Happy Saturday! Who is ready for Miss America tomorrow, September 15th at 9PM ET?
I am! In the spirit of Miss America week, I’d like to re-introduce you to the second most popular quote of 2007 (according to Wikipedia): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww. I personally believe, like such as, that hilarious quotes like this (above) create a perennial stigma surrounding all forms of pageantry. The truth is, though, that the Miss America Organization is the world’s largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. Last year the MAO raised a total of $45 million in cash and scholarships on the local, state, and national level.
Fine-tuned interview skills, ability to withstand scrutiny, development of resilience… these are all qualities which are commonly overlooked in beauty queens. Prior to competing, I was a severely introverted Actuarial Scientist who was scared to death of being on stage. Although I did well, it certainly didn’t come easy for me; however, I am now completely comfortable with public speaking, performing, networking, and anything else that requires putting on an extroverted hat. Oh, I also experienced what I will forever consider the most hellish state interview of all time, so I will never walk into or out of an interview as intimidated as I did in the summer of 2011. I really do have the Miss Florida Organization to thank for that. My experience with MFAO and my fellow contestants and new BFFs was invaluable and will be forever treasured.
Oh, and back to the absolutely gorgeous Miss Teen South Carolina USA… on-stage questions are so much harder than you think. Before writing off all the women in the world of pageantry as bimbos, you try answering a probing question on stage in front of an audience with a panel of judges focusing on your every word. While I’ve never had any mishaps quite as mortifying as the notorious “The Iraq” quote, I’ve witnessed countless disasters. Nothing breaks your heart more than hearing the panic in a beautiful girl’s voice as she tries to conjure up an appropriate answer to a question she doesn’t understand.
The true purpose of this post, however, is because Miss America and Miss USA can be exceptional and socially-relevant role models, although there have been some better than others over the years. Especially with the teeny-bopper trash (for lack of better word) who inevitably mold into ignorant 18-year-olds in pursuit of a “more mature” image, our kids need classy, scholastically-minded women to look up to more than ever. For this very reason, I’ve racked my brain to draft up the following beauty queen basics for exemplifying pageant poise in every day life.
1. Set goals.
Write down your short and long term goals and keep them fresh in your mind. Setting goals and measuring milestones are imperative to achieving personal validation and building confidence. Also, create a Vision Board or Bucket List of things you want to accomplish during your lifetime. It can have 15 or 350 items on the list… it’s feasible if you make it feasible.
2. Stay up-to-date on current events.
This really should be on my “How to Be a Good Citizen” list, but it’s also one of the best kept beauty queen secrets. Titleholders are constantly fighting to break through the “I’m a dumb blonde” pretense. If you have nothing to say besides what’s going on in reality TV, you’re probably going to perpetuate the stigma, not reverse it. Plus, if you’re competing in any form of a scholarship program (think Miss America), you’re just not going to score high in the private interview portion, which makes up 25% of your total score, if you can’t fluidly discuss hot topics. Tune in to your favorite news station every morning or for a few minutes before bedtime at night.
If you genuinely don’t have time to watch the news, sign up for a daily news summary, like the Skimm, to make sure you’re getting daily highlights.
3. Take good care of yourself.
Make sure you’re tending to your skin, your smile, and your physique. This doesn’t mean putting on a full face of makeup and heels every time you leave your house– if it did, I would be the ultimate hypocrite. I simply mean remember to exercise, get plenty of sleep, take your vitamins, and keep up with yourself. If you’re looking for a final stretch fitness routine for an upcoming pageant, I’ve shared my former plan here.
4. Maintain high spirits.
Being in the public eye and feeling constantly scrutinized can (in some cases) lead to eating disorders, anxiety, depression, etc. Find a strong support system and latch on to them. Surround yourself with positive people. Hire a pageant coach if you need a little extra push. If you need help, seek help. I can’t stress this enough.
If you find yourself in need of some serious “you time,” check out these 25 ways to practice self-love.
5. Give back.
Audrey Hepburn once said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” Choose an organization or cause you’re genuinely passionate about and volunteer your time. Although I’d recommend participating on a monthly basis, once a year is better than never! I believe philanthropy is the best medicine for the soul, and I highly encourage you to get involved with the community– beauty queen or not. You can search volunteer opportunities in your area here.
6. Mind your P’s and Q’s.
In this day and age, it’s absolutely rare to find a young lady or gentleman with honest-to-goodness manners. The lost art of saying “please,” sending “Thank You” notes, watching how you speak– ugh. Not only do you set yourself apart from the general population, but your manners will be a permanent reflection on you, the way you were raised, and your conscientiousness. My two favorite books about channeling poise and class are How to Live Like a Lady: Lessons in Life, Manners, and Style, which was actually a gift from my state pageant director, and How to Be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life.
7. Incorporate rhinestones and crowns into your every day life.
This sounds like a joke, and it partially is– but seriously, you should become an avid fan of crowns, crown jewelry, and crown accessories. Wear your pageant title and ambitions proudly. Nothing screams Pageant Girl more than a sparkly, rhinestoned crown bag.
8. Invest in the pageantry essentials.
A beauty queen’s secret weapons include but are not limited to:
-Double-sided tape (to keep garments in place and adjust hem lines if necessary)
-Sandpaper (to add grit to the bottom of your shoes to avoid slipping)
-Hair spray (doubles at butt glue for swimsuit)
-Vaseline (reminds you to smile)
-Clear lip gloss (draws more attention to your smile under stage lights)
-Hot hair rollers (I used this $40 set to pump up my hair with volume in a pinch)
Annnd those are just a few of my favorites. Every former beauty queen will have her own set of beauty queen secrets. For example, my personal secret weapon for swimsuit was always Sally Hansen Airbrush Leg Makeup, which gives your legs a gorgeous glow in seconds and can realistically enhance the definition of your abs. As corny as it may sound, I believe that a killer smile is the key to winning evening gown, so I used Crest whitestrips to whiten my teeth in the long term and would swig whitening mouthwash minutes before going on stage for an instant boost of sparkle. Just a few quick beauty queen secrets to keep in mind!
9. Create a budget.
I got myself in trouble my first year by not following a budget. Pageant headshots, stage makeup, getting your hair and nails done every month/week/day… it all adds up. Factor in a generous wardrobe allowance, entry fees, donation requirements, coaching costs, and travel expenses. As a reference point, I bought a more “affordable” pageant gown for Miss Florida from arguably the most well known gown store in the country, and it was $2,500. If I added up all costs associated with competing in Miss Florida for one year, the total sum would easily exceed $5,000. So, yeah, if anybody ever tells you pageantry isn’t an expensive hobby, they’re either obscenely wealthy or are trying to sabotage you.
If you are particularly strapped for cash, there are ways you can scrimp without sacrificing quality and hurting your chances. Pageant Resale is a great website for finding pre-worn pageant gowns for less, and I’ve personally sold quite a few pairs of pageant heels and swimsuits on Poshmark. Shop at upscale consignment shops or purchase basic gown and add the rhinestone and crystals yourself. Fun Fact: The gown I wore when I wore Miss Pinellas County cost $80 at Dillard’s, and my pageant coach sewed on cheap rhinestone to make it sparkle. Up close it was a pretty big mess, but under stage lights, it looked like a pretty impressive couture gown. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask former competitors if they’d be willing to loan you their old gown/shoes/etc. I’ve also personally loaned out my winning gown twice, and I’ve been loaned a gown once. Across the board, watching someone else shine in a dress that means a lot to you is a pretty great feeling!
Even with bargain shopping, those pageant costs still add up. If you’re a poor student or new graduate who doesn’t have a parent or guardian angel helping you out, I feel for you. That was me. You can seek corporate sponsors and/or set up a Go Fund Me account, which allows other people to donate to your pageant journey. Sporadic donations of $5 and $10 can help more than you realize!
10. Have a good attitude.
I can’t stand the girls (and yes, they exist) who arrive on competition day with their nose in the air and headphones permanently glued in their ears. Make friends and be social. I met some of my all-time favorite people and lifelong friends through the Miss America Organization. Even if you lose– and there can only be one winner, remember you are growing and take something positive from the experience.
If you’re also a member of the retired pageant queen club, what beauty queen secrets did I leave off this list? Please share!