Although the segment is almost always primed to go viral for the wrong reasons, the pageant tried to combat this with a twist. This year, the questions for the Top 5 finalists were written and submitted by the contestants themselves.
A couple of questions sounded suspiciously in line with the controversial subjects of the past — though for the most part, they were much more tame (and apolitical) than usual. Here’s the transcript of the Q&A:
Question 1, from Miss Nebraska: “Tell me about a time when you felt unworthy and how you overcame it.”
Miss Nevada, Carolina Urrea: “A time that I felt unworthy was when my family and I became homeless and experienced this hardship a couple of years ago. I felt like I could never accomplish anything in life, but through this circumstance it just brought my family and I stronger together. And I really learned how to appreciate life and never to take anything for granted. So through this situation I found myself worthy and I’m grateful for that experience because that made me who I am today.”
Question 2, from Miss North Carolina: “Sexual assault is an issue at universities across the United States. What do you believe can be done to better protect women on college campuses?”
Miss Florida, Genesis Davila: “I believe college campuses should have different groups and activities where women can self-defend themselves, and that would be opportunities for them to be able to make it better.”
Question 3, from Miss Florida: “One in four children in the United States live in a single-parent household. How has that affected our generation’s views on marriage and family?”
Miss Nebraska, Sarah Rose Summers: “I am so grateful to have grown up in a home with two parents. Hi, parents out there. And so I can’t personally relate to this. However, I do work in children’s hospitals as a certified child life specialist where I’m a liaison between the children and families and the medical team. And I’ve seen single mothers at the bedside working remotely on their computers to stay by their children and support them, and I think that it just shows that children, no matter if it’s a boy or a girl, that they can do that.”
Question 4, from Miss South Dakota: “The Boy Scouts recently decided to accept girls into their organization. Do you feel this is a positive change, and do you think that there is value in single-gender organizations?”
Miss North Carolina, Caelynn Miller-Keyes: “I think this is a great change. I think we are in a time in America where — not in America, we’re at a time in the whole world where gender equality is a huge thing. I believe in 10, 20 years from now, women and men are going to be complete equals and we are making those steps right now with the Boy Scouts.”
Question 5, from Miss Nevada: “During the last presidential election, more than one-third of women neglected to exercise their right to vote. Why do you think that is?”
Miss South Dakota, Madison Nipe: “You know, I’m not sure why that is. I think that women are perfectly capable of expressing how they feel. And they should be able to vote and they should express that at the polls. And I think that we need to get out there as women and show that we are perfectly capable of doing that.”
Afterward, the judges narrowed the field to the contestants from Nebraska, North Carolina and Nevada. All three women had to answer one more question, this one written by producers: “You’re on your way to a march and someone hands you a blank sign and a marker. What do you put on your sign and why?”
Miss Nebraska, Sarah Rose Summers: “I say, ‘Speak your voice.’ I don’t know what march we’re on our way to in this hypothetical situation, but no matter where you’re going, whatever type of march it is, you’re obviously on your way to that march because you care about that cause. So go speak to people. When they have questions, communicate to them. Listen to their views also. That is one thing in the United States that we really need to focus on, is listening to each other.
Miss North Carolina, Caelynn Miller-Keyes: “I would put on my sign, ‘Your body, your rights.’ As someone who was sexually assaulted, as someone who stood up and fought against my perpetrators, I am all about marching for your body, for your rights. Nobody ever has the opportunity or has the right to touch you, to drug you, to do anything, to sexually assault you, harass you. That’s never acceptable.”
Miss Nevada, Carolina Urrea: “I put on my sign, ‘Let’s work together to eliminate homelessness.’ There are approximately 500,000 people suffering from this situation on a given night, and in my state of Nevada we are ranked No. 3 in the whole nation for having that much amount of homeless youth. I want to be an advocate and continue to raise awareness for the situation. Because if I experienced this firsthand, I can use my platform to raise awareness for these youth to never give up on their dreams no matter your circumstance. Your past does not define your future. You can make anything happen if you believe because if I did, they can, too.”