As the days ticked on following Kira’s crowning, I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t have her pegged as the winner. Actually, I didn’t have her in my Top 5 at Miss New York, so had no idea how she would compete at Miss America. But as I watched her jump right into her Miss New York reign, I spoke with her, saw her high fashion red carpet outfits and interviews, and witnessed her transform into quite an impressive Miss New York. She had won a Lifestyle & Fitness preliminary, and the overall interview award. We knew she could speak well, and would look good on television. I began to wonder how she would do at Miss America. I thought about how she had won Miss New York, and suddenly I realized she could do it. Kira could win Miss America.
At Miss New York I was rooting for Desiree. This was her 4th time competing at Miss New York, and her 4th time in the Top 5. I had competed with her on the local level, twice. Twice I had held her hand as her name was called, and twice I rooted for her at Miss New York. Desiree is the full package- an amazingly fit body, eloquent speaker, and an unforgettable dancer. She is also a reporter for the WKBW news station in Buffalo, and dating an NFL football player, and is a longtime advocate for blood, organ, and tissue donation as well as the importance of education.
Top Five at Miss New York had a vocalist who silenced the audience (Cat Janisko, Miss Empire Rose), a twirler who performed for the Seminoles (Jillian Tapper, Miss Southern Tier), a dancer who would later be first runner up at National Sweetheart (Jamie Lynn Macchia, Miss Staten Island), and a dancer who, well, read the paragraph above (Desiree Wiley, Miss Finger Lakes). But Kira took the win at Miss New York.
Why Did Kira Win Miss New York?
Kira has unbelievable charisma. Her interview is the best (as indicated by her interview award), her body is great (as indicated by her L&F prelim award), and her confidence is above average (as indicated by her ability to shine in a gown that is widely considered unflattering and unattractive). She can sing, but maybe not as well as Cat, Julia Rae (did you like her performance at the Show Us Your Shoes Parade?), or possibly Claudette or the non-finalist singers. Yet her scores are strong enough, because of her charisma and confidence, to lift her to the final competition where she was able to bring it full force.
While backstage, I witnessed Kira on stage in her lime green Miss City of New York bathrobe practicing walking patterns, poses, and production numbers. The rest of the girls were either napping in the off limits “visiting Miss America” changing room, eating downstairs, or putting in hot rollers upstairs. But Kira was relentlessly rehearsing for the show, to show us she is ready.
After two Miss Americas, New York needed change. The Organization needed a titleholder to be the face of the new Board of Directors, to be very public in the community gathering sponsors and endorsements. She needs to be beautiful, and unfazed by the flash of cameras on the red carpet. She needs to be a great speaker, and drop the Miss New York name in every interview, to maintain relevance in a society with misguided feminism, and a misguided understanding of the differences between systems pulls girls out from another angle. Most important, Miss New York needed to be relevant. She needed to be able to relate to every person in the state- the children, the college aged students, and the older generation; every economic level; born Americans and immigrants. The titleholder needed to connect with every person she would ever meet, to make sure Miss New York was not swept under the rug or into the past.
If Kira made Top 5 with her consistent scores (even if talent wasn’t her strongest), she would be able to impress the judges enough in her interview that they felt she was the right choice for the job. If Kira made Top 5, she would win Miss New York.
Kira made Top 5. And Kira won Miss New York.
So why did Kira win Miss America?
1. Points. Preliminary awards are actually irrelevant. Last year, Miss New Hampshire won a preliminary talent award (worth the most points) yet her scores in the other categories weren’t enough to land her a spot in the Finals. This year, Pennsylvania and Maryland joined the sisterhood of preliminary award winners who did not make finals. They did great in their group, but that just means the stronger contestants were in another group. They still go home with a great preliminary award, and probably a non-finalist award as well.
Preliminary awards are given out for beating 30% of the other contestants in a category. A girl could receive a 10 in talent, but 6-7 in other categories. She receives the prelim. Yet another girl receives an 8 in all four categories. Her composite score will still outweigh the girl with the inconsistent scores. Both Mallory and Nina took home the crown without a preliminary award, and showed America that contestants should do their best regardless.
Talent: Not her strongest, technically. But she is fun, engaging and relevant. Kids look up to her and want to learn how to play. Older judges remember playing the cup game as a kid in a restaurant, or around a campfire. Teens and young adults know it was made famous from Pitch Perfect. Every audience member, and every judge, knows about the cup song, and can recall a specific memory for it. Try telling a kid that opera is good, or explaining to an actor about proper ballet form. It is hard for certain people who connect with certain talents. Kira’s talent was relatable for everyone. Every hater that comments on various posts seemed to mention an individual (themselves, their kids) who could perform the cup song. That’s because its relatable.
Onstage Question: Kira is brilliant, and a wonderful speaker. We know she has a great interview, so we expect a great onstage question. Then, when we hear her onstage question, we can only imagine how great her interview must be. This year during finals, her question way about a topic she would like to be brought up in legislature that the female politicians should push for. She said sexual assault in the military. Many people misunderstood the question and thought she had completely side-stepped the topic, but actually she executed it flawlessly. Instead of jumping straight to her platform, domestic violence, she went one step further. The only thing that could have made it a better answer would have been an exact law or female politician (Kristen Guilibrand maybe?) that is working towards the issue.
Lifestyle and Fitness: Swimsuit was the only category I wasn’t impressed with, but that is why I am not a judge. I did not think she was confident, and after seeing Jasmine (Mississippi) rock an extremely confident, perfectly toned and curvy body, Kira’s naturally thin frame was not impressive. But, none the less, the ability to go out on stage in front of thousands of people, while on live television, is impressive.
Evening Gown: Kira wore an amazing, one of a kind cream gown with an asymmetrical peplum wrapping around her core. The lining was a simple black lace that helped to highlight her curves. The pictures may not do her complete justice, but when she walked across that stage every eye was on her and the confidence was radiating. She may have jumped off the traditional gown bandwagon, but that just meant she would blaze her own trail. During finals, she wore a custom Tony Bowls gown that reminded the audience greatly of her custom, handmade gown from the state pageant. In fact, it was nearly identical to her state pageant, but a different color and fabric. The emerald satin was replaced with a white jersey knit, but the beautiful open back with rhinestone chain accent remained. Her high shoulders gave an ethereal feel like from a story book.
If she makes it to Top Five, she’ll win.
2. Ranking. After preliminary scores are totaled, they form a composite score and the contestant starts fresh. As she competes, other girls are eliminated until 5 are standing.
Kira didn’t need to receive 10s across the board. However, if she received 8-9 for each category, and perhaps a 7 for talent. That would still be enough to advance her over someone who had 5-6 for each category and a 10 for talent. Consistency is key.
Once the points get her to the top 5, the judges now had the decision of ranking each girl on how well prepared she is for Miss America.
What is Miss America looking for?
Smart. Charismatic. A great speaker. Marketing minded. Relatable to all demographics. CMN Ambassador. Spokesperson for Atlantic City. Red Carper ready.
Kira is all of those things and more. In fact, that is why she won New York.
So, Kira made Top 5. And Kira won Miss America.
New York is a hidden gem, and shouldn’t be underestimated.