Pageant Prep: The Tips and Tricks That Worked For Me

One of my favorite motivators at the gym is the Food Network Channel. Nothing gets me through a grueling hour on the treadmill like watching gourmet food come to fruition in an episode of Barefoot Contessa or Chopped. While I am a disaster in the kitchen, I have watched and sweated through enough cooking shows to know how important prep work is. You can’t just grill a steak. According to Ina Garten, you have to furiously mince shallots, sprinkle at least a dozen different spices onto the piece of meat, and then let it marinate for a solid hour before you can even consider turning on the grill. Pageant prep is surprisingly not that different, and your performance is directly correlated to the time invested in preparing for a competition. With orientation and state pageants on the horizon, I thought I would share the tried and true methods I used when preparing for Miss Idaho and Miss America.

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1. Winners are made in the interview room. Interview is the category that is judged first for a reason. No matter how resplendent your wardrobe is or how many years you have spent perfecting your talent, interview is where judges find their winner and therefore is the category that usually requires the most focus. The judges want to know who you are, and a good rule I’ve always followed in interview is: If another person can have the same answer as you, it’s not a good answer. Dig deep, own your quirks, tell unique stories, highlight your passions.

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2. Broaden your viewpoints. To help me prepare for Miss America, my Miss Idaho board arranged “Monday Mingles” where every Monday I would meet with a member of my community. I got to sit down and speak with a broad spectrum of people, from the Vice President of Zion’s Bank to an Idaho Supreme Court Justice. These meetings really allowed me to expand my thinking and learn more about the world around me. If you are a local titleholder, reaching out to people in your own community- professors, former bosses, family friends- is such a helpful and fun way to prepare for your interview.

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Another method to expand your ways of thinking is to read more. Between preparing for Miss Idaho and Miss America, I probably read around sixty books. Reading is a phenomenal way to engage your mind in different stories, words, and walks of life. I read everything from non-fiction to fantasy. The premise of the book does not matter so much as the product itself. At the end of the day, being a state titleholder boils down to representing and serving a group of people. I can’t think of a better resource to prepare for this job than books that capture the lives and ideas of those around us.

3. Serve to succeed. Even as a local titleholder, you really do prepare for the job of a Miss America. The more you involve yourself at events in your community or service opportunities in relation to your platform, the more you are preparing for the job of a state representative. My first few weeks as Miss Idaho were not nearly as chaotic as I expected, because I had already been an active titleholder in my community as Miss Pocatello. Before Miss America, I was booked for appearances about five or six days every week. It was stressful at times, but those events ultimately helped me enter my Miss America interview feeling fully prepared to be a Miss America.

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4. Record yourself. This one seems like the simplest, but it can make the world of a difference. I highly recommend filming yourself practicing every phase of competition. We really are our worst critics. I was mortified to discover how fast I naturally talked in an interview, the awkward way I looked posing with two hands on my hips in evening gown, and the terrified expression in my eyes when I played a tricky measure on the piano. By recording yourself practicing, you can see what the judges see and fix the mistakes you otherwise would not have detected. So go out there, dissect your paperwork, garnish your interview skills, and knead your talent performance, because a great steak (and pageant queen) isn’t created in an instant.

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