Miss Wisconsin Tianna Vanderhei, 25, was the first 2019 candidate to win the $1,000 preliminary onstage question scholarship. Vanderhei answered a question about discrimination in college admissions.

"Everyone has the right to high education," Vanderhei said. With $20,000 in scholarship winnings before coming to Miss America 2019, Vanderhei also mentioned how the cost of a college education can be prohibitive to many and is the reason many of her fellow contestants choose to enter the competition. 

Despite nerves, Vanderhei said she loves the interview portion of the competition, "With working in broadcasting and reporting for a number of years before taking a bit of a break this fall and benefiting from the age rule change, I'm happy to be here and have the opportunity." 

Miss Florida Taylor Tyson, 23, wowed judges with a shortened rendition of "Mephisto Waltz" by Hugarian composer Franz Liszt on the piano. The classical number earned her the first $2,000 preliminary talent scholarship.
Tyson explained how she chose Florida Atlantic University over attending a music conservatory for her post-high school education.

After the evening's competitions, both Tyson and Vanderhei said the swimsuit competition was not missed as a category by those who would have previously walked the runway.

The Miss America Competition preliminaries continue Thursday and Friday at Boardwalk Hall. 

Miss Virginia Emili McPhail, 22, won the preliminary onstage question scholarship of $1,000 and Miss Louisiana Holli’ Conway, 24, earned the $2,000 preliminary talent scholarship.

McPhail’s win came after she answered a question about what she would advise the NFL with regard to kneeling during the national anthem.

“Kneeling during the national anthem is absolutely a right that you have to stand up for what you believe in, and to make the right decision that’s right for you,” McPhail said. “It’s very important that we also have to take into consideration that it is not about kneeling: It is absolutely about police brutality.”

Miss Louisiana Conway’s win came after opening the talent portion Thursday night with a vocal performance of “I Believe” by Fantasia.

Conway cited the lyrics of the song she sang and said it ties into her platform: “I believe in the impossible,” “I strive to be the very best.” Conway said her voice was tired earlier in the day. She got frustrated during rehearsal and had trouble encouraging herself. But she said her Miss America candidate “sisters” helped to pick her back up.

The first day of preliminaries Wednesday with host Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri brought preliminary wins for Miss Wisconsin Tianna Vanderhei, 25, and Miss Florida Taylor Tyson, 23, winning the onstage question and talent preliminary scholarships, respectively.

The Miss America preliminary competitions will continue 7 p.m. Friday at Boardwalk Hall.​
Miss Massachutsetts Gabriela Taveras, 23, won a $1000 scholarship for her onstage and private judges’ interview. On stage, Taveras explained how, if given the opportunity to travel abroad as Miss America, she would represent the country during the new onstage question category.

“When I have gone abroad, the one thing I always want [the locals] to know is that we, as Americans, are supporting them and we are there to help them,” citing several mission trips she has taken overseas, “it’s allow me to show them the values of being American”.

Taveras also was one of the three candidates who won a $5000 STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering Math scholarship.

She has a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Emmanuel College in Boston and has lofty ambitions to earn a Master’s degree in International Relations and Business Administration and possibly work towards a Ph.D.

During a night of talents featuring speed painting, clogging, jazz dancing and ventriloquism, her rendition of “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra helped Miss Indiana Lydia Tremaine, 20, win the $2000 preliminary talent scholarship.

Coming from a musical family, Tremaine said she’s been singing her whole life, but her passion is music education and plans to teach at the middle school level.

Past Miss Americas 1994 Kim Aiken and 1969 Judith Ford were celebrated on stage for their milestone anniversaries. Aiken, who was not in attendance, has her Miss America year highlighted with a video tribute featuring her powerful vocal talent performance of “Summertime” and her crowning moment, while Miss America 1969 Judith Ford talked about performing her “too masculine” talent, a trampoline routine in Boardwalk Hall 50 years ago.