If heaven were the Miss America Pageant, the talent competition would be the pearly gates.
Y’all know good and well that if Miss Alabama had dared to sit barefoot and cross-legged on the plain floor and whack the stage with a plastic cup while singing slightly off key, I think the media would have quickly tossed out the “R” word . . . “redneck.” Admit it. You know it’s true.
But last week, in Atlantic City, while other young ladies showed what years of hard work and expensive dance and music lessons look like, Miss New York Kira Kazantsev dared to do just that and stunned all of America with her now-famous cup-thumping performance.
TV viewers across the nation stopped what they were doing, dogs stopped scratching and babies stopped crying while they all stared at their TVs in confusion, amusement and alarm.
The beautiful representative of the Big Apple didn’t even attempt any of the fancy multi-cup stacking moves that swept elementary playgrounds a few years ago, but chose to stick with the mono-cup routine. Don’t get me wrong, there was an element of “cute” to the routine, which I hate to call “talent,” but it was the kind of cute you reserve for a summer camp skit-night.
The Gulf Coast trio of Miss Mississippi, Miss Alabama and Miss Florida had the talent power of a homegrown hurricane when it came to serious artistry, and blew the competition away with singing and dancing on the professional level. It was obvious they had trained for years to achieve their high standard of proficiency. Miss Mississippi had even been a previous finalist on American Idol, and the other two had college degrees in dance performance. Surely, all those sore muscles from rehearsals and long hours spent with voice coaches would pay off, wouldn’t they?
I know some people think it’s hokey, but I think there’s nothing as all-American and fun as watching a good flaming baton twirler, tap dancer and marimba performance all in one night. We expect the Miss America pageant to entertain and give a certain level of all-American showmanship.
I was beyond giddy when I discovered Miss Ohio would be performing a ventriloquist act. Seriously? A giant puppet singing “Supercalafrangalisticexpialadocious” was too much excitement for one night. There was also a violinist (actually more of a fiddler, which is even better), a classical pianist and a few other vocalists who did not disappoint.
But when Miss New York repeated what I’ve seen toddlers do on their kitchen floors, I was stunned. Did her parents pay for cup lessons? Did she start out with a little paper Dixie cup and work her way up? Is her goal someday to play a sonata on the wet rims of a set of fine crystal?
“Bless her heart!” was all I could think. “She’s being humiliated in front of a national audience! The Southern girls are going to clean her clock with this mockery of real talent.” But moments later, there was Miss Virginia and Miss Cup Banger, standing hand-in-hand on the stage — the only two contestants remaining.
The young ladies held hands and put their cascading mounds of blonde hair together, and nervously awaited the judges’ decision. I could only imagine the good fortune Miss Virginia, who performed an operatic vocal selection, was feeling at that moment, knowing there wasn’t a chance on God’s green earth the judges would ever choose a cup-clunker to hold the title. Viewers across the country relaxed and took a deep breath, knowing Miss Virginia would soon wear the crown.
But in the stunner of the century, the judges chose . . . Miss Red-Cup New York. The fans from The Big Apple went crazy, thinking they had captured the title three years in a row.
But I would like to kindly remind them, the first Miss New York in that trilogy, lovely Mallory Hagan, was born and raised in beautiful Opelika, Ala-freakin’-bama. Where we know the difference between talented young ladies . . . and cute rednecks.
This story first appeared in my weekly newspaper column, “Southern with a Gulf Coast accent.”