Combining two of our nation’s favorite pastimes (democracy, judging women), this year the Miss America Pageant has invited we the viewers to personally cast our votes among its 52 finalists and select one woman to place in the Top 15. That’s right, a privilege once bestowed only upon C-list celebrity judges and, we guess, the Illuminati (?), has now been extended to us rubes. Let us now exercise this most solemn duty!
To help us determine which Miss America finalist belongs in the Top 15, each gal has personally submitted a 60-second-or-less video explaining why she deserves to be America’s Choice. If we’re being real — and we should ALWAYS be real when it comes to beauty pageants — these videos are truly fascinating glimpses of these women as individuals. Seriously, there’s no way the manufactured pomp of the broadcast can compete with the quirks and personality on display in these videos, which run the gamut from charmingly ramshackle to slickly overproduced.
As you might imagine, watching 52 videos may be more than you can handle, so we’ve watched and ranked them for you! (In keeping with the America’s Choice mission, we’ve highlighted the Top 15 videos first.) Spoiler: Many of the contestants use selfie sticks, but in an interesting twist, they’re a welcome tool, in that the footage looks better and it’s nice to know that most of these ladies filmed their videos without outside help. On the other hand, a depressing number of contestants filmed their videos in vertical-orientation, and, call us old-fashioned, but we do NOT deserve a Miss America who ignores the vast difference between vertical and horizontal video orientation, you know? You know.
Anyway, here they are: The 52 Miss America candidates’ videos, ranked!
1. Miss Montana, Danielle Wineman
It’s simultaneously geeky AND badass to recite a monologue from The Tempest over footage of Glacier National Park, but that’s just how Miss Montana rolls. Bonus points for the surprise reveal of a huge auditorium of children at the end. This video was a true thrill ride!
2. Miss Maryland, Destiny Clark
Did NOT expect a Miss America contestant to bust out a guitar and sing a full-throated original song about it! Is this an American Idol audition? Either way, let’s invite this lady into our homes, she’s got star quality.
3. Miss Tennessee, Hannah Robison
Miss Tennessee hails from a small town called Paris, but keep this in mind: “Here we don’t say bon-jure, we say Hey y'all!” This video is well-shot, with great personality and bright colors. Plus, there’s footage of Miss Tennessee in a white lab coat, wearing hoop earrings and giant hair, doing stem cell research! Save us, Miss Tennessee! Save us all!
4. Miss Texas, Shannon Sanderford
From underneath a dogpile of forlorn children (one girl picks her nose), Miss Texas informs us of her first ever ambition: “I wanted to be the person who names streets.” But her story doesn’t end there: “I’ve traveled all over the world and I’ve seen the empty eyes of girls in impoverished villages.” Question: Are we sure the Bush twins didn’t have a secret triplet? She seems nice though.
5. Miss West Virginia, Chelsea Malone
With the very earthy, very catchy John Denver song, Miss West Virgina manages to come across as both chill AND fun. Look at her just hanging out in those bleachers enjoying those West Virginia vibes.
6. Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson
This video is not wild or crazy or overly ambitious, but Miss Colorado comes across as very genuine and sincere. Plus, her footage of being a registered nurse gives her a big advantage over her fellow contestants who merely pay hospitals a visit for photo ops. And in our opinion? She seems nice.
7. Miss Alabama, Meg McGuffin
“Meg McGuffin, not to be mistaken with the Egg McMuffin,” is how Miss Alabama introduces herself. But it’s her decision to include a re-enactment of the time she was a young girl with self-esteem issues — complete with sad child actress staring in mirror — that truly wins my heart. Is it weird that her big issue is helping women with body image even though she’s real thin? Hard to say.
8. Miss Puerto Rico, Destiny Velez
Few things are as simultaneously funky and elegant as Miss Puerto Rico’s bedazzled ‘Puerto Rico’ T-shirt. Also, she once bowled a 300, so if that doesn’t deserve our votes, what does? Also, she seems nice.
9. Miss Alaska, Zoey Grenier
The biggest mystery of this video is that her voiceover suggests an all-business, sincere person, but then the photos and footage suggests Miss Alaska is a bit of a card! We would not be surprised if Miss Alaska enjoys yucking it up from time to time, how about you?
10. Miss California, Bree Morse
With a quirky stop-motion intro and very good cinematography, this video was definitely produced in the Los Angeles area. That being said, she seems nice.
11. Miss New Jersey, Lindsey Giannini
One of Miss New Jersey’s main missions was lobbying for widespread placement of “don’t text and drive” signs, but she’s also into magic and weight lifting, and there’s a bit where she pretends to eat an entire pizza in one sitting. Approved!
12. Miss Idaho, Kalie Wright
This video has it all: Nice scenery, tear-jerking footage of troops returning home, a Phillip Phillips song. Plus Miss Idaho was a competitive wrestler in elementary school, a fact that seems baffling to Miss Idaho herself.
13. Miss District of Columbia, Haely Jardas
14. Miss Florida, MaryKatherine Fechtel
Towards the end of this video Miss Florida appears in footage filmed at Rockefeller Center, which is not even in Florida? Is that even allowed? But she seems nice, deal with it.
15. Miss Georgia, Betty Cantrell
You had us at spinning in circles in a field, Miss Georgia. In addition to that, Miss Georgia wants to perform on Broadway someday and is seen here crouching in 1970s inspired separates while pointing to a photo of Don Knotts.
There you have it, the Top 15 homemade Miss America videos. But if you really want the full picture before you cast your votes, here are our thoughts on the remaining 37 independent films.
16. Miss Kentucky, Clark Davis
You know, at this point we’re just grateful for the excellent audio and handsomely filmed video. Also, Miss Kentucky lost 50 pounds AND she’s dyslexic. Give this lady some votes!
17. Miss South Dakota, Autumn Simunek
Here’s a prime example of why the selfie stick is a surprisingly great choice for these videos. All these South Dakota locations are picturesque, and the added touch of writing their names out on a dry-erase board really gives us the sense that Miss South Dakota is crafty and thoughtful. Also, mega bonus points for indicating that the Badlands were “as seen on ABC’s The Bachelor” because that was the episode in which Chris dumped two nightmare women in the desert and then flew away in a helicopter. Truly great television.
18. Miss South Carolina, Daja Dial
At the beginning of this video, a piece of vertically filmed footage suddenly stretches out to become horizontal footage. Was this Miss South Carolina’s clever critique of her fellow candidates’ inability to use a cell phone video camera? We may never know. But we DO know her preferred hashtag, the confusing yet clever #DollarsonDial!
19. Miss Iowa, Taylor Wiebers
Gotta love a mud-splattered T-shirt and also walking around a baseball diamond in a daze. She seems nice.
20. Miss Illinois, Crystal Davis
Miss Illinois cracks a joke about all of us feeling “blown away” because she’s from the Windy City, but then she laments, “tough crowd” as though she knew for a fact that nobody was laughing at her joke. But what if we were? What if we laughed so hard from the joke that our La-Z-Boy recliners fell right backward onto the parquet? Please don’t assume, Miss Illinois! She seems nice though.
21. Miss Arizona, Madison Esteves
Many of these videos contain epic vistas and hyperbolic proclamations, so there’s something almost comforting about Miss Arizona’s seemingly impromptu video she made by the swimming pool with some random friends. All of these people, but especially Juana, seem very nice.
22. Miss Arkansas, Loren McDaniel
The dinosaur statue is a bold decision, but even bolder? This video is super short! Like, half as short as any of the others! We applaud you, Madam.
23. Miss Massachusetts, Meagan Fuller
We liked when she hid behind the American flag and then sort of popped out slowly. Plus, she seems nice!
24. Miss Mississippi, Hannah Roberts
Definitely brag about famous authors from your home state, even if one of them is John Grisham. Points added for being a legit medical student, but points deducted for standing in front of that children’s mural. Everybody knows children aren’t very good at art!
25. Miss Missouri, McKensie Garber
Miss Missouri brags that her tiny town has no stoplights or chain restaurants, but it makes us nervous when she’s walking backward and her entire town is just standing there in tableau nervously watching her almost crash into them. But you can tell from the looks on their faces that she’s probably nice.
26. Miss Kansas, Hannah Marie Wagner
We’re truly not sure how we feel about pairing a pearl necklace with a sunflower dress, but if Miss Kansas claims she’s been “living as Miss America” for years already, then maybe she knows best?
27. Miss New Mexico, Marissa Livingston
More dreaded vertical footage, but we are tantalized by the reveal that Miss New Mexico is a “professionally trained magician’s assistant” who “supports children’s hospitals through dance marathons.” There’s a lot going on with her and we appreciate that.
28. Miss New York, Jamie Lynn Macchia
A quick 'n perky video in which Miss New York enjoys simple things like weightlifting and coffee and bragging that her state has won three years in a row now. She seems nice?
29. Miss North Carolina, Kate Peacock
In one of the more chilling examples of community involvement, Miss North Carolina enlisted several dozen locals to “cast” their fishing lines in synchronized succession, we guess as a play on “casting” votes. Points for charm! She seams real mean though, just kidding, she seems nice.
30. Miss Oregon, Ali Wallace
“Portland, Oregon is all about the hipster and keeping-it-weird lifestyle.” Which, we guess also involves ziplining and posing at the front door of the local newspaper. Not sure this video needed an extremely long musical outro over black, but we appreciate the avant garde touch.
31. Miss North Dakota, Delanie Wiedrich
OK, the audio is not great, but this video ups the terror ante by suddenly introducing a Theodore Roosevelt impersonator halfway through. Why? Because history! But also terror. She seems nice though. (Just like the scenery, which is very nice.)
32. Miss Nevada, Katherine Kelley
We mean, we don’t know. Sure, brag about Las Vegas being “innovative” and whatnot, but you’re still standing in front of a hellscape. She seems nice though.
33. Miss Oklahoma, Georgia Frazier
We have personally never seen a more stirring or striking photograph than a Miss Oklahoma tiara placed on a rock and photographed in the honest light of day. Points for filming this video competently (i.e. horizontally). She seems nice.
34. Miss Minnesota, Rachel Latuff
We appreciate the childlike drawing of Miss America, as well as the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote. But how do we feel about Miss Minnesota creating her own hashtag, #CrownTheTeacher? We suppose that’s the age we live in now and probably can’t fight it. She seems nice though.
35. Miss Washington, Lizzi Jackson
Man, Miss Washington’s main thing seems to be crouching and talking to children, which can’t be easy on the lower back. Wonder Woman cape or not, Miss Washington is almost certainly imperiling her lumbar region. She seems nice though.
36. Miss Delaware, Brooke Mitchell
There’s something slightly impersonal about simply presenting us with a montage of photos, but after listing off all of her organizations we’re especially curious about this Teens for Jeans one. The name is great!
37. Miss Nebraska, Alyssa Howell
Miss Nebraska delivers “Miracle Bags” full of toys and treats to children in poor health, but she’ll have to deliver US one for having to endure this vertically oriented video! Just kidding, we don’t actually need a Miracle Bag at the moment.
38. Miss Pennsylvania, Ashley Schmider
Honestly, we can only pay attention to that sandwich she’s sitting beside. Later there’s those steps from Rocky, but what about that sandwich? It seems nice.
39. Miss Rhode Island, Alexandra Curtis
Look at all those scenic Rhode Island locations. They’re so beautiful that when the video’s over you’ll feel like you just took a 55-second nap! She seems nice though.
40. Miss New Hampshire, Holly Blanchard
YOU try twirling three batons while promising to “Twirl my way to the top.” It is HARD, and that is why Miss New Hampshire is Miss New Hampshire, and you aren’t Miss New Hampshire. She seems nice though.
41. Miss Hawaii, Jeanné Kapela
Miss Hawaii enjoys leaning against giant pineapples and also personally bringing an end to sex slavery someday, hopefully. She seems nice.
42. Miss Virginia, Savannah Lane
Miss Virginia has TWO SETS of twin sisters (one or more of whom has health problems), and in a related factoid, her family puts on intra-family pageants of their own. And she seems nice!
43. Miss Michigan, Emily Kieliszewski
What is this? The Compliment Michigan Show? It’s a fine state, we got it. Michigan seems nice though.
44. Miss Maine, Kelsey Earley
One of Miss Maine’s hobbies is working with a non-profit that gifts superhero capes to children with health issues. That seems cool to us. Just our opinion!
45. Miss Ohio, Sarah Hider
See what we’re saying? Miss Ohio’s family farm would have looked so much lovelier if it were filmed horizontally. Points deducted! (We love when she slaps the imaginary bug, though. Points re-added!) She seems nice.
46. Miss Wisconsin, Rosalie Smith
We are pretty sure that Miss Wisconsin is in some kind of museum and that display motorcycle is not for the general public to be climbing on! She seems nice though.
47. Miss Louisiana, April Nelson
It’s easy to guess from Miss Louisiana’s intonation that she is a regional theater actress. It’s harder to fathom why her friend couldn’t turn the cell phone on its side. They seem nice though, both she and the friend.
48. Miss Utah, Krissia Beatty
Miss Utah tells an interesting story about learning how to swim, in which a grown man threw her in a swimming pool and refused to rescue her, which resulted in her “kinda dying.” She seems nice though.
49. Miss Wyoming, Mikaela Shaw
Obviously the vertical orientation is a problem, but nowhere near as big a problem as the fact that Miss Wyoming uses the non-word “undoubtably.” She seems nice though.
50. Miss Indiana, Morgan Jackson
Bonus points for the amazing hair, but this video is ultimately like a video version of RT'ing your own compliments. Enlisting other people to praise you is not modest, guys. She seems nice though.
51. Miss Vermont, Alayna Westcom
Nightmare. This video opened with eerie black and white footage, like some kind of cut scene from Silent Hill. Then, at some point there’s a transitional wipe with one of the more terrifying sound effects we’ve ever heard. Also, points deducted for audible cue card flipping. She seems nice though.
52. Miss Connecticut, Colleen Ward
Almost all the videos featured some kind of local historical landmark, and in this case we got one of the first public libraries in America. But did Miss Connecticut have to go and TALK inside of it? That is like the main rule of libraries, lady. She seems nice though.
So there are your Miss America 2015 contestants! To help decide which woman will automatically ascend to the Top 15, you can vote on both Facebook and Twitter by posting a status and/or tweet with the name of the contestant’s state and the hashtag #MissAmericaVote. Voting ends Sept. 10 at 11:59 p.m. ET!
The Miss USA Pageant airs Sept. 13 at 9 p.m. on ABC.