5 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Pageant

I did not win my very first Miss Idaho local competition. The second local I competed in a few months later, I also lost. Walking into my third local, I was frustrated. I kept wondering what I was doing wrong. Looking back, it wasn’t necessarily the things I was doing wrong that were responsible for the outcome, it was also the things I was not doing right. Local competitions for Miss Idaho 2019 are in full swing. Whether you are a teen or miss contestant, a first-time pageant-goer or a seasoned veteran, hopefully my heuristic journey in pageants will be conducive in your own preparations. Here are five things I wish I knew before competing.

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1. Practice like you have never won and perform like you have never lost. It is so easy to get caught up in the past. However, in the present, last year’s results do not matter. Just because you made the top five one year does not guarantee you a spot next year. Just because someone beat you in the past does not automatically make you her runner up. My first year at Miss Idaho, I was fourth runner up. My second year, I was third runner up. After consistently placing high in the past, I know how easy it is to expect great things. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you put in the work to receive results of a certain caliber. Every time I returned to the Miss Idaho stage, I never focused on last year’s outcome. Instead, I prepared like I had never won and performed like I had never lost.

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2. “Ships don’t sink because of the water around them, they sink because of the water that gets in them.” I felt incredibly confident after my Miss America preliminary performances, so content that on the night before finals, I decided to venture online and find out what other people were saying. To my dismay, I was not on anyone’s Top 15 prediction list. One pageant forum rated my evening gown a five out of ten. Another said my on-stage question answer on trade with China would have been perfect had I not spoken in such a robotic voice. According to the people of the internet, there was not a chance I was going to be making the Top 15 on finals night. So, I believed them.

I never cared too much about social media. I don’t have a Twitter nor had I ever heard of a pageant forum until Miss America. No matter how social media dependent you are, my biggest advice to any pageant goer is to tune out the noise, ignore the online critics or overly vocal friends & family. People are going to have their own opinions. It is your responsibility to not let them affect how you feel. When Gustave Eiffel built the Eiffel Tower in 1889, it was criticized by many of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for being strange and ugly. Now, the Eiffel Tower is the most visited paid monument in the world. If people in your life tell you that you’re not good enough or talented enough, remember that you have the power to prove them right or prove them wrong.

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3. Judges are just people. I remember my first Miss Idaho interview very clearly, because I was stuttering in nervousness for the first three minutes of it. It is natural to feel intimidated by people whose sole purpose is to give you a score, but I have learned to view the judges’ role as evaluating me rather than comparing me to the other candidates. I always enter an interview with the objective to impress the judges. In this moment, the other contestants don’t matter. The fact that one of your judges may be a mayor, published author, or neurosurgeon is irreverent. This is your interview, your moment to shine and prove to five people why you are the best person for the job. The interview phase of competition has always been something I’ve struggled with, but going into an interview unfazed by the looming stress factors is something that has drastically improved my experience during pageants.  

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4. “Too many of us are not living our dreams, because we are living our fears.” To say I was intimidated at my very first local competition is an understatement. I had no idea what I was doing, and it seemed like everyone else was in their element. After my first local, I never wanted to compete again. I couldn’t help but feel like a new kid in a school I had no right attending. Back then, I wish I had realized that everyone must start somewhere, and those who do have more experience than you are usually more than happy to share their knowledge. Some of my closest friends have come from competing in pageants, and some of my greatest “ah-ha” moments came from the help of other pageant contestants. Competing for the first time is new and scary, but I promise in the long run, you will be grateful to have taken a risk. There is a difference between competing against girls and competing with them. Never hesitate to reach out to me or other pageant girls in your area. At the end of the day, pageant girls win a crown because they treat others like queens.

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5. Mistakes are not always a bad thing. The very first local I competed in, I messed up. Halfway through my piano performance, I forgot the notes to my piece. After an awkward five seconds of silence, I picked up my fingers and fumbled through a few measures of music. At the time, I was so upset with myself. However, I am so glad I chose that day to forget my piano music for it has never happened again since. Often times, we learn more from our failures than our successes. Now, I tackle every talent performance with greater awareness and precision. Before performing my talent at Miss America, I listened to the songs “Start Again” by One Republic and “Little Wonders” by Rob Thomas to remind myself that failures are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. Remember at the end of the day, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

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