How do seven judges pick one person out of 53 to be the next Miss America?

It’s all about the math, said judge and social media entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. Each judge scores each contestant, and math determines the winner.

“You have seven points of view,” he said. “It is very subjective. But math is your friend.”

At a press conference Wednesday morning, after the first night of preliminaries, they said they have been very impressed with the 53 contestants, but the winner will have to be much more than just a pretty face.

"They are all pretty darn gorgeous," said television producer Marc Cherry when asked about how they can single out a winner in a category like swimsuit/lifestyle. "But it is also about how they comport themselves, with dignity and self-confidence."

Judges Kathy Ireland and Donald Driver said they are looking for someone who will be a good role model for their own children, and is effective at communicating a positive message and the Miss America brand.

"They all have worthy platforms," said Vaynerchuk, who said a lot of his research is determining what adolescent girls are interested in. "I want someone who can translate that message to young America."

Vaynerchuk is so impressed with the contestants he said he is excited that only one will be chosen so that he can make job offers to the others.

Driver, a former Green Bay Packer and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant, said he always shows up ready to do his best, and he sees that same drive in the contestants. Brigadier General Anne Macdonald said she is looking for a leader.

The judges worked hard at stressing that beauty plays only a small role in their decision. They said the private interviews have been demanding, and play a major role in the final decision. Cherry said he’d like the private interviews to be even more important in the scoring.

"I want a girl who stands out, and maybe is just a little different," said Shawn Johnson, who won a gold and three silver medals as a gymnast at the 2008 Olympics.

Miss America 1955 Lee Meriwether said she knows how nervous the contestants are, and she has a lot of empathy for them. She said she gets a gut feeling when a contestant is a standout.

“I get an immediate reaction to them,” she said. “It’s an ‘oh yes’ moment.”

That interview counts for 25 percent of the preliminary, with talent counting for 35 percent, swimsuit for 15 percent, evening wear 20 percent and on-stage interview 5 percent. The composite scores from the preliminaries will determine the top 15 for Sunday night’s final.

Miss America CEO Sam Haskell said Miss America is not always the most beautiful, the most talented, or the contestant who gave the best interview.

“She is the one who scores well in everything,” he said. “She’s the best all-round contestant.”

Haskell also announced the Miss Rhode Island Ivy DePew was doing fine and would continue in the competition. She fainted on stage toward the end of the preliminaries Tuesday night. The other contestants linked arms and formed a human shield around her as medical personnel examined her.

Host Dena Blizzard said she had just gotten overheated. Pageant officials said she was taken to the hospital, rehydrated, and released at about 1 a.m.

Contact Diane D'Amico:


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