Joell Posey

Joell Posey Grager

Tuesday evening, September 6th marked the start of the 96th annual Miss America Pageant on-stage preliminary competitions.  Delivering an impressive “Star Spangled Banner” to launch the evening was Lois Elaine Smith-Zoll, opera singer and Miss America Organization volunteer whose contributions to the program have spanned 50 years of service.
Recipients of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International awards for service were recognized this evening on stage in three class categories:
Bronze-Miss New Jersey
Silver-Miss Maine, Miss North Carolina, Miss West Virginia
Gold-Miss Alabama, Miss Mississippi, Miss New Hampshire, Miss Oklahoma, Miss South Carolina and Miss Tennessee.
The most coveted awards of the evening, top scores in the competition categories of Life Style/ Fitness and Talent Performance, went to Cierra Jackson Miss District of Columbia and Grace Burgess Miss Tennessee, respectively.  During the press conference following the close of the evening’s competitions, Jackson thanked her parents and her physical trainer Anthony Morris for helping her to achieve the Life Style and Fitness Award.  Jackson joyfully exclaimed that she felt very blessed and said she believes it’s important to always “let your light shine.” Burgess achieved her top score in talent during an evening that produced several solid performances including a powerful piano selection that was an audience favorite by Miss Oklahoma, Sarah Klein.  When Burgess was asked why she chose to sing the Eagles hit “Desperado,” she credited her late Uncle Larry with being the inspiration behind it.  Burgess stated he was a talented gospel singer who lost his battle with cancer and she chose to sing that song in tribute to his memory.   Burgess said after working so hard to prepare for the Miss America competition, it was fun to finally be able to showcase her performance.

tn_Cierra Jackson Miss District of Columbia (Swimwear) and Grace Burgess Miss Tennessee (Talent)

Cierra Jackson Miss District of Columbia (Swimwear) and Grace Burgess Miss Tennessee (Talent)

tn_Cierra Jackson Miss District of Columbia, Betty Cantrell Miss America 2016 and Grace Burgess Miss Tennessee

Cierra Jackson Miss District of Columbia, Betty Cantrell Miss America 2016 and Grace Burgess Miss Tennessee

tn_Cierra Jackson, Miss District of Columbia receiving Swimwear Prelim Award from Betty Cantrell, Miss America 2016

Cierra Jackson, Miss District of Columbia receiving Swimwear Prelim Award from Betty Cantrell, Miss America 2016

tn_Grace Burgess Miss Tennessee (Talent) and Cierra Jackson Miss District of Columbia (Swimwear) 2

Grace Burgess Miss Tennessee (Talent) and Cierra Jackson Miss District of Columbia (Swimwear) 2

tn_Grace Burgess, Miss Tennessee receiving Talent Preliminary Award from Betty Cantrell, Miss America 2016 2

Grace Burgess, Miss Tennessee receiving Talent Preliminary Award from Betty Cantrell, Miss America 2016 2

tn_Grace Burgess, Miss Tennessee receiving Talent Preliminary Award from Betty Cantrell, Miss America 2016

Grace Burgess, Miss Tennessee receiving Talent Preliminary Award from Betty Cantrell, Miss America 2016

tn_Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell

Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell

All pictures © 2016 Miss American Organization