By MIKE CHAIKEN
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — One day into the competition to see who would be the next Miss America, Eliza Kanner—the current Miss Connecticut—was upbeat and positive what was to come at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.
(Kanner eventually lost the crown to Miss North Dakota Cara Mund.)
“This has been such an incredible week being at Miss America,” said Kanner during a press opportunity during the contestants lunch break. “I’ve been involved in the organization for 17 years. “I started when I was 4 years old as a (Miss Connecticut) Princess than as (an Outstanding Teen, including Miss Milldale’s Outstanding Teen), now Miss Connecticut. I’m representing my home state here. So I’ve just been collecting all the little moments and putting them in my journal so I can remember for them for years to come.”
As far as the moments that loom largest about the past week (contestants had arrived a week earlier prior to the competition to make public appearances and rehearse), Kanner said, “Last night (Sept. 6), I had the opportunity to perform my talent on the Miss America stage. It was really quite incredible because I was performing my talent. I would have these little moments where I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I’m on the Miss America stage. So it was kind of weird to have these moments where you have those moments on the Miss America stage and (remember) I have to sing; I have to perform my talent. But it was incredible. Everything I wished for.”
Before she went on stage to make her first introduction at Miss America, Kanner said she was thinking, “I’m so proud. I’m so proud to be here to introduce myself to America as Miss Connecticut. It was a dream of mine for years. Now to have the opportunity to be Miss America, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.”
Before performing her talent (she sang “Memories” in Italian) before the judges, Kanner said, “I get so excited. I really don’t have too many nerves before I perform. I’m just excited to get out there. I have an adrenaline rush, Ten seconds before they announce my name, and I walk out, a moment of calmness comes right before my music starts and I’m just ready to show them, what I worked so hard for.”
The morning after her performance, Kanner said, “I’m just happy I felt the whole performance. I wasn’t thinking about I’m getting scored on the high note or did I have enough vibrato. I was proud of myself for feeling the song, feeling the music, and really giving a great performance.”
Asked about the other 50 women on stage, Kanner said, “These women are truly the most accomplished smart, funny, intelligent, mission-driven women I’ve ever met in my entire life. We’re such a great group, so supportive of one another. I’ve made some great friends. I know I’ll have them forever.”
Forty years from now, Kanner said she will tell her children and grandchildren, “It’s a dream come true. I get asked, what are you going to tell young girls as Miss Connecticut or for years to come. ‘Just follow your dreams.’ I’m a big dreamer, but I don’t believe dreams work unless you do. Break those dreams down into goals, attainable goals, that you can reach in order to achieve those dreams.”
To her friends and family in Connecticut, Kanner (who did much of her preparation for Miss America in Bristol) said, “I’m so thankful for the amount of love and support that I’ve been showered with during my time in Miss America— but also throughout my year so far competing and when I won Miss Connecicut. It’s been so awesome. So many people said that when I won Miss Connecticut they felt they were winning too because they have been part of my journey. But thank you to everybody who has sent me so much love this week. I’m so thankful for you all.”
On the first night of competition, when Kanner performed her talent, Miss Utah JessiKate Riley won talent with a solo violin performance and Miss Texas Margana Wood won lifestyle and fitness (swimsuit).
On the second night, when Kanner took part in the onstage interview, Miss Louisiana Laryssa Bonacquisti won lifestyle and fitness and Miss Minnesota Brianna Drevlow won talent.
On the third night, Miss Louisiana Laryssa Bonacquisti won the preliminary talent award with a ventriloquist vocal performance and Miss Florida Sara Zeng won lifestyle and fitness.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN