It’s no secret – there are plenty of Miss America fans who were not fanatical about Miss America 2015, Kira Kazantsev’s talent. The reasons why range from her red cup, to her seated position, to her bare feet (and that’s just getting started)!
In one of our more recent and more popular posts, we mentioned that “Entertainment Trumps Talent” now at Miss America. Since that post, we’ve had several of you request that we expand that thought, if you will… Asking us, “Is Talent no longer relevant at Miss America?”
According to many of you, the validity of the Talent competition – the single most important category, which used to be a defining factor in separating the Miss America pageant from other pageants – is now in question. Therefore, is it fair to ask… Have we lost the battle for Talent at Miss America?
Once upon a time, Miss America contestants with outstanding technical talent and a darn good interview would walk away with the crown. In addition, when a newly crowned Miss America had what might be considered a ‘non-traditional talent’ or a ‘less than stellar’ talent, she usually had an outstanding drive, a compelling personality, and a warmth about her that caused even the staunchest Talent-lover to melt. Take Miss America 1988, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko.
Junkies remember sitting in our living room, glued to the television, anxiously waiting for Gary Collins to call out the winner’s name (especially after seeing some of our favorites be named in the runner up positions). When the emcee finally announced the new Miss America 1988 was, “MISS MICHIGAN” — I looked around the room, and with a bit of incredulity exclaimed,
“WHAT? The Tahitian Dancer???”
Years later, it’s obvious how and why Kaye Lani won the crown. Frankly, it was obvious within a few days! Kaye Lani declared she would dedicate her reign to promoting the benefits of hospice programs – and essentially launched the opportunity for Miss America to share her ‘platform’ with a greater audience. This simple idea changed everything – Miss America was no longer just a ribbon cutter who would smile and wave to the crowd. Suddenly, Miss America had a purpose for others.
So, while Kaye Lani’s Talent was considered ‘non-traditional’ – it’s obvious she was the right choice for the crown. Nobody even questions it.
Fast forward to today… Whenever a non-traditional talent is crowned, I try to give Miss America the benefit of the doubt. I realize how “right” it was to crown Kaye Lani – despite the fact that I thought it was utterly “wrong” at the time. So, considering Miss America has now crowned a few non-traditional talents in a row now (a tap dancer, a Bollywood dancer and a cup-playing singer), we need to take a peek at how we arrived to this point.
Here’s the deal. Miss America is now fully embracing the idea of “Entertaining Talent” – instead of good old fashioned “Impressive Talent”. And in our opinion, this ‘new wave’ of Entertaining Talents in the modern era, was instigated by none other than Sierra Minott, Miss Florida 2008 and 4th runner up to Miss America 2009 (and Florida’s Outstanding Teen in ’05).
If you haven’t seen Sierra’s Talent routine, I WISH I could post it for you… I’ve been raving about this routine because of it’s pure entertainment value ever since I saw her perform on TV! Seriously – I might be willing to pay someone to post the darn thing so you could see what I mean! In our opinion, it was Sierra’s choreography that set the tone for “Entertaining Talent” in the Miss America modern era. We’re not saying Sierra wasn’t talented and we’re not saying “entertaining talents” never made the top 5 before she did… We’re simply saying her extremely entertaining talent routine ushered in a new way of thinking about on-stage talent today.
We were so taken with her entertainment factor, that during our blog re-cap of Katie Stam’s crowning, we listed the following statement…
“…and spunky little Miss Florida just paved the way for a non-ballet dancer to be named Miss America within the next 2 years… Mark My Words!”
Turns out, 2 years was a little optimistic (lol!). However, within 5 years, Mallory Hagan won as a tap dancer and Nina Davuluri won as a Bollywood fusion dancer. Up until that time, it had been DECADES since a non-ballet dancer had won Miss America… then we crowned 2 in a row… Coincidence???
So – now that we’ve established how we arrived at this point – How do The Junkies feel about Talent verses Entertainment? Glad You Asked! Ready, Set, Here we Go!!! 🙂
THERE’S A DIFFERENCE!
First of all, understand that there’s a difference between something that’s “Entertaining” and and something that’s “Impressive”. In years past, “Impressive” talents would get you noticed strictly on your technical ability to master your art. How well you breathed, how many notes you could seamlessly deliver, how quickly your fingers moved along the instrument, how high your leaps and kicks were… In the past, these were all key factors in how well you scored in Talent. Now, your technical ability simply isn’t enough. You MUST be entertaining to boot!
THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE…
During the “New York Years” – aka, Since Mallory Hagan was crowned Miss America 2013 – we’ve seen a total of 15 girls finish in the Top 5. Of those 15 ladies, we’ve had a grand total of FOUR talents that we consider truly “classical talents” – and 2 of them came this year! Those 4 are: Courtney Garrett, vocal, VA ’15 – Lauren Kuhn, piano, MA ’15 – Rebecca Yeh, violin, MN ’14 – Crystal Lee ,ballet, CA ’14). That’s not a very strong track record. Especially when you compare it to the fact that 11 out of 15 contestants had Talents which were much more “Entertaining” than “Classical”. Doesn’t mean you can’t win with a classical talent… its just means the majority of ladies who finish in the Top 5 have “Entertaining” talents. The numbers prove it.
CALM DOWN – STOP FREAKING OUT!
When it comes to your Talent presentation, nobody said you have to choose between “Entertaining” and “Classical”. As a matter of fact, the ladies who are able to make their “classical” talents cross over into “entertaining” are actually at a distinct advantage over those who have pure entertainment value alone! Unfortunately, far too often we see too many talents that are “classical” without being “entertaining”. Miss America used to crown those kinds of girls. But unless we see a judges panel that’s stacked with those kinds of personalities – I don’t see it happening in the future. You can be Entertaining and not Classical… You can be Entertaining AND Classical… But you can’t be Classical without being Entertaining. That’s simply not gonna get the job done anymore.
BUT THIS SUCKS! PURE TALENT SHOULD BE REWARDED!
LOL! Yes – we hear you loud and clear! But the truth is, we’re not here to debate whether this is the way it SHOULD BE at Miss America or not… We’re simply telling you, this is how we currently see it NOW at Miss America. And if you wanna win, you gotta know what kind of talent Miss America is interested in crowning. You can’t walk into a Pie Tasting Contest with your uber-delicious Cheesecake and be mad because you lost. You have to know what you’re getting into – and ‘play by the rules’ as best as you can. Even if it sucks.
OK – I GET IT… BUT HOW WILL THIS PLAY OUT?
Well – honestly… We wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of things happened within the next 5 years… It’s not at all outside the realm of possibility to see Miss America crown a baton twirler, a flute player, or a speed painter – so long as their presentation was entertaining! We also wouldn’t be surprised if we learned that Miss America is re-naming this portion of the competition. After all – it’s no longer the “Swimsuit Competition”, it’s the “Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimsuit Competition”. And, it’s no longer “Evening Gown” – it’s officially “Evening Wear” (because you could wear pants if you really wanted to do so). That’s why it wouldn’t shock this Junkie at all to learn that the “Talent Competition” is now the “Talent and Entertainment Competition” or something similar. That’s how ingrained I think this new direction truly is.
SO, WHAT THE HECK DO I DO NOW?
First of all, if you’re classically trained and that’s really what you do best, DON’T CHANGE your talent! Nobody’s saying you can’t win – we’re simply saying you can no longer rely on your technical ability alone. “Impressing” your audience isn’t the goal… “Connecting” with them, is. On the other hand, if you’re not classically trained and have always wondered if your talent could make it to the Miss America stage, NOW IS THE TIME to think outside the box and increase your entertainment value! Find the “fun person” in your drama department, music department, dance department, etc – and work with them on ways to make your talent presentation more entertaining. Or, try something new! Once upon a time, nobody thought a Tahitian Dancer, or a Marimba player, or a Hula dancer or a girl who played the cups would ever win Miss America… They were wrong! This could be the year you put your talent on the map because of its incredible entertainment value. Figure out what the audience likes and lean into it!
PS – TALENT IS STILL WORTH 35%
That means, your talent, whether extremely entertaining or not, is not the ‘end all be all’ of the competition. If you spend all your time perfecting your talent to epic levels of entertainment, but you have no substance in your interview and you’re out of shape, I’m sorry, but you lose. You still need to be well-rounded in all areas of competition… Not just talent! Don’t forget that!
So there you have it! Have we lost the battle for Talent at Miss America?
Nope. It’s just being defined differently now.
It’s Talent PLUS Entertainment that wins today. And fair warning – Better get some now – or be left behind.