By: Mary Fran Bontempo

redcup2A red cup.

Never mind years of vocal training or hours spent practicing classical piano. Who cares if you can stand on point in ballet shoes and spin off a bunch of fouette turns in a row (which is really, really hard)? Can you weakly warble a popular tune an smack a cup around?

With what looked like a routine from a summer camp talent show, Miss New York won the Miss America title Sunday night, after singing(?) the Pharrell Williams’ tune, “Happy,” and tapping a beat with a red cup, a la Anna Kendrick and her “Cups” song, from the movie Pitch Perfect.


The Miss America contest has never exactly been a talent showcase–apparently looking good in a bikini is still a major draw–but this was reminiscent of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer promoted a beauty pageant contestant with a pigeon act. After a pigeon mishap, the contestant was forced to withdraw, depriving the audience of what was surely top-notch talent. Or not.

I wonder what would have happened had someone absconded with Miss New York’s cup? Maybe the ventriloquist would have won. (Hey, at least she had to work at it.)

And Kira Kazantsev was Miss New York! You know, arguably the cultural and artistic center of the United States? There are graffiti artists in the New York subway who put more effort into their spray paint.

I’m sure Ms. Kazantsev is a lovely young woman. And she said she wanted to “do that talent” because she “wanted every single little girl in America to be able to see that you can do that talent — you can do whatever talent you want on national television — even with a red cup — and still be Miss America and have the time of your life.”

Clearly, she was right.

But I’m not so sure that Miss America, who has been inspiring little girls since the contest’s inception in 1921, should be a model for mediocrity.

We live in a culture where every kid gets a trophy simply for showing up on a team. Everybody gets an “I Am Special” poster and a week to tell the class just how wonderful he/she is. Every half-hearted effort is met with a “Yay! Good try!” by enthusiastic parents assuming they are promoting confidence in their children.

Seems to me we’re just promoting lower standards.

But maybe I’m wrong. As Miss America has proven, you can be the best, win the prize, bring home the big bucks and make your dreams come true with a mediocre effort.

As long as you look good in a bikini, that is.