If a Miss America is chosen in a frozen Connecticut casino town in the middle of December, will anyone watch?
This is the question being played out at 8 p.m. Thursday night on NBC, in a two hour competition being billed alternatively as Shark Tank-y and as an elaborate job interview for a staff position at the Miss America Organization.
There will be evening gowns, if the preliminaries (live-streamed and pay-per-view) were any judge, but they will not be judged.
There will be just five talent presentations, according to reports, but look for Miss Virginia Camille Schrier to perform her exploding foam science experiment which won a preliminary. (The science as talent schtick was pioneered in Boardwalk Hall in 2016 by Miss Vermont Alayna Westcom).
Also winning talent was the pixie-cut-haired opera singer Miss Georgia Victoria Hill, wearing what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described as “a military- and menswear-inspired costume.” Hill also won a preliminary for on-stage interview, a segment that last year replaced swimsuit. The candidates’ social impact platforms will also be extensively vetted on stage.
Characteristically, New Jersey has still managed to be make itself heard in the Connecticut woods, as Miss New Jersey Jade Glab snagged an on-stage interview preliminary win.
The historic Atlantic City-born competition ended up in the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville after a tumultuous few years in which it lost its New Jersey subsidy, was accused of bullying former Miss America Cara Mund (who showed up as a judge for Miss Universe earlier this month), and whose former leaders were revealed to be slinging sexist mud in emails.
Taken over by former pageant women Gretchen Carlson and Regina Hopper, dubbed Miss America 2.0, the competition ditched its Jersey home for the second time (previously it spent seven years in Vegas) and abandoned its original concept as a bathing beauty contest. State leaders defected, but were unable to take the reins of the organization.
And so, there she will be, in Uncasville, with a format designed to select a staff member to replace outgoing Miss America Nia Franklin, a classically trained singer from New York who was the first to win without having to be judged in a swimsuit.
As her reign drew to a close, Franklin joined Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica as Miss World, Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa as named Miss Universe, Kaliegh Garris as Miss Teen USA and Cheslie Kryst as Miss USA as an all-black beauty queen ruling party.