If you’ve ever watched a Miss America national telecast or attended a local or state competition in person, you might get the impression that the audience is not seeing the same thing that the judges did.

There is some truth to that.

Mary Ann Wertenberger, who is the mother of Miss Michigan 2011 Elizabeth Wertenberger, told me last week that when one can watch the preliminaries at the state or national competition, and not just the finals, “You have a better understanding of the whole thing.”

It’s not quite as noticeable at local divisions such as Miss Monroe County, because the audience typically sees all the stage performances by those contestants.

But even at the local level, the audience does not see the interviews the local women gave to the judges earlier in the day. I’ve sat in on interview rehearsals for Miss Monroe County, so I’ve seen how that goes. It’s a lot like a job interview in which you present yourself to, and answer questions from, a hiring committee. And at the Miss Monroe County level, interview counts as 25 percent of the contestant’s score.

Because there are 53 titleholders at the national competitions, it’s a little impractical to run everything on the same day. The preliminary rounds take three days for the stage shows, four if you count the interview sessions that start Monday.

The Miss America program book explains what will be on TV when the telecast begins 9 p.m. Saturday Jan. 14:

After the “parade of states” and other opening ceremonies, there will be 15 semifinalists named. We¬† know from the Miss America web site that one of those women will be the video “vote for me” people’s choice award. Then the scores will work out this way.

  • Composite scores are 30 percent. This is the judge’s composite scores from preliminary competitions and are “carried forward to the finals.”
  • Lifestyle and fitness is 20 percent. This is the “swimsuit” competition.
  • Evening wear is 20 percent.
  • Talent competition is 30 percent.

Therefore: pay close attention to the onstage preliminary winners as they are announced this week. The 53 contestants are in three groupings. Because of the time zone differences and performance times, it’s probably going to be the next morning before many of us in Michigan know what happened each night of preliminaries.

In addition to the top 15 awards, there also will be preliminary and non-finalist awards given in a variety of categories. The Quality of Life, Miracle Maker and Fourpoints magazine awards are judged separately and result in “above and beyond” scholarship money for the honorees.

– Paula Wethington

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