Scoring the Miss USA 2019 Top 5 Questions

The onstage question is one of the most dreaded parts of any pageant competition. Contestants worry they’ll be asked questions about political or controversial topics and that they’ll bomb their answer. But at this year’s Miss USA pageant the contestants were up to the challenge. It was without a doubt the best group of Top 5 answers at a national pageant in several years.

Here’s a summary of the answers and how I would score them. There are several techniques that you can borrow to nail your next onstage question.

Question 1: “The 2020 election is right around the corner. What is one issue you would like all candidates to address and why?”

Alejandra Gonzalez of New Mexico: “Being from a border state and being born and raised in a border city, immigration is something that is very important to me. This is not a black and white issue, and that is why we need to have discussions and continue to listen to each other. I think that there’s so many people out there wanting the American Dream, and my parents immigrated here from Monterrey, Mexico, and I am their representation of their American Dream.”

I’d give this answer a solid 9. She did a good job steering right down the middle of the road on this one. But, what’s interesting about her answer is that she didn’t discuss any specific immigration issues.  She gave a solid “generalized” answer that she ended with a “personal experience” close. She didn’t actually comment on current immigration problems, but her answer sounded great.

Question 2: “For the past two years, #MeToo and #TimesUp have dominated our national conversation. However, some believe it has only deepened the divide between men and women. Have these movements gone too far?”

Cheslie Kryst of North Carolina: “I don’t think these movements have gone too far. What #MeToo and #TimesUp are about are making sure that we foster safe and inclusive workplaces in our country. As an attorney, that’s exactly what I want to hear, and that’s exactly what I want for this country. I think they’re good movements.”

I’d give this answer an 8+. She included good content in her answer about creating safe and inclusive workplaces but didn’t address the specific issues of women feeling unheard and men feeling accused without evidence. She also said, “exactly” twice in the same sentence. She didn’t make any mistakes in her answer, but it wasn’t great.

Question 3: “In October, my friend, Kelsey Quayle, was fatally shot while innocently driving to work. In your opinion, what is the largest contributing factor to the high rate of gun violence in our nation?”

Tianna Tuamoheloa of Nevada: “I think that what contributes to the high rate of gun violence is the availability to all of the weapons. I think there has to be another look into the gun reform. And we have to consider mental health in this situation as well because this is not just about guns. This is about what is going on in the minds of these people . . . who are using these weapons against everyone. It’s definitely a mental health issue. It’s not just a gun law.”

I’d give this a score of 8+. She was clearly aware of the topic and had researched the relevant contributing factors. The reason I wouldn’t give it a 9 was because she jumped back and forth between two factors, gun reform, and mental health, instead of just sticking with one “largest contributing factor” as stated in the question. Her answer left the impression that she can’t decide which factor is the “largest.” If she had said, “I believe the combined issue of gun reform and mental health….” it would have been a better answer.

Question 4: “Voting is an American right. Yet, only two states currently allow their prison populations to vote. Do you believe that the incarcerated should be allowed to participate in our elections?”

Triana Browne of Oklahoma: “When it comes down to the situation, I definitely believe that if you’re a law-abiding citizen, then you have every right to vote. However, if you do anything that breaks the law, then you should be held accountable until you are released and serve your time.”

I’d give this a 9-. She was familiar with the topic, had an opinion, and clearly stated her opinion. I would have given a higher score if she’d added a little more detail and had a stronger closing sentence.

Question 5: “America is one of the most racially diverse countries in the world, yet it is also one of the most racially divided. Why do you think this is?”

Savannah Skidmore of Arkansas: “I think diversity is one of the most unique things about our country, and it’s one of the most special, and we should cultivate that. We shouldn’t be divided. We shouldn’t look at our fellow contestants, our fellow man, and say, ‘You aren’t like me, so I don’t like you. You don’t look like me, so I am racist against you.’ We should come together and involve everyone in our lives. I think these 51 contestants that have stood up here tonight represent our country so well because they are so diverse. And I think that that is exactly what we need in our world. We need to celebrate our diversity.”

I would score this a perfect 10. She answered the question, didn’t say anything inflammatory, presented it as an issue that impacts all Americans, and even pulled it back to include the contestants at the end. It just doesn’t get better than that.

Watching pageants doesn’t need to be just about the beautiful gowns. It can be a great tool for you to improve your onstage answer.