After nearly a week of high-heeled dancing, Vaseline-covered teeth, and skillfully concealed hostility, the glitter has finally settled over Atlantic City — and 24-year-old Nina Davuluri of Syracuse, New York has been named the latest in a long line of all-American beauty queens. Davuluri isn’t just the second consecutive pageant winner from the Empire State — she’s also the first woman of Indian descent to snag the crown.
Obviously, congratulations are in order — but Nina’s not the only one who deserves a little recognition. Check out my list of alternate-category winners, and feel free to add your own… as long as you deliver them with a blindingly white smile.
Most Auspicious Name: Miss Alabama, a.k.a. Chandler Champion. Then again, maybe not; she didn’t even make it to the semi-finals.
Weirdest Intro Joke: “Listening to your phone calls from the nation’s capital. Just kidding! I’m Miss District of Columbia, Bindhu Pamarthi.”
Runner Up: “From the home of fast horses and beautiful women — better not get those two things confused. I am Jenna Day, Miss Kentucky!”
Best Sports: Misses Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, and Nevada. Other girls got to dance on Atlantic City’s boardwalk or the deck of a swanky boat; this group had to pretend they were super pumped to deliver their intros inside the White House sub shop. (And not even the location that serves salads!)
Most Shameless Plug: “From the home of Nashville, the country music capital of the world and the hit ABC show, I’m Shelby Thompson, Miss Tennessee.”
Clumsiest Attempt at Cultural Literacy: “I’m not breaking bad, I’m breaking through. Say my name! Alexis Duprey, Miss New Mexico.”
Greatest Achievement in Passive Aggression: “Our Utah Jazz sure aren’t bringing home the championship. Guess It’s up to me! Ciera Pekarcik, Miss Utah.”
Most Anonymous Experts: The team of pros who judged the pageant’s preliminary rounds. Sorry, guys — if the hosts had actually said your names on camera, Mario Cantone would have had barely any time to mug.
Loosest Definition of the Term “Celebrity Judging Panel”: Here’s our roll call: Lance Bass, who shot for the moon but landed in Atlantic City; the aforementioned Mr. Cantone; Dr. Deidre Downs Gunn, a.k.a. Miss America 2005 (so it really is a scholarship program!); Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank; The Chew co-host and all-around great lady Carla Hall; subway busker Joshua Bell; and New York Knick Amar’e Stoudemire. What, Heidi Montag was busy?
Most Awkward Utterance: Pat Pruitt of Ernst & Young, proving why he usually doesn’t talk onstage: “It’s very good, and we’re very proud of our relationship with MissAmorgOoverization.”
Strangest Tradition: The Shoe Parade. Seriously, what’s the deal with the shoe parade?
Best Personality: Miss Missouri Shelby Ringdahl, who said this after preparing for the swimsuit competition in about two minutes: “I had time for hairspray and butt glue. That was it.” Butt glue! I’d have given her the crown based on butt glue alone.
Runner Up: Miss Kansas Theresa Vail, a tattooed army sergeant who sings opera but prefers to play Katniss. “My original talent was going to be archery,” she explained. “I’m singing by default because there is a clause against projectile objects.” There is no clause against stealing our hearts, though.
Best Accessory: Miss Florida Myrrhanda Jones’s bedazzled knee brace, a functional yet versatile piece that complements bikinis, eveningwear, and ghastly baton-twirling getups equally. (Maybe it was actually a good luck charm — Florida absolutely killed it in Talent.)
Biggest Head-Scratcher: This fun fact, which flashed onscreen as Miss Georgia Carly Mathis sang “On My Own”: “Her dog has met the President.” Think they shook hands?
Worst Judgment: ABC and the Miss America Organization determined that it was totally fair to ask the first finalist about Miley Cyrus, the second about scorned political wives… and the third whether she thinks the U.S. should intervene in Syria. One of those things: not like the others! Kudos to Miss California Crystal Lee for keeping her cool — and actually delivering a coherent answer to that absurdly tough question.
Most Diplomatic: Miss Oklahoma Kelsey Griswold, who, for the record, believes that Miley’s antics have been “a little bit not super tasteful” — but “ha[s] to respect her creativity.”
Most Skillful Non-Answer: As delivered by eventual winner Nina Davuluri, Miss New York. She was asked what message Julie Chen is sending by admitting that she’s had plastic surgery on her eyes. Full transcript: “Unfortunately, I don’t agree with plastic surgery. However, I can understand that from a standpoint. But more importantly, I’ve always viewed Miss America as the girl next door, and the girl next door is evolving as the diversity in America evolves. She’s not who she was 10 years ago, and she’s not going to be the same person come 10 years down the road. So I wouldn’t want to change someone’s looks or appearance, but definitely be confident in who you are.”
Clearest Foreshadowing: Miss New York and Miss California stood in front of a curtain decorated with the Miss America logo as they clutched hands, waiting to hear the panel’s final verdict. The logo includes a crown — which appeared to be floating over NY’s head. Lesson learned for next year’s finalists: Try to stand stage left.
Best Consolation: Courtesy of Jason Derulo’s “The Other Side,” which played as Davuluri received her actual crown: “Tonight we’ll just get drunk.” Sound advice for a celebratory Davuluri — as well as the pageant’s 52 non-winners.