Betty Cantrell’s jaw-dropping performance of “Tu Tu Piccolo Iddio” from the Italian opera, Madama Butterfly, was a standout moment at the Miss America 2016 pageant, ultimately leading to the crown. The former Miss Georgia had her post-pageant sights set on New York, where she hoped to study musical theater and one day end up on Broadway. But her reign as Miss America has led her down a different path — at least for now.
Cantrell tells Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper that her cross-country travels for speaking events and appearances as Miss America have opened her eyes a little wider to country music. “It really does remind of everything that’s good in life,” she says. “I feel like the people that sing country music are real people. They’re not like other celebrities. They’re faithful people. I really respect that they can stay those real people with all of their fame.”
Country music isn’t a big stretch for the 21-year-old singer, who grew up on a farm in Warner Robins, Georgia. She claims to know how to skin a rabbit, clean a deer and drive a tractor, among other hunting and farming skills. And she already has a big Music City connection in Brett Eldredge, who was a judge at the 2016 pageant. The two made headlines together after Cantrell’s controversial answer to Eldredge’s question of whether or not Tom Brady is guilty in the Super Bowl Deflategate scandal.
“I think I’d have to be there to see the ball and feel it to make sure it was deflated or not deflated,” she responded. “But if there was question there, then yes, I think he cheated. If there was any question to be had, I think that he definitely cheated and should have been suspended for that. It’s not fair.”
(Cue the Twitter rage and late-night TV jokes.)
Cantrell’s reign ends in September, which is when she plans to move to the Nashville area to start her country music career. But Broadway isn’t off the table, as she says she hopes to pursue theater later down the road.