A new Miss America was crowned on Sunday, but more importantly, the live event took home a special honor of its own: TV’s tackiest tribute on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Midway through Sunday’s ceremony, Miss Americas 2000 (Heather French Henry) and 2002 (Katie Harman) joined CEO Sam Haskell to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001 — and how they almost cost us the ceremony that year. Almost.
“The Miss America competition was scheduled to be held four days [after September 11],” Henry recalled. “The contestants were all here in Atlantic City.”
“I was one of those contestants,” Harman added. “We were in shock, and we didn’t know if we could — or should — go on with the competition.” (So far, so good.)
“Miss America contestants are devoted to public service,” Henry explained. “Katie and her sisters turned away from fear and asked themselves, ‘What is the right thing to do for our country?'” (OK, this is where the message starts to get lost.)
Recalled Harman, “We prayed together for guidance, and together, we decided that even in the shadow of his tragedy, we would be an example of America’s resilience. And so… we went on.” (Bless you! Bless you, brave women!)
That’s when Henry laid down the damn hammer, clarifying that the Miss America competition was “America’s first major public event after 9/11.” (Wooooooow.)
“It’s what Miss America does,” Haskell said. “We stand in the light of God’s grace, and we rise, and we move forward.”
Cut to Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell singing a selection from Katy Perry’s “Rise.” But even Cantrell’s vocal prowess couldn’t salvage the off-key tribute. (No, really, I thought she was kind of good!)
As for the rest of the competition… The evening began, as it always does, with the 52 hopefuls dancing on an Atlantic City pier to high-energy pop, bragging about whose state has the most lobsters and whatnot.
Then came time for the introduction of this year’s 1,000 judges — as a long-suffering 90210 fan, I appreciated “Jen Clark” getting a shout-out when Sara Foster walked onstage — and the reveal of the competition’s 15 semi-finalists.
Bikinis were worn, songs were sung, and unless someone switched my meds without telling me, I’m pretty sure one girl even did a dance routine to a song from Smash.
But this isn’t Mean Girls, so only one girl got to take the crown home at the end of the night. And that girl was… Miss Arkansas, Savvy Shields.
UPDATE: And no, your ears didn’t fail you. The final song played as the ceremony faded to black was, in fact, Gavin DeGraw’s “She Sets the City on Fire.” (Who approved that?!)
Your thoughts on this year’s winner, as well as that awkward 9/11 tribute? Drop ’em in a comment below.