Tonight, Friday, was the third and final night of preliminary competition for the Miss North Carolina and Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen pageant. Now, all that’s left is the big night, and what an incredible and exciting night it’s going to be!
Though there’s definitely anticipation in the air for Saturday, the final night of preliminaries provided some fun of its own. American Idol star, Clark Beckham, opened the evening with a beautiful performance of the national anthem.
And then, it was on to the onstage question competition for the remaining Miss contestants. As has been the case the last two nights, there were some contestants who proved to be quick thinkers and who provided eloquent answers…as well as some who got caught with tough questions and couldn’t turn out great answers on the spot.
Miss Blue Ridge Valley, Erika Duckworth, was one of the flubbers. She apparently misunderstood her question about whether or not decriminalizing marijuana would make the world safer. She first said that decriminalizing marijuana would “absolutely” make the world safer and then went on to babble about how we “don’t tolerate drugs” and how “they should be illegal.”
Other contestants, however, stepped up to the plate when their turns came. Miss Winston Salem, Samantha Romero, was asked about who, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, had greater influence over people- Hilary Clinton or Kim Kardashian. She earned audience applause by listing highlights from Clinton’s impressive resume and then saying, “Quite honestly, I really don’t care what Kim Kardashian does.”
Miss Greater Sampson County, Emily Tucker, vouched for why women should be able to compete at Miss North Carolina multiple times, and Miss Queen City, McKenzie Faggart, answered her cyber-bullying related question with a heartfelt account of her own experience with online bullying and a plea to the audience to put an end to it for good.
After onstage question, it was time for a less-harrowing but equally entertaining part of competition- the Outstanding Teen Lifestyle and Fitness competition. While Miss Raleigh’s Outstanding Teen, Evan O’Geary, could barely get through the push-ups that are part of the routine, Miss Harrisburg’s Outstanding Teen, Kaelyn Embler, and Miss Goldsboro’s Outstanding Teen, Catherine White, both nailed their numbers. White was particularly cute and energetic during her performance.
Following the Lifestyle and Fitness competition, another group of Outstanding Teens participated in the Evening Wear and Onstage Question portion of the evening. Miss Moore County’s Outstanding Teen, Morgan Hendrix, was positively radiant in a soft, gentle-pink gown with a glittering bodice. Miss Stanly County’s Outstanding Teen, Briley Lafollette, looked radiant in a lovely white ensemble, while Miss Greater Sandhils’ Outstanding Teen, Megan Huff, stunned in a flowing pink number. She also aced her onstage question as she talked about how all people should be themselves and exude confidence in who they are. Another stunner of the night was Miss Mount Holly’s Outstanding Teen, Mattie Lee, in a long gown with flowers gracing the bottom and flower details at the shoulders.
As a whole, the dresses on the Outstanding Teens were a lot more angelic and age-appropriate this evening; a lot of the girls this year have been opting for racier, more adult numbers that are more fitting for Miss Teen USA contestants or for Miss (older/adult) contestants . The one unfortunate exception of the night was Miss Garner’s Outstanding Teen, Leah April, who wore a beautiful but much too risque royal blue gown.
For those not in the know, Miss America’s Outstanding Teen is meant to be an All-American type teenage girl, not a sexy vixen.
Speaking of sexy vixens, the next event was the Miss Swimwear competition. Miss Metrolina, Cheslie Kryst, rocked a to-die-for swimsuit body- super toned and tight; she was literally flawless onstage. Miss Cape Fear, Paige Adkins, looked cute in a blue suit but had an awkward swimsuit walk. Miss Gastonia, Christina Benedict, and Miss Dunn, Kate Peacock, also stood out (in a good way). Peacock, in particular, had a lovely suit with a unique top detail. Miss Rose Hill, Casey Croom, wore the second one piece of the competition (the first belonged to Miss Garner, Rachel Chavez), but it was not nearly as flattering as Chavez’s from the night before.
After swimsuit, the Outstanding Teens took to the stage to compete in the Talent portion of the evening. Miss Cabarrus County’s Outstanding Teen, Lauren Trull, did a lovely lyrical dance to Dolly Parton’s “Crippled Dove,” but Miss Rose Hill’s Outstanding Teen, Grace Russ, gave a pitchy, out-of-tune rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Hero”- not the best song choice unless you’re an exceptionally skilled singer. The most unique and entertaining talent of the night belonged to Miss Charlotte’s Outstanding Teen, Kaitryana Leinbach, who performed arial silk. While the talent was highly entertaining, her actual time “up in the air” was quite limited, and the routine seems to have garnered praise more for its novelty than its technical execution.
Next up was the Miss Evening Gown competition, and there were plenty of lovely gowns (and, of course, lovely young women) tonight. Miss Moore County, Sami McDaniel sparkled (literally) in a purple number; Miss Greater Carolina, Daniela Serna, graced the stage in an elegant white gown with a plunging back; and Miss Gaston County, Mackenzie Church; Miss Greater Sampson County, Emily Tucker; and Miss Queen City, McKenzie Faggart all wore red stunners, each one unique enough to stand out from the others. Another standout was Miss Blue Ridge Valley, Erika Duckworth, in her elegant black dress with a low back.
Finally, it was time for the much-awaited Miss Talent competition, which, unfortunately, didn’t quite live up to the Miss talent performances on the other nights. Aside from a few standouts, most of the talent was lacking. Victoria Huggins, Miss Greater Southeastern, was one of the better talents with her gorgeous performance of Etta James’ “At Last.” Miss Goldsboro, Victoria Baskett, with her spirited flute performance, was the other standout talent. Also worth mentioning was Miss Clayton, Kensley Leonard, who performed “Stand by Me,” with some verses in English and some in Spanish.
On the other preliminary competition nights, there has been a long and anticipation-filled wait for the awards announcements. And, while anticipation was still in the air, the break between Talent and awards had many wonderful surprises in store. First, the current Miss North Carolina, Beth Stovall, treated the audience to a gorgeous vocal performance of “Moon River” with Clark Beckham accompanying her on the piano, and it really was a treat- their performance together was nothing short of magic.
Then, just when the audience thought it couldn’t get any better…it did! Former Miss North Carolina contestants between the ages of 55 and 86 (wow!) got up and performed a fabulous dance routine. Talk about inspiring and empowering- how wonderful for these women, all of them still looking radiant, to be willing to come back and to show that they still had the strength and courage to get up on that stage- strength and courage they undoubtedly earned from their participation in this fine organization. It should also be mentioned that, earlier in the night, every woman in the audience who had ever received a scholarship dollar from the organization was asked to stand, and the huge crowd that stood (this writer included) was also a great testament to how wonderful the Miss America organization truly is. Oh…and one also has to mention that the aforementioned dance routine grew and grew, eventually including the current contestants, the Carolina Princesses, and even the judges!
Before the excitement from this rousing dance could die down, it was time for awards!
The Greater Sandhills/Greater Carolina Scholarship Pageant was recognized for Local Preliminary of the Year by Miss NC Vice-President, Kevin Driver.
Amanda Roberts, Awards Chairman for Miss NC, was honored as the State Volunteer of the Year with the Miss North Carolina Organization.
Nabbing the final preliminary awards for this year’s competition were Miss Greater Southeastern Victoria Huggins taking home the Talent Award and Miss Metrolina Cheslie Kryst taking home the Lifestyle & Fitness Award.
Miss Charlotte’s Outstanding Teen Kaitryana Leinback received the Talent Award and Miss Greater Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen Megan Huff garnered the Evening Gown and Onstage Question Award, her second preliminary award of the week’s competition.
The final night of preliminary competition was full of surprises, but the biggest surprise of all will happen tomorrow night, when we find out who will be Miss North Carolina and Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen.