Only three women from Kansas have ever won the Miss America crown. On Sunday night, for a few fleeting moments, it looked like this year’s Miss Kansas – Theresa Vail – might have a fighting chance to become the fourth.
But then, she opened her mouth and tried to sing.
And let this be the lesson for future Miss America contestants: Do not learn how to sing opera from YouTube.
Unfortunately for Theresa, the talent portion was the most heavily weighted portion of the competition, counting for 30 percent.
Miss New York Nina Davuluri, who by night's end became the first Miss America of Indian descent, almost certainly sealed it with a beautiful, crowd-pleasing Bollywood fusion dance.
Theresa, a 22-year-old K-State student, breezed her way into the Top 10. She was, in fact, the first semifinalist of the night announced, a special people’s choice finalist picked by public voting online.
“I am so honored. To be fair, though, I did have the backing of an entire army,” Theresa told pageant co-host Lara Spencer, a reference to her job with the Kansas Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment.
Winning ABC's America’s Choice vote meant that Sunday’s national audience got to see Theresa’s now-famous tattoos in brief glimpses as she walked the stage in the pageant-issue bikini.
She was said to be the first contestant in Miss America history to show her ink during competition, though she wasn’t the first tattooed lady ever to compete.
Outgoing Miss America Mallory Hagan, in fact, sports a large tattoo of a key on the back of her neck. Some reports suggest that she was the first tattoo-wearing Miss America.
Theresa made it through the swimwear competition, through evening wear and then, as a Top 10 finalist, competed in the all-important talent portion.
(Miss Missouri, Shelby Ringdahl of Columbia, made it into the Top 12.)
Theresa had joked in pre-pageant interviews that her preferred talent would have been archery – she’s a bowhunter – but Miss America has a no-projectiles rule.
Sadly, that left her to struggle with a talent she clearly was uncomfortable with: Singing.
Sadly, while she was singing “Nessun Dorma” by Puccini, the pageant flashed this little factoid: “Learned her song by watching YouTube.”
She was hardly the only contestant whose talent performance slid into ripe-for- “SNL”-parody territory.
Miss Connecticut Kaitlyn Tarpey, who performed an Irish dance, psyched herself up by proclaiming: “Chin up, boobs up and rock it!”
Poor Miss Texas Ivana Hall (painfully) forgot the words to her song.
But it was those weird, “Pop Up Video” factoids that kept showing up on the screen that were the biggest distraction during the talent portion.
While Miss Georgia Carly Mathis sang a song from “Les Miserables,” did we really need to know that her feet are different sizes?
While Minnesota Rebecca Yeh, a classically trained violinist, performed with virtuoso concentration, did we have to read that she “still fears the Snow White witch”?
Or that Miss Maryland Christina Denny wants to ride elephants in Thailand and “enjoys cutting people’s hair”?
Where was the pop-up factoid to tell us what kind of underwear host Chris Harrison was wearing?