THOUGHTS OF MISS TEEN USA

2020


Aloha, Miss Quaran-Teen USA!!! Ki'ilani Arruda of Hawaii is Miss Teen USA 2020!!! My prediction wins the crown!!! Yay!!!
The breathtakingly stunning and exotic Ki'ilani has captured a second Miss Teen USA crown for the Aloha state succeeding the win of another of my favorite Miss Teen USA winners, Kelly Hu who won the Teen crown in 1985 and went on to be a noted actress and color commentator for several Miss Teen USA pageants and she would even compete for the 1993 Miss USA title finishing 4th in a pageant won by Michigan's Kenya Moore. It's interesting to note that 3 of the top 5 (Hawaii, Oregon and Nebraska) all wore bright yellow gowns so I guess we can expect to see a lot of yellow gowns next year!!
The hosts for this year's Miss Teen USA competition were Allie LaForce-Miss Teen USA 2005 and Cheslie Kryst-Miss USA 2019. The selection committee consisted of: Danielle Doty – Miss Teen USA 2011 from Texas, K. Lee Graham – Miss Teen USA 2014 from South Carolina, Nia Franklin – Miss America 2019 from New York, Sara Echeagaray – social media personality and TikToker, and Iman Oubou – scientist, entrepreneur, and medical missionary. The pageant was held for a third time as a concurrent event with Miss USA only a few days prior to the Miss USA 2020 competition at the Exhibition Centre and the Soundstage at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. An interesting change this year was that the Teen delegates had red lettering on their sashes to distinguish themselves from the Miss delegates.


ACTUAL TOP 16:

MY PREDICTIONS:

Winner=Hawaii-Ki'ilani Arruda

Winner=Hawaii-Ki'ilani Arruda*

1st Runner Up=Oregon-Shayla Montgomery

1st Runner Up=Connecticut-Samantha Sarelli*

2nd Runner Up=Georgia-Shayla Jackson

2nd Runner Up=Virginia-Amya Caldwell

3rd Runner Up=Nebraska-Audrey Eckert

3rd Runner Up=Arkansas-Anna Claire Hay*

4th Runner Up=Louisiana-Sydney Taylor

4th Runner Up=Mississippi-Zoe Bigham

SEMIFINALISTS (alpha'l):

SEMIFINALISTS:

Arizona-Molly Schwanz

Georgia-Shayla Jackson*

Arkansas-Anna Claire Hay

South Carolina-Gracen Grainger*

California-Zoe Hunt

Oklahoma-Danika Christopherson*

Connecticut-Samantha Sarelli

Michigan-Aneesa Sheikh

Maine-Grace Morey

Nebraska-Audrey Eckert*

New Jersey-JaeLynn Polanco

Alabama-Katie Watts

North Carolina-Peyton Brown

Louisiana-Sydney Taylor*

Ohio-Lily McLaughlin

North Dakota-Amanda Higginbotham

Oklahoma-Danika Christopherson

California-Zoe Hunt*

South Carolina-Gracen Grainger

Oregon-Shayla Montgomery*

Tennessee-Ansley Ecker

North Carolina-Peyton Brown*

 

ALTERNATES: Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Florida

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Kentucky, Tennessee*, West Virginia, New Jersey*, Illinois

 

* = made actual top 16




For those who may not know, this is the fourth Miss Teen USA winner that I have predicted succeeding those of: Maryland's Kamie Crawford in 2010, Connecticut's Logan West in 2012 and Texas' Karlie Hay in 2016. In terms of my predictions, I was also very happy that I picked 11 of the top 16 plus 2 honorable mentions (the host delegate, Tennessee and New Jersey). The 3 ladies I missed were complete surprises: Arizona, Maine and Ohio. My 5 picks that didn't place were: Virginia (who really was amazing in preliminaries especially in her white gown), Mississippi, Michigan, Alabama and North Dakota but one thing that is certain at Miss Teen USA is surprises are to be expected. What happened to my 5 ladies that didn’t place? Well, first up was Virginia and Amya really stood out in preliminaries in her white gown that I thought she was a sure thing but perhaps she lacked in achievements or her interview wasn’t as strong. Mississippi was also very strong in terms of overall look. Her black and pink gown was really unique but some said she looked a bit overtanned. I heard a rumor that both Mississippi and North Dakota were temporarily sent home after testing false positive for Covid but that they were both flown back in time for the finals. Both these ladies were among my predictions and I really hope this wasn’t the reason for them missing the cut. North Dakota was quite the unique delegate as she majors in commercial aviation wanting to be a pilot and she also takes international studies with an emphasis in Chinese. She is also a pianist and dancer and so she is a very uniquely talented individual and I got the impression that her interview would be quite strong. Michigan had a more exotic look being half-Pakistani and she is the youngest of 11 children! She was born in Kentucky but moved to Michigan for her ice skating career. She is also captain of her forensic team and is even a singer/songwriter who can play guitar behind her back! I thought her achievements combined with her overall look and this fantastic blue gown would make her a strong contender so I don’t know what happened here. Finally, Alabama had a fresh look and even a yellow gown which was favored this year but she was only 15 years old so maybe this had an effect.

After the top 16 were announced, it was time for the active wear competition. Arizona was up first and she was definitely one of the more surprising choices this year. I don’t know if you noticed but Arizona and Alabama both have the same Fun Facts on the Miss Teen USA website so maybe this was an apology placement?? North Carolina was a strong overall candidate and I was starting to think she wouldn’t place based on other’s opinions of her but I’m glad she did as I really liked her headshot. Peyton is quite photogenic but apart from that she is fascinating in that she can sing Cher songs and has performed the national anthem 200 times. She is a biology major, wants to be an orthodontist, and is captain of her cheerleading team. She plays soccer and is even related to the Captain of Captain and Tennille. She also wants to create awareness of domestic violence and work to prevent it. California was petite but that does work for Teen on occasion and her smile was constant much like Rachel Smith, Miss USA 2007 and Miss Tennessee Teen USA 2002. California’s Zoe is achieved as she has a 4.0 GPA, kayaks professionally and encourages others to get out and get active and she is passionate about history. Connecticut followed as this girl was all kinds of awesome. She wasn’t on my list originally but she blew away the competition in preliminaries and was a complete standout with that dominant walk rocking that high ponytail and I want to see this girl do big things on the Miss USA stage in the near future. Oregon was next and I’ll admit that she wasn’t in my list until I saw how heavily favored she was after preliminaries and that I did a last minute reshuffle to include her and boy, am I glad I did! I did like that she likes 80s music and the show ‘Glee’ but I thought she was more on the petite side but again, that does work for Teen. It is interesting that Oregon has been quite successful at Miss Teen USA winning the crown 3 times and placing as 1st runner up twice whereas they are more unsuccessful at Miss USA. Nebraska came on strong this year placing in the top 5 for the first time ever. Audrey really impressed during preliminaries and her impact and overall look made her make a few lists including mine. Audrey is majoring in Business Communications and even had an interesting story about winning her state title despite having a broken foot! Louisiana followed and she had been an early favorite and she did also perform well in the preliminaries. She studies Mass Communications and plans to attend law school and some interesting factoids about her are that she practiced her runway walk in a funeral home and can recite pi to 30 digits which is way more than just 3.14. South Carolina followed and they are normally quite successful at Miss Teen USA as they have now placed in 9 of the last 10 Miss Teen USA pageants and have won the crown twice. Gracen is a high-achieving Type A personality so she will be determined to do well in this competition. She majors in biology and chemistry, won a Presidential Gold service award and she can hula-hoop and state the preamble of the constitution in 7 seconds. Ohio was a surprise for me. I guess she’s tall and seems nice so her demeanor must have appealed to the judges. Georgia has experienced hearing loss since the age of 3 so she had the potential to be the Heather Whitestone (Miss America 1995) of this pageant as Heather also had hearing loss. Because of her condition, Shayla has trained herself to be a master lip reader and she is also captain of her volleyball team and an honors student who has published a book and she performed well in preliminaries but Shayla didn’t pull off a fairytale win which seems to be harder to do these days. Hawaii followed and she was very strong from the beginning. The Aloha state sent a true stunner with Ki'ilani who is half-Filipina and was a favorite based on headshots and she is accomplished and performed excellently in preliminaries. She is a honor student with a 4.0 GPA and she is president of her high school class, wants to be a dermatologist is athletic and outdoorsy and has a story about supporting her brother who has autism. She also went to space camp and likes painting. Arkansas followed and it was revealed that she was the winner of the fan vote! Anna was my winner at one point simply because I loved her bio. It stood out as just fun. She is a chemistry major and describes herself as an old soul who has an unusual need to have food on her plates divided and she really wants to try a Reese's peanut butter cup but she can't since she's allergic to nuts and she is involved with an inclusion group called 'You Can Sit With Us' as a more positive take on the line from the movie 'Mean Girls.’ New Jersey looked quite young and seemed a smidge timid on stage but she gave a decent performance. Oklahoma had great stage presence though almost like a Teen from the 80s. Danika is another high achiever who can even sing the Periodic Table of Elements! She boasts a 4.0 GPA and is pursuing a business degree to launch her own clothing line and even works with puppets and studies ventriloquism. Tennessee, the hometown girl, was given the nod and she looked decent. Finally, Maine placed and was again a major surprise among the semifinalists.

After a lovely gown parade with all the delegates grouped by gown color set to Elvis Presley’s “Pocketful of Rainbows,” it was time for the evening gown competition starting with Arizona in a lavender ball gown with a jewelled midsection. North Carolina followed in one of those panty-gowns but this one was actually nice with the full white skirt and the jewelled bodice. California followed in an aqua gown and this color seems to be quite popular among the teen delegates in recent years. Connecticut stole the show once again in a breathtaking white gown and she poses and worked it so well. Oregon followed in a yellow gown with a jewelled bodice and full train. Nebraska also had a yellow gown with a full train with more of an off-shoulder look. Louisiana followed in a two-piece gown with a jewelled top and a full turquoise skirt. I’m not really a fan of the two-piece gowns but I can see why some like them. They have a bit of that ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ effect. South Carolina followed in a very nice white gown with turquoise pieces designed over the shoulder and also on the train and this gown reminded me of the gown that Cheslie Kryst wore when she won Miss USA 2019. Ohio followed in a dark pink simple mermaid gown. Georgia followed in a bold blue gown with a pleated skirt and it was very nice. Hawaii had a more classic yellow ball gown with the jewelled bodice complemented nicely with the flower in her hair. Arkansas had another two-piece gown with a full white skirt and turquoise and purple jewelled top. New Jersey also had the more classic white ball gown. Oklahoma followed in what was perhaps the most unique gown of the pageant but it worked well for Teen with the ruffles and gradient of pinks. Tennessee had an orange-red gown that moved nicely on stage and finally, Maine had a full-sleeved open back lavender gown with a pleated skirt and it was a somewhat take on Arizona’s gown and both of ladies were surprises in the top 16.

HawaiiHawaiiAs the top 5 were announced, each was asked some get-to-know-you questions by Allie Laforce and Cheslie Kryst. First up, Allie asked Georgia, “Is it true you once hula-hooped for 7 straight hours and may I ask why?” Georgia answered, “It is true. Let me tell you that was such a great ab workout for me but it all started because I was looking at the Genius (she meant Guinness) World Records and the… I think it was like 72 hours and I was like, ‘I’m going to try this.’ And 7 hours was enough for me so power to that person that made 72 hours out there.” Allie followed up with, “Have you done abs ever since?” and Georgia answered, “Um… yeah. No.” Allie said that was enough of an ab workout for a lifetime. Georgia was sweet and being hearing impaired gave her a similar speech style to that of Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995 who is also hearing impaired. Next up was Oregon who was asked by Cheslie, “How does it feel (to make the top 5)?” Oregon answered, “Crazy. I have dreamed since I was 12 years old.” Cheslie said that Oregon is a big 80s music fan and she wanted to know who were very singer was from that era. Oregon answered, “Oh my goodness. It’s so hard to name one. Right before I came on stage, I was listening to Queen and trust me, my family and I love dancing to Queen at my house especially me and my niece, Jaida.” Cheslie said we’ll be looking for Oregon to make us some playlists for us next year and Oregon said, “Oh, totally. Look at my Spotify. I got you.” Oregon showed spunk and charisma and stood out for saying that she loved 80s music so she did well here. Next up, Nebraska was asked by Allie, “Tell us about the mentoring program you started when you were just 12 years old.” Nebraska answered, “Yes, so from a young age, I understood the importance of mentoring and I recently fell in love with the TeamMates program so as a Husker cheerleader, the football coach, Tom Osborne founded TeamMates mentoring and it comes really full circle to me so I love all my little girls at home. If you’re watching, ‘Hi! I hope you’re having a good time.’” Allie said she was a mentor to so many out there and congratulated her on making top 5 to which Nebraska replied, “Thank you. I’m sure they’re screaming just as much as me.” Nebraska’s giddiness was infectious and I’m sure the judges like that about her. Next up Louisiana was asked by Cheslie, “Tell us about the father-daughter dance you once hosted.” Louisiana replied, “Well, we weren’t actually able to host the father-daughter dance because we had it planned for whenever Covid happened and we’re still working on getting it started up whenever Covid ends so hopefully we’ll get to do that.” She probably could have described a little bit more about what the purpose of this dance was because there wasn’t really much said here. Finally, Hawaii was asked by Allie, “How nerve-racking was that moment?” Hawaii replied, “Thank you. Oh my God. This is so amazing. I’m so blessed to be here. Thank you to everybody!” Hawaii was then asked, “You attended Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket centre. Do you think your generation will be the one that makes it to Mars?” Hawaii replied, “I definitely think so. I think our generation is definitely filled with a lot of bright, young individuals hungry to get out there to explore space so maybe it will be me someday! Probably not, though.” Hawaii was great and showed a little humor in her answer which was nice.
And then it was time for the final round of judge’s questions. Georgia selected Iman Oubou who asked, “Nearly one in four teens say they connect with their teachers less than once a week. Do you believe it’s possible for distance learning to be effective despite a lack of in-person engagement?” Georgia replied, “Honestly, I can personally relate to the distance learning with my little brother. He is on the autism spectrum and he needs that social interaction so I feel like having social interaction really helps with the education because with him being on the autism spectrum, it makes it a little bit more difficult but I feel like on the teacher’s side that they can more the interaction more effective. Thank you.” This was a decent answer and she incorporated her brother’s need for social interaction as an example. Next, Oregon selected K. Lee Graham who asked, “It has been said that all politics are local. With that in mind, what law would you would like to see enacted in your home state?” Oregon answered, “Something that I would absolutely love to see in my state is being able to have plastic bags be eliminated. Right now, our climate is deteriorating and Oregon is known for having such a great, great climate reform and I’d love for us to just throw out those plastic bags and instead have paper ones because even though a small act is so tiny, it can make a really big difference in our country.” Oregon’s answer was good and it’s nice that she was able to come up with it reasonably quickly but perhaps she could have explained a bit more about why plastic bags are bad. Nebraska selected Nia Franklin who asked, “If you could choose one book as a mandatory read for all teens, what would it be and why?” Nebraska answered, “That would be ‘The Possibilities are Endless.’ I read this book at such a young age learning the importance of dreaming. That’s what I tell all of my kids that are mentor…that are my mentees. Dream big. My 9 year old self would be screaming right now knowing that I am here. Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t because you always can. I am just so thrilled so thank you.” This was a nice answer and was delivered with sincerity and had a motivating message. Next, Louisiana selected Danielle Doty-Fitzgerald who asked, “Do you believe college tuition should be free for all Americans. Why or why not?” Louisiana answered, “I don’t believe it should be free for everyone because I think that’s what makes going to college so special. Earning the scholarships, working hard, getting those grades and that’s what makes college so important and so special for the people that get to go so I think that we can all work hard and get scholarships and still pay for our college in that way.” This was probably the most controversial answer of the 5 because there a lot of people that disagree with what she said but she got her point across and backed up her opinion but I’m not necessarily sure that this was what caused her to rank as 4th runner up. Finally, Hawaii was asked by Sara Echeagaray, “What has experiencing a global pandemic taught you about life?” Hawaii answered, “Well… of course this global pandemic is very unprecedented and has taught me a lot about life. For me especially, it’s taught me to appreciate my family. I got to spend so much time with my family, my little sister, my little brother. I love them dearly and I know that soon in Spring, I will be going off to college and I won’t have those precious moments with them so really, just to cherish those around me and really just, it’s so honorable that I get to represent my home of Hawaii so just being at home is so wonderful. Thank you.” Everyone can appreciate the importance of family so Hawaii’s answer was sweet and endearing.

Finally, after the Miss Teen USA winning moments was shown again (with 2013 to 2016 omitted) and the Congeniality award was given to Washington’s Marianne Bautista (Interestingly, there was no Congeniality award given at Miss USA this year). Kaliegh Garris said her farewell as a 20-year-old Miss Teen USA. Kaliegh Garris is now the longest reigning Miss Teen USA reigning for 18 months and 10 days from April 28, 2019 to November 7, 2020 defeating the record previously held by Miss Teen USA 1986, Oklahoma's Allison Brown who reigned for exactly 18 months from January 21, 1986 to July 21, 1987. The shortest reigning Miss Teen USA was the very first Miss Teen USA 1983, New York's Ruth Zakarian who reigned just over 7 months from August 30, 1983 to April 3, 1984. Finally, the results were announced. 4th runner up was Louisiana, 3rd runner up was Nebraska, 2nd runner up was Georgia, 1st runner up was Oregon and Hawaii’s Ki’ilani Arruda won Miss Quaran-Teen USA/Miss Teen USA 2020! Of course, it did look unusual that no one could go up to her and give her congratulatory hugs to set an example for Covid so this was a winning moment like no other. Ki’ilani did have a great reaction to her win though and she seemed to be in total disbelief and even sat for a long time while doing her first walk as Miss Teen USA. This will be an interesting reign and it could be a shorter reign based on when next year’s pageants are so we will see what happens but congratulations and Aloha to Ki’ilani!





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Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP