot of merit for getting kids academically inspired yet. For me, it really asks you to go to one mind set when you’re on the skis, to a completely different mind set when you’re on the range. That really makes your neurons do their work.”

Miss Massachusetts Meagan Fuller said her guess is that besides a Miss America with scholastic prowess, that someone who is more of a celebrity is what the organization wants and needs.

“She’s dynamic, but also someone who is a potential celebrity who will stand the test of time,” she said. “Like [Miss America 1955] Lee Meriwether, people are going to be talking about her years and years from now.”

Fuller, a graduate of the University of Alabama and Tulane University, said she could fill that role.
“I’m more than likely going on to get my PhD. I do think I offer that other area of performance and entertainment. I’m hoping I get to do that on the red carpet,” she said.

The contestants all had their ideas of what the next Miss America should be like, and how they would fulfill that role if they were given the chance.

“I think the partnership with Dick Clark Productions is going to help make her a celebrity,” said Miss Alabama Meg McGuffin, who wants to be a body-positive role model.

“I struggled with body dissatisfaction growing up,” she said. “I want to be that inspiration to young girls. I want to partner with the Department of Education, because girls as young as six years old start becoming aware of their body, comparing it to other people’s and believing it can be wrong.”

Miss Rhode Island Alexandra Curtis said she wants to strengthen the role of Miss America as one of women’s leadership.

“A lot of people look at Miss America and realize that it is a provider of scholarships and, in tandem with my platform, they will look at us and say ‘That’s where they are building future leaders as well,” Curtis said.

Miss Vermont Alayna Westcom, who performed a science experiment as her on-stage talent, said that if she gets that crown, Miss America will be an even bigger part of education.

“I’m going to put Miss America in the schools,” Westcom said. “I want to change the way teachers are teaching science, to make sure students are learning in a way that they can understand the science, but also in a way that keeps them interested.”

Miss Oregon Ali Wallace, whose platform of Traumatic Brain Injury Education and Awareness comes from personal experience, said she would love to amplify her cause nationwide.

“The traumatic brain injury community is finally starting to get some recognition and people are now realizing that traumatic brain injuries are exactly like they sound – traumatic,” she said. “As Miss America, my goal would be to educate people as to how serious this injury is, and how to prevent them.”

Getting kids to go to and stay in school is Miss Nevada Katherine Kelley’s platform. “Attendance is not something people tend to talk about,” she said. “People just assume that kids are coming to school every day, but in reality, lots of kids face significant barriers to coming to school. That’s a conversation I’d like to open up as Miss America.”

Similarly, Miss Kentucky Clark Davis also wants to make her platform a national one.

“I’m going to start with talking to students who have dyslexia,” Davis said. “I found out I had it in the third grade, and so, [I plan on] going into schools and letting them know that they are special and that having a passion is a great outlet and is something that can carry them their entire life.”

The Miss America Organization again provided an environment throughout the two weeks, in which the contestants could get to know each other and bond. The titleholders said the common perception of backstage drama and cattiness associated with pageants could not be further from the truth at least in the case of Miss America.

“We’ve had a really exciting week,” said Miss Alaska Zoey Grenier. “There is absolutely none of the drama that gets perpetuated in the media nowadays. It’s been wonderful. All the girls are great.”

Grenier added that the little things were some of the best received by the contestants.
“The best thing was the other day when we walked into lunch and it was Asian food,” she said.

“I didn’t expect that I’d actually come here to meet some of the best friends in my life,” Fuller said. “They tell you that [beforehand], but you actually don’t believe them.”

“It’s been everything I expected and nothing I expected rolled into one,” McGuffin said.

“This has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl,” Wallace said. “Just being here is unreal.”

Miss Connecticut Colleen Ward said the experience can only make a woman better, as well as proud.

“I don’t think the experience will change me, I think it will enhance me,” she said. “I had all of these pre-conceived expectations of what the Miss America experience would be, based on what others have said, but the best thing I have done is make it my own experience and that has opened up the doors for me. It’s been positive and fun.”

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