Kazantsev, a 23-year-old Hofstra University graduate, is the third consecutive Miss America winner from New York. Last year’s winner, Nina Davaluri, appeared on stage to fasten the crown as Kazantsev collapsed in tears when her name was announced, as is tradition.
First runner up was Miss Virginia, Courtney Paige Garrett; second runner-up was Miss Arkansas, Ashton Campbell; third runner-up was Miss Florida, Victoria Cowen; and fourth runner-up was Miss Massachusetts, Lauren Kuhn.
Anyway, Kazantsev wins a $50,000 scholarship; as hosts Chris Harrison of “The Bachelor” and Lara Spencer of “Good Morning America” reminded everyone, repeatedly, the pageant is really about scholarships and education and philanthropy. But of course, there’s also evening gowns, a swimsuit competition and a talent show, which leads us to some of the highlights — and weirdness — of the annual pageant:
* Best intro line: All 53 women competing start off with a sassy tagline. (Miss Delaware, showing off her biceps: “Our official state beverage is milk, and yes, it does a body good.”) But we have to give the win to Miss D.C. Teresa Davis, who announced “From the home of ABC’s hit TV show ‘Scandal,’ it’s handled.” Well done, ABC, that was very subtle cross-promotion.
* Best Top 15 video clip: As each of the Top 15 were announced, a pre-taped video started playing as they walked to the center of the stage. Our favorite? Miss Iowa Aly Olson — while everyone else talked about their platform issues, social causes or fun facts, she confessed that her favorite hobby is reading “Game of Thrones.”
* Best proof that Miss America producers have a sense of humor: Meghan Trainor’s body acceptance anthem “All About that Bass” started playing as the intro into the swimsuit competition.
* Best tweets from the swimsuit competition: The finalist round featured the Top 16 women in swimsuits, where judges look for a commitment to what they call “health and fitness”: Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Connecticut, New York, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Viewers weighed in:
* Best use of evening gown voice-over:
The Top 12 who made it to the evening gown segment got to walk the runway while the audience heard a voice-over clip of them describing how they chose their dresses. Miss Tennessee Hayley Lewis delivered a short monologue about the benefits of Pinterest.
* Best talent: Obviously the ventriloquist. Seriously, while the others chose the “singing and dancing” routes, Miss Ohio Mackenzie Bart amazed the crowd as she and her puppet, Roxie, sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
* Best fun fact during the talent show: While the Top 10 showed off their talents, fun facts flashed across the screen beneath them (“Has 130 pairs of shoes”; “Terrified of frogs,” etc.) Everyone agreed Miss Florida Victoria Cowen had the best one:
* Best blast from the past: Former “American Idol” contestant Jasmine Murray, Miss Mississippi, got to sing again in front of millions as she made it to the Top 10, a.k.a. the talent competition. Don’t fret if you don’t remember her from “Idol” — she landed in 13th place all the way back in 2009, when Paula Abdul was still a judge. Those were the days.
* Best typo: Jane Austin. Sorry, Miss New York.
* Best answer to a tough question during the interview segment: We’re giving this a five-way tie between the Top 5: Arkansas, Florida, New York, Virginia and Massachusetts. All of the questions were difficult, and they only had 20 seconds (!) to answer about gun laws; Ray Rice; women in the Senate; ISIS; and how to stop rape on campus.
* Best skillful name dropping: Miss Alabama Caitlin Brunell, daughter of former Redskins player Mark Brunell, never brought up her dad’s name, just that he was an NFL player. Close tie between Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn, who brought up her Harvard education multiple times.
* Best “ignore Lara Spencer” moment: The bubbly “GMA” correspondent peppered the finalists between segments with all kinds of questions, for example: “Miss Delaware, if you were tweeting about the feelings of this moment, how would express them in 140 characters or less?” Miss Delaware Brittany Lewis politely ignored that instruction and answered in several sentences.
* Best D.C. power sighting: Tammy Haddad, a Miss America Foundation board member, arrived on stage to talk about the organization’s “mission of empowerment for education.”
* Best reminder that “Dancing With the Stars” premieres Monday: Former contestants Kathy Ireland, Donald Driver and Shawn Johnson were all judges. Again: Well done, ABC.