It's rare that a reality TV show debuts and I'm left counting down the days to the next episode. Miss America Reality Check is one of those shows. Don't get me wrong: it hasn't reinvented the reality television genre by any stretch of the imagination but it has something going for it that so many other shows don't -- the people in it feel real.
Yes, you read that right. This show, in one episode, managed to undo several years worth of stereotypes. Like most women (and some men), I would watch the Miss America pageant every single year growing up wishing I could be like the beautiful ladies on stage in their beautiful gowns. As a teenager, my friends and I would gather at one of our homes and be glued to the TV set for a couple of hours watching the contestants and even imitating them during commercials. When the winner was crowned, we'd either cry with them or feel let down that one of the runner-ups wasn't the winner instead. Something changed in the '90s, though: it all felt fake because the ladies were impossibly pretty and seemed like mannequins marching across the stage. I stopped watching. I think I'll be watching this year though.
Miss America Reality Check began by telling us that "they" want to reinvent Miss America. The goal of the show is to try to find an "it" woman that the American public can really relate to. The ladies will be ranked each week with the top three and bottom three identified. At the end of the four episodes, the top three ladies will win $10,000 scholarships from Crest and a new wardrobe from Shop Intuition.
After the fantabulous show intro, the girls arrived in their crowns, gowns, and sashes and met each other for the first time. Michael Urie introduced himself to them before telling them to go inside their new temporary home and get settled in. Gathered around an LCD TV in the backyard, the ladies were shown a video of what people said when asked what they think of when they hear the words "Miss America." The girls were taken aback when many of the responses were not too kind, but Michael said that they are going to be working to bring back the glory of the Miss America title.
Once they were told how they would be competing in events and challenges that would test them on the new standards being set for Miss America, they met Stacy London and Clinton Kelly from TLC's What Not To Wear. Stacy and Clinton explained that they want to help them modernize their image and would be going through their suitcases to see what they brought to wear. The nervous giggles by the girls were priceless! They said no-no to everything from polyester gowns to horrid blue fringe and especially called out Miss South Carolina on her gold lamé street-walkin' boots that she loved.
After Stacy and Clinton left, the ladies met their advisory board. Their opinions would be mirroring the judges of the Miss America pageant so they had to really listen to what they had to say. The board is made up of: Dina Sansing, a Us Weekly editor; Jeannie Mai, celebrity stylist; and Mark Liddell, celebrity photographer.
The girls were then divided into six groups and told that their groupings were no mistake. They all had something in common with the other ladies in their group and they must try to figure out what it is. The next morning, the girls were woken up early and had to try to get ready for the day with only seven showers between the 52 of them. After they were dressed and assembled in front of Michael, he asked each group what it is they have in common. All of them answered correctly. The blue group has the "most state wins" between them while the green group is made up of "the recent contenders" (their states have held the title in the last decade). Light blue is the "always a bridesmaid" group (none of those ladies have ever won but have come in 2nd), and the red group are the "brown-eyed girls" (who have the most winning combination of brown hair and brown eyes). The purple group is made up of "the seniors" (the oldest ladies in the pageant) and the pinks are "the underdogs" (from states that have never won the pageant).
Michael told them that they needed to go put on the gear provided to them because it was now time for their first challenge. The girls went off to go get ready and some of them put quite a lot of energy into primping for an outside competition. Miss Idaho even admitted that she basically had an addiction to hair spray while Miss Utah (a military gal) led her purple team in a military march. The funniest part of this segment was when Miss Oklahoma and Miss Hawaii (green team) went to high-five each other, OK missed HI's hand and slapped her on the forehead instead!
Outside and gathered together, they were told their coach would be the current Miss America, Lauren Nelson. She told them that being Miss America is hard work and that even though the schedule is hectic, they must always have their wits about them and a smile on their face. Today's challenge would test their stamina. Each team would have to navigate a course of hurdles, construct a puzzle of the U.S., collect their respective state flags, and then run to the finish line. The team that finished first would have first dibs on the showers. Miss South Carolina let us know that her medical conditions would affect her in this challenge (she has no lymph nodes in her left leg) but she'd rally on. We then got to listen to the judges dish on who was too glammed up for a competition like this -- Minnesota, Alabama, Virginia, and Mississippi, along with many others had entirely too much makeup on.
On your mark, get set, go! The girls took off and the light blue team quickly took the lead with the purple team right behind them. Unfortunately for the purple team, Miss Pennsylvania couldn't find her state flag and caused the team to fall behind. The light blue team never gave up the lead and won quite handily over the other groups. Jeannie (one of the advisors) was disappointed in the purple team's sportsmanship and Mark (another advisor) chastised some of the ladies saying that they didn't listen to his "less is more" advice on hair and makeup.
The next challenge would be in an hour so the girls needed to hurry up and get ready. For a dinner party at that! There would be a special guest in attendance and they would need to make a good impression while keeping the new Miss America image in mind. Miss Rhode Island hoped it had nothing to do with dinner etiquette because she failed that class in college (they have dinner etiquette classes in college?). Miss Minnesota hoped that Mario Lopez would be the special guest (he he) and Miss Vermont wondered if she was pretty enough to be there with the other 51 ladies (aww).
At the dinner party, Michael came in and told the girls that on each of their tables was an envelope that would reveal their guest. The special guest wound up being Controversy (huh?). That was a little weird. It turned out to be that they would be asked challenging questions on certain subjects (gay marriage, plastic surgery, gun control, sex before marriage, birth control, etc.) and the advisors would be judging them based on how they conversed with the others on the subject. It turned out to be quite interesting because we found out that Miss Colorado's brother survived Columbine with a traumatic brain injury and that Miss Arkansas' parents had her when they were seniors in high school. I liked hearing conversations rather than short one-line politically and pageantly correct answers.
After the dinner party, the advisory board got together and discussed what they thought about the dinner. They liked Miss South Carolina but she was wearing too much makeup; Miss Indiana hadn't listened to anybody's advice; and Miss Idaho hadn't changed at all and looked more like a senator's wife. Miss Oklahoma was not dressed for success and Miss Vermont wasn't putting in much effort. Miss Utah was impressive to them but her look was very outdated and they still couldn't get over Miss Pennsylvania not knowing what her state flag looked like.
The final event for the night was the naming of the top and bottom three. The six states called out were: SC, PA, VT, ID, OK, and UT. Who was in the top three though? Miss South Carolina was told she had great perseverance and was intelligent but her makeup look wasn't current. She was in the top three. They told Miss Idaho that she was always smiling and had great spunk but that she had bad hair and bad makeup. She was in the bottom three. They thought Miss Vermont was intriguing and had something new for the pageant but they couldn't tell if she really wanted it. She was in the bottom three.
While the advisors were still upset at Miss Pennsylvania for not getting her flag, they were very impressed with her at dinner. She was in the top three. They told Miss Oklahoma that she needed to be open to change and told her she was in the bottom three. Miss Utah was told to she needed to embrace fashion and beauty more but that she was in the top three. Sounds like Idaho, Vermont, and Oklahoma have their work cut out for them!
The previews for these next three episodes showed clips of makeovers, sniping, crying, competitions, and working the runway in bikinis. And I can't wait to see it all! I really can't wait for the makeovers because so many of these ladies look 35+ years old when they're really in the early and mid-20s. Miss Utah is one of those that come to mind immediately. She needs to get rid of that helmet style and tone down that hair color! All in all, I really loved the show and it has made me interested in the Miss America pageant again.
If you missed this episode, I highly recommend you catch one of the re-airs. Don't make me jump through this screen and high-five you like Miss Oklahoma did to Miss Hawaii! For those of you that watched it, what did you think? Are you more likely (like me) to watch the Miss America pageant now? Don't forget to watch the next episode on TLC at 10:00 PM (ET/PT) on Friday, January 11 and most definitely don't forget to go vote!
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