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How to Enter a Pageant... and Win!

By Kristin Hamerski
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #69, 2006.

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Kristin Lee Hamerski


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Meet important government officials and local celebrities! Lend a hand at important volunteer functions! Ride in parades and even perform at various events around your state!

Almost every little girl dreams about being a princess when she grows up, I know I did. While you and I will probably never have the opportunity to rule a country and live in a castle, there are other opportunities to be a "princess" and become a role model for others. Pageants, whether beauty or scholarship-based, offer just such opportunities. So now the question becomes, "How do I win a pageant?"

Picking Your Pageant

Dance Number 2005 National Teen-Ager production dance number
First and foremost, research different pageants to find the one that is best suited towards your individual strengths (See my article in PHS #59). A great research tool for girls in the Teen, Miss, and Mrs. Divisions is Turn For The Judges (www.tftj.com), a magazine and amazing website for which I am the Alaska Correspondent. The website will direct you to all of the major pageant programs for teenagers and above. The point is to make sure that you will feel comfortable in the pageant you enter, pray about it, talk with family and friends, and be sure to ask others who have competed in the particular pageant about their experience. You might even call up a past judge or past director of the pageant.

It is important to make sure a pageant is legitimate. Pageants are franchise businesses for many pageant directors, so make sure the pageant really offers prizes and/or scholarships that you want before you pay the fees to enter.

Creating Your Application

Once you have decided what pageant to enter, the preparation period begins. You will usually need to submit an application, photo, and processing fee. Be very sure to type the application so that you submit the most professional application possible. I usually type mine in outline form unless the director asks for a different format. You can ask the director to send you an electronic version of the application to type into, or retype the form yourself. The pageant director will then review the material you sent and decide whether you will be a finalist and compete in the pageant.

Photos are another important aspect of the competition. Your photo in the pageant program book is the first chance the judges will have to see you and make their first impressions. I suggest getting a professional photo taken by a photographer who has experience taking photos for pageants. Pageantry Magazine's website, www.pageantrymagazine.com, and some local pageant web sites have lots of links to photographers and other services required for successful pageantry. You can also subscribe to their magazine.

Your photo for the program book will usually be a headshot (head and shoulders), but if you want you can also have the photographer take some full body shots etc., which may give you some nice photos for a photogenic or portfolio competition as well.

Getting Yourself Ready to Compete

Now that you have been named a finalist you can begin to prepare for the pageant itself. Set up a timeline and calendar of what you need to do several months before the pageant.

Because there is a strong emphasis on health in most pageants, you may want to incorporate an exercise routine or dance class into your schedule to tone up flabby muscles.

If you are white-skinned, I strongly suggest tanning-not tanning beds, but rather spray or rub-on tans. There are even moisturizing lotions with tanning agents that work gradually. You can have this professionally done, or do it yourself, but it will make a difference in scoring. You will look much better on stage if you are tan.

Queen's Walk Taking my final queen's walk after my farewell speech
Nail care is also important. Make sure your nails are manicured and clean. You can have acrylic nails put on for you at a salon or glue on fake nails yourself, but either way the judges will notice your nails during interview and you want to present the best "you" possible.

Hairstyles should be age appropriate and not too elaborate. Most pageants prefer a natural, all-American look. Be sure to get a hair cut or trim before the pageant.

Make sure that you practice with make-up before the pageant and find out what colors are best for you. Also, remember that you want less make-up during your interview than on stage. Again, natural is best.

I would suggest whitening your teeth, whether at the dentist's office or using a whitener from the store; you can't beat a great white smile for confidence!

Clothing will vary depending on the pageant, but again stay age appropriate and always consider which colors look the best on you. I have found that with evening gowns you can't go wrong with white. Make sure your shoes compliment your clothes, but are not the center of attention. Avoid lots of jewelry, hats, and any other accessories that draw attention away from you.

Drink plenty of water, eat healthy food, and get plenty of rest, too.

Mental Preparations

Now that we have talked about some of the tangible aspects of preparation, I feel it important to cover the intangible. Mentally preparing yourself is the most important thing you can do. Pray and know in your heart that you are going to give it your best. Feeling prepared will go a long way towards feeling confident. Make sure you set up some practice interviews with friends and family, so that when it comes time for the pageant interview you will feel comfortable. Be sure to brush up on current events and don't be afraid to stand behind your beliefs when you answer questions. It is important to show the judges that you know what you believe and that you are willing to stand behind it.

You may get asked strange questions like "If you could be a shoe what kind of shoe would you be?" or "Tell me a joke." You may also get hard questions like describing beauty to someone who is blind. These questions won't throw you off if you are creative and positive. No matter what question you are asked, remember to think it through and answer from the heart. The judges want to get to know YOU!

Brewster, Leman, Kristin Whitney Brewster (Mrs. Alaska 2004), Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman, and me
You may need to memorize an introduction for the pageant beforehand where you say your name, age, and hometown. You can sometimes add a witty statement about yourself, your family, or your community. You might want to recite a very brief quote from someone famous. I suggest making your introduction exciting and personal. Make sure it catches the judges' attention, helps your personality shine through, and above all that you deliver it well. Speak loudly without yelling, but project your voice especially on stage, clearly, and most of all passionately. You want the job as Miss ___, so make sure the judges see that from you.

You should know why you want the title, how you can use the title to better your community, how you will be a good role model, etc. Knowing your career goals and ambitions is also very important. Most judges will ask you questions during the interview regarding your career goals, what activities you are doing in school, and of course the "favorites" questions (favorite book, movie, TV show, color, song... and WHY) are also very common.

My biggest tip for answering a question during the interview is to answer it fully by always explaining briefly why you feel a certain way. Basically, if a judge asks you, "What is your favorite color?" don't just say blue. Always give explanations to clarify your beliefs.

Walking and Posture

Walking on stage is very important. You may have a lovely outfit, but if your posture is poor it won't matter. Be sure to keep good posture with shoulders back when walking, taking appropriate sized steps, with a light swinging of the arms. Make sure that you aren't too stiff; it is important to look relaxed and calm. The pageant director will go over what pattern you are to walk in. Don't worry about the patterns-they are usually pretty easy.

When walking always smile and be aware of where the judges are sitting. Smile and make eye contact with the judges as well as the audience. In addition, keep in mind that you should be walking slowly; you should not be in a rush to get off the stage. Enjoy the moment of being in the limelight in a beautiful dress!

Proper posture is also important during interview; no judge wants to see a finalist slumping in her chair. Sit halfway in so that you are forced to sit up tall. Be sure to practice proper posture while sitting as well as walking, and you will project confidence in presenting yourself no matter what the situation.

Modeling agencies often offer classes on posture and proper walking, which can help you feel more comfortable before getting on stage at your pageant.

Extra Competitions at the Pageant

Singing Habanera I won the talent contest singing "Habanera" from the opera Carmen
Pageants offer numerous other competition opportunities besides the actual competition for the pageant title. Depending on the pageant you may have the option to give a memorized speech, perform a talent, model a favorite outfit, submit a photo for the "photogenic" competition, submit a series of photos for a portfolio, model a casual outfit for sportswear, perform a cheerleading routine, perform a skit for acting... the list goes on. These are usually referred to as optional competitions and have no bearing on the competition towards the pageant title. For more detail on talent see my article in PHS #56 and for more detail on speeches see my article in PHS #55.

The Production Number

Most pageants also have a production number: an opening dance number. These are usually fairly simple and you will have plenty of rehearsal time to learn them during the pageant. If you feel that you need more practice with dance or just want to really shine during the number you could enroll in a basic dance class and hone up some super dance skills. Anything that makes you feel more confident is well worth the effort.

Finding Sponsors

Paying for the pageant's sponsor fees can sometimes be overwhelming. Start looking for sponsors as soon as you are accepted as a finalist to compete in the pageant. For more information on getting sponsored see my article in PHS #60.

Remember that you can also get sponsors for your wardrobe, hotel (if needed), tanning, hair, nails, etc. You just have to be creative, and determined. Know your goals and feel comfortable talking to others about your goals. Once you have obtained sponsors be sure to thank them and keep in touch, send them a thank you letter and photos from the pageant.

Books that Can Help

Two books that I have found helpful in preparing for a pageant are Catching the Crown: The Source for Pageant Competition by Lu Parker (Miss USA 1994) and The Crowning Touch: Preparing for Beauty Pageant Competition by Anna Stanley. These books have lots of sample interview questions (these have been very helpful to me), sample applications, and lots of pageant information that can help guide you before, during, and after the pageant.

Final Thoughts

Pageants are all about presentation, whether it's the application you submit, how you walk, talk, and look, etc. When preparing for your pageant think of how you want to present the best you, and let your personality shine. It really is imperative to be yourself, your best self, so that you can radiate confidence.

Winning a pageant and becoming a "princess" is a phenomenal experience, but never forget that there can only be one girl crowned. If you don't win your first pageant, take what you learned and see where you might need to improve or whether or not a different pageant would be best for your particular strengths.

Hamerski, Mize, Antique Auto Mushers I got to ride with the Antique Auto Mushers in the Anchorage Fur Rondy Parade! Saundra Mize, Miss Alaska Senior Teen-Ager 2001, is also in the car.
Believe in yourself, prepare well, compete with confidence, and the rest is in God's hands. Whatever the case may be, always remember that there is much more to life than winning a pageant title, God has gifted each of us in different yet equally important ways. Our task in life is discovering our God-given gifts and using them to fulfill His purpose in our lives, so whether you win the pageant or not you are still the same incredible you, gifted by God for a special and significant purpose!

Keeping in mind some of the fun that comes with winning will also help to motivate you to do your best. It will be a fun-filled year with lots of activities, and of course you will get to go back and crown your successor the next year as well.

Pageants can bring you phenomenal memories, and enhance your resume, but most of all pageants will help you build upon important life skills that will stay with you forever.


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