It's a second win for the Constitution state! Connecticut has captured a second Miss Teen USA crown (succeeding Logan West's win in 2012) thanks to Kaliegh Garris whose unique look with the curly disco-diva afro that she sported helped her stand out in a big way and bring her to the top 5 where she gave an excellent answer to her final question that was clearly the best of that top 5. It should also be noted that this is the first set of black-to-black wins at Miss Teen USA as Kaliegh Garris' 2019 Miss Teen USA win succeeds that of 2018 Miss Teen USA, Kansas' Hailey Colborn. Previous black Miss Teen USA winners were: New Hampshire's Janel Bishop in 1991, Delaware's Ashley Coleman in 1999, Missouri's Marissa Whitley in 2001, Maryland's Kamie Crawford in 2010 and Connecticut's Logan West in 2012. This completes the trifecta of the MUO pageants. The first black-to-black Miss Universe winners were: Trinidad & Tobago’s Wendy Fitzwilliam in 1998 and Botswana’s Mpule Kwelagobe in 1999. The first black-to-black Miss USA winners were: Tennessee’s Rachel Smith in 2007 and Texas’ Crystle Stewart in 2008. Kaliegh is a phenomenal young woman who attends two schools as she is a dual-enrolled student at Joseph A. Foran High School and the Educational Center for the Arts where she majors in theater. She dances competitively in multiple forms including: Tap, Jazz, Ballet and Contemporary dance and has started an awareness program focused on educating others about people with disabilities called "We Are People 1st" inspired by her older sister who has multiple disabilities.

Tim Tialdo, Kaliegh Garris, Nia SanchezA lot of people were surprised to learn that the preliminaries for Miss Teen USA were being held on the same day as finals which made predicting that much more difficult so, to not make it a scramble, I posted my 2019 Miss Teen USA predictions prior to preliminaries which was extra difficult as I really had to go off of bios, headshots, some online pics and overall impression juggling other people's impressions as well bearing in mind that the IMG era is supposedly about accomplishments first but there were some very accomplished delegates that were left out as others placed…

The hosts for this year's pageant were: Nia Sanchez-Miss USA 2014 and Tim Tialdo who did a commendable job. Tim Tialdo has a podcast where he interviews pageant titleholders past and present so it is good to have people involved who are passionate about pageantry as they normally do a better job. The all-female judges/members of selection committee were: Katherine Haik-Miss Teen USA 2015, Kristen Walthers-Remington-Miss Nevada Teen USA 1999 and top 10 semifinalist at Miss Teen USA 1999, MJ Acosta, Ivette Fernandez-Miss Alaska USA 2001, Shannon Keel and Kristin Collin.

In terms of my predictions, I picked 7 of the top 15 plus 2 alternates (Nevada and Tennessee). The 6 ladies I missed were: North Dakota, Mississippi, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Wyoming. I had my suspicions about North Dakota but kept her out when I saw some body shots of her state pageant. I liked Mississippi's headshot initially but then saw some previous headshots where she didn't look like the same person. Wyoming had a great gown at her state pageant that reminded me of that of Iris Mittenaere's at Miss Universe 2016 but I thought the judges wouldn't take a liking to her but I do think she will probably be Miss Wyoming USA in the near future. Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma were all off my radar. Sometimes I think IMG might be a bit overly pro-midwest. I posted my predictions prior to watching preliminaries which were held on the same day as finals for the first time ever which made this quite the scramble but at least they did webcast the preliminaries this year, unlike last year. After preliminaries, I did have the impression that Tennessee would place and that New Hampshire and Minnesota wouldn't and that turned out to be an accurate assessment so I guess I did need to watch preliminaries after all to predict better but there were some complete headscratchers in this top 15 that I never would have picked. Surprises are always to be expected but it really did feel like some of these names were picked out of a hat. The Congeniality award returned this year though and that award went to Minnesota who was among my original picks. I originally had Connecticut in my top 5 but lowered her to my highest semifinalist position only because she is majoring in Theatre and I thought aspirations in entertainment were frowned upon in this era of pageantry. What happened to my 8 ladies that didn’t place? Well, we don’t see interviews so that often throws a wrench into making accurate predictions. First up was District of Columbia who was a great overall candidate and her headshot screamed top 5 to me so I was surprised that she didn’t place as she looks like she has it all and is accomplished as she attends Towson University majoring in Psychology aiming to be a school psychologist to help eliminate the stigma linked to mental illness and has a story of surviving a mentally abusive relationship and for fun, she is a Disney fanatic. Even though DC has enjoyed success recently at Miss USA, Miss Teen USA is a very different story as they have only placed thrice (1987, 2000 and 2001) and they have never made the top 5 at Miss Teen USA even if they won the Miss USA crown 4 times. Next was Missouri who was among the younger delegates at age 15, but she has some significant achievements as an honors student who create a nonprofit society, STEM Girl Inc. which provides scholarship for girls aged 12-18 in Missouri. She advocates for STEM awareness and goes to schools discussing this. She has many awards and is clearly a bright girl so I was surprised that she didn’t get the call but other Midwest girls were chosen. Next was Texas, the most successful state at both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA but Texas was shockingly shut-out at both pageants for 2019. That hasn’t happened since 2010 which is the only other winner that Texas didn’t place at either pageant since Miss Teen USA’s inception in 1983. Texas also crowned their first African-American Teen winner and she was strong in interviews and accomplished finishing third in her high school class of over 500 students and earned a Capstone Academic Scholarship at Howard University and likes to educate youth on political involvement and its importance. She did talk about liking shopping in her bio which I wouldn’t have encouraged so I wonder if that’s what did it. New Jersey was a formidable candidate and very accomplished as she is pursuing a degree in medicine with a double major in biology and exercise science at Montclair State University with a goal to be a sports cardiologist in the NFL. She was awarded a provisional patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office for one of her inventions and has numerous accolades to her name. She even started a non-profit organization called "Athletes with Asthma" speaking to students about exercise-induced asthma attacks so I have no idea how she didn’t place. Washington was really great in interviews and is supremely confident so I thought she would get the call. I liked that she dared to be different in her hot pink gown with the circular shoulder sleeves which was like a throwback to the 80s. She was also very accomplished as she is associated student body president and a National Honor Society vice president, an official science scholar and a Tri-M Music Honor Society member. She takes eight advanced placement courses and holds a 3.85 GPA. Lily is also a cheerleader of nine years and created a nonprofit at the age of 15 called the Smize Foundation inspiring high school students to be involved with their local food banks. She also aspires to attend medical school and become a neurosurgeon. New Hampshire did give the impression that she might not place after the preliminary gown competition but she certainly was accomplished. As a freshman at the University of South Carolina double majoring in finance and risk management with a minor in aerospace. She is a member of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps with aspirations to work in the Air Force so I thought that could have been the rare unique achievement to put her over the edge. California’s 6-year streak in the semifinals was broken this year and I actually just included her in the last minute because I thought the streak would continue and her accomplishments were decent. Finally, Minnesota would win the Congeniality award and I thought she had a look they would embrace and good enough accomplishments but it was not to be and I probably would have called this had I watched preliminaries prior to making predictions this year. I really looked for accomplishments this year but as mentioned in my Miss USA commentary, it felt like the winner was zeroed in on and perhaps the accomplished threats to said winner seemed to be substituted by some others so there may have been some strategy to selecting this top 15.



Winner=Connecticut-Kaliegh Garris

Winner=Massachusetts-Annie Lu*

1st Runner Up=North Dakota-Caitlyn Vogel

1st Runner Up=District of Columbia-Jaclyn Davis

2nd Runner Up=Nevada-Erica Bonilla

2nd Runner Up=Missouri-Abilene Lortz

3rd Runner Up=Mississippi-Kaylee McCollum

3rd Runner Up=Texas-Kennedy Edwards

4th Runner Up=Alabama-Kalin Burt

4th Runner Up=Illinois-A'Maiya Allen*



Arkansas-Maggie Williams

Connecticut-Kaliegh Garris*

Illinois-A'Maiya Allen

New Jersey-Ava Tortorici

Kansas-Hannah DeBok

Washington-Lily Lloyd

Maryland-Amalia Sanches

New Hampshire-Jadyn McDonough

Massachusetts-Annie Lu

Maryland-Amalia Sanches*

Nebraska-Erin Swanson

South Carolina-Allie Richardson*

Oklahoma-Abigail Billings

California-Alina Rae Carranza

South Carolina-Allie Richardson

Arkansas-Maggie Williams*

Tennessee-Bailey Guy

Alabama-Kalin Burt*

Wyoming-Grace Turner

Minnesota-Olivia Herbert


ALTERNATES: Nevada*, Hawaii, Tennessee*, Iowa, Virginia


HONORABLE MENTIONS: Montana, Idaho, Arizona, Utah, Florida


* = made actual top 15

After the top 15 were announced, they did a little introductory walk with some of the delegates wearing orange shoes?? Really?? Anyway, then it was on to the active wear competition with the ladies wearing sports bras and leggings. Oklahoma was up first and she was a surprise but I guess the aspect of promoting sun safety was unique. Kansas was next and was the biggest surprise of this group that I don’t think most people saw coming. She aspires to become a forensic nurse and works with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOSCA) and the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA). Illinois was next and was perfect for Teen. She really has the cute look and her petite frame and I wish she had advanced to top 5 as she was worthy. She studies at Howard University in Washington, DC majoring in public relations with hopes of becoming a digital content creator in the sports industry and launched a mentorship program, "High Heels High Hopes," at the age of 13 speaking to young girls about the importance of social media responsibility, education and confidence. Arkansas was also among the better delegates in this group. She was the complete package as she had fresh looks and she has strong achievements as she is a Junior at Piggott High School simultaneously taking college courses. She is her school's highest ranked female singles tennis player, holds a District II leadership position in Future Business Leaders of America, shows cattle and competes in Parliamentary Procedure with her school’s chapter of Future Farmers of America. She aspires to double major in Political Science and Criminology to pursue a law degree. Nebraska was another surprise. She studies at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln majoring in business management with an emphasis on entrepreneurship. She is passionate about supporting youth who have aged out of the foster care system so perhaps this aspect about foster care was smiled upon similarly to DC’s representative at Miss USA. Mississippi did initially catch my attention with her headshot but fell out of my list when I saw older headshots. She is a freshman in college with the aim of becoming a registered nurse anesthetist. She works two part time jobs and volunteers weekly at her local food bank. South Carolina continued their strong trend of sending great delegates to Miss Teen USA. They placed in 8 of the last 9 Miss Teen USA pageants and Allie could have easily advanced to top 5 as she was a complete delegate and strong in all aspects. In terms of accomplishments, she is a recent graduate of Lexington High School where she served as the student body vice president and a chapter officer of the National Honor Society. She is passionate about animals and volunteers with Healing Species, a Non-profit Organization focused on Dog Rescue and Adoption. Maryland brought some exotic flavor to the semifinals being born to a French-Guinean mother and a Spanish-American father. She is very diversified and well-rounded being fluent in five languages and she has lived in four different countries and has been a ballet dancer for ten years. She is also very athletic and even created a foundation called Simret Zeru which sends clothes and school supplies for children in West Africa. Her curly hair was also nice. North Dakota was next and I understood her placement even if the body wasn’t among the strongest. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in obstetrics at Minot State University and founded the Limitless Fashion Show, a nonprofit fashion show for girls with disabilities so that was likely the point of interest that probably helped in interviews. Alabama was good body-wise and her accomplishments include being a Presidential Scholar at the University of Alabama with a double major in Finance and Spanish. She is a part-time accounts payable clerk and model. She also dances competitively and ran track. Massachusetts, my winner, was up next and she was very sweet and intelligent and I figured if they went with a Princeton girl last year, why not go for the Harvard girl this year? Annie is a freshman at Harvard University and not only that but she founded an environmental tech start-up in addition to BridgEd, an internationally recognized nonprofit organization that bridges the socioeconomic gap in education by providing low-income high school students with free college counseling. Nevada was up next and being the hometown girl helped this year which isn’t always the case. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor's degree in secondary education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she aspires to become a high school teacher. She is also part of Zero Teen Fatalities young drivers task force, speaking to high school students about the dangers of distracted driving. Next up was our queen, Connecticut who was very fit and fabulous. I will say I saw a lot of lists and Kaliegh’s standout look and great body did help her place on practically all the lists I saw so she was the consensus pick. Wyoming was among the taller delegates this year at 6’1” and I didn’t think she would win over the judges but she did manage to after all and as mentioned earlier, I’m sure we will see her representing Wyoming at Miss USA in a few years as I feel she is more suited for Miss than Teen. Finally, Tennessee continued their great track record placing in 6 of the last 7 Miss Teen USA pageants. Bailey has great hair and she is also a literacy advocate for children across Tennessee who created her own organization, 'Be a Reader, Be a Leader,' which encourages children to find joy in reading similarly to Texas’ delegate at Miss USA this year.

For the evening gown competition, Oklahoma’s black one-shoulder gown had the mermaid effect and the billowy white fish-tail bottom and this style of gown has been quite popular and even resembles the one Virginia’s rep wore when she won her state title. Kansas’ silk teal gown with a beaded skirt probably stood out for the unique color that probably pops on stage but I didn’t really think much of it. Illinois’ pink gown reminded me so much of the gown that Venezuela’s Ivian Sarcos wore when she won Miss World 2011. It looks like frosting and was very appropriate for Teen. Arkansas’ black and pink gown was mature and sophisticated. Nebraska’s blue princess gown with jeweled bodice was decent. Mississippi’s pink mermaid gown with beaded straps surrounding the shoulders was nice and suitable for Teen. South Carolina’s sky blue gown was heavenly. Maryland’s turquoise gown was okay. It could have been shaped a little better. North Dakota’s jeweled gown with the full train really stood out especially with this bold shade of red. Alabama’s light blue gown helped give her a serene aura. Massachusetts also had the bold red like North Dakota and the gown design was nice with the floral attachment on one shoulder leading to a nice flowy cape. Nevada’s hot pink gown with the shouldered cape was awkward at times so I wish it had been removed or that she stopped opening up the cape as it made the shoulder pieces come out of alignment. It also reminded me of Georgia’s Emanii Davis’ gown when she also finished as 2nd runner up at Miss USA 2016. Connecticut’s hot pink gown was great and I appreciated the comeback of the scarf over the neck which was popular in the mid-90s and the hair was popular in the 70s so this was a queen for all ages. Wyoming’s pink mermaid gown was common. Finally, Tennessee’s white gown was divine and surprisingly this was the only white gown among the semifinalists. There was a time when white was perhaps too popular a color at Miss Teen USA (like 1987) but the rarity of it in recent years seems to make it more appreciated.

Top 5Connecticut's Kaliegh Garris is crowned Miss Teen USA 2019 by Kansas' Hailey Colborn-Miss Teen USA 2018After the top 5 were announced, there was a quick casual question before the final question. Mississippi was asked why she prefers collecting vinyl records over digital downloads. Mississippi replied, “Honestly, because they’re cooler. I mean, don’t you all agree? Yes. Haha. I like how they look different, like, ‘cause it’s… I’m really like an oldie so the records are cool. Haha. Thank you.” It’s extremely rare to see one of today’s teens using vinyl records so that could have been a point of interest for the older judges to win them over but I wasn’t really impressed with this answer. Next, North Dakota was asked about launching her own clothing line for individuals with disabilities. North Dakota replied, “Yes, so after I did a fashion show for girls with disabilities, it was a great community impact and it inspired all the models to be confident in themselves so I wanted to keep going so I did a clothing line so they could model all year round and yeah!” This was also a point of interest that likely won over the judges and designing clothes for disabled individuals and having a fashion show is a unique concept. Next, Nevada was asked about speaking at the 35th annual Hispanic graduation ceremony and what her message was to her fellow students. Nevada answered, “So I was able to speak at the Hispanic graduation because of the scholarship I won from the Hispanic Educators Association of Nevada and I was able to tell them about my passion of education and the importance of diversity in the workforce and I’m really proud to say that they gave me the opportunity to do that.” She seemed a smidge soft-spoken but really seemed prepared on how to respond to this question. Connecticut was asked to tell about working as a counsellor in an eco-friendly camp. Connecticut replied, “Yes, so I am an eco-counsellor which basically means that everything is outdoors so we do kayaking, canoeing, rock-wall climbing and it’s so much fun and coming from an inner city, a lot of the kids don’t know how to swim so I get to teach them how to swim and how to kayak and it’s just a lot of fun to see them try something new.” Of course, we would expect a great answer from our winner! Finally, Alabama was asked what the highlight was of her trip to Costa Rica. Alabama answered, “So we actually got to go ziplining in the rain cloud forest and that was really cool even though we ended up really muddy afterwards so don’t be surprised if you go ziplining in Costa Rica and you end up muddy because there’s mud in the sky.”

And then it was time for the final questions asked by the judges starting with Mississippi who was asked by Kristen Walthers-Remington (with a more news anchor voice than from what I remember in 1999), “Seven in ten teens say anxiety and depression are major problems among their peers. Why do these issues seem to be impacting your generation at a higher rate than any previous generation?” Mississippi answered, “Yes, um, so my platform is #YOUmatter and it’s about suicide. Um. One of my friends killed his self before I won my state title and so it really brought my attention to this and it really is a big deal in today’s society because people think that it is okay to judge you but there is only one you. There’s only one you. God made you this way and you need to live it, live your life to the fullest. Thank you.” She didn’t really directly answer the question but her message was relevant and she incorporated a personal experience into her answer. North Dakota was asked by Kristin Collin, “Americans owe more than 1.5 trillion dollars in student loan debt. Do you agree with Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan to cancel or reduce that debt for some Americans? Why or why not?” North Dakota answered, “As a college student, I do see both sides of this. Um. College is very expensive but there is a lot of people out there who want to help you. My first full year of college, I’ve had to pay less than $500 solely on academic and community scholarships so I do feel like if you take the time to fill out those scholarships, you can make college work.” This was a very good answer and she offered a solution and gave an example from her life as well. Nevada was asked by MJ Acosta, “Mayor Pete Buttigieg has suggested that 18-year-olds spend one year in national service as a way to raise civic engagement. Do you think community service should be mandatory?” Nevada answered, “I definitely think that community service is really important in especially teenagers’ lives. I personally have participated in different programs in, across Las Vegas and have been able to be a Ronald McDonald scholarship ambassador as well as start my own program for education so I definitely think it’s important for us to advocate for community service because it teaches you a broad, wide, of, variety of programs and lessons.” She was clearly prepared for this question with a few slight fumbles in the delivery but it was a good answer. Connecticut was asked by Shannon Keel, “A survey of U.S. teens found that 61% of high school boys believe having a lot of money is important compared to just 41% of girls. Why do think young women appear to be less motivated by money?” Connecticut answered, “I would say because they have the confidence in themselves to know that they are enough. They know that no matter how much money they have, that they are still successful being themselves and that no matter who they talk to, what experiences they have, what jobs they have, they are still successful and they are still empowered in themselves.” Connecticut knocked it out of the ball park with this insightful answer. It was easily the best answer of the night and it was clear at that point that the crown was Kaliegh’s. Finally, Alabama was asked by Ivette Fernandez, “Despite the political division in this country, a 2018 survey found that the majority of Americans say democracy is working well in the United States. Do you think our current political system is working or not working and why?” Alabama answered, “I do think that our current political system is working just because our economy is honestly, the greatest that it has ever been and that, I mean, that’s a fact so thank you.” I don’t know if she gave up because Connecticut clearly had it but this answer just came across as flubbed and sounded influenced by something a certain president said so it revealed which side she’s on… so it was also clear who would be 4th runner up at this point.

After Hailey Colborn did her farewell walk having to lift up her skirt, it was time for the results. The 4th runner up was Alabama, the 3rd runner up was Mississippi, the 2nd runner up was Nevada and then the camera circled around the final two revealing a lot of empty seats in the audience which wasn’t really surprising given that the venue and date was only announced a month prior to the pageant so most families couldn’t really plan to attend. Connecticut was declared Miss Teen USA 2019 and North Dakota was 1st runner up. After she was crowned, Kaliegh’s big hair hid the crown sometimes but at certain angles, you could see that it was there! The last Miss Teen USA to bear a similar hairstyle to Kaleigh Garris would be Miss Teen USA 1999, Delaware’s Ashley Coleman so perhaps it helped having Kristen Walthers, Miss Nevada Teen USA 1999 and top 10 semifinalist that year on the selection committee! This is a second memorable win for Connecticut at Miss Teen USA and Kaliegh will be a magnificent Miss Teen USA so may she have a marvellous reign.

The Prethoughts - Miss Teen USA 2019




Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP