A Complete Pageant Application
While it may seem like the paperwork process to compete in a local competition is challenging, the rigors of creating a good application represent life skills that will serve you well both in and outside the pageant world. The care with which you prepare your resume and platform statement are a harbinger of the way you will approach your year of service if you are selected as a titleholder.
Here are some tips to make sure you don't have to re-do something or have paperwork that doesn't represent the awesome person you are:
--Use the checklist to be sure everything is turned in. That includes supporting documents required by the contract.
--Go over the posted instructions for the document to make sure you have done everything requested.
--If you needed to sign something, make sure you signed it. If it needs to be notarized, make sure you bring it to a notary and they will verify your identity before you sign it. You can find a notary at your bank, at your university business office, at a law office, or a tax preparer. A notary is sworn to verify you are who you say you are and that you are the one signing the document. They have certain processes they are required to follow in order to keep their notary privilege.
--Be aware of the file formats that are requested. For example, an online link to your music track online won't do if there isn't internet access available in the auditorium. Plus, you need to cut the track to length, so it is best to use an mp3 or mp4 format. A well run program won't just stop the track at time, plus that isn't a good way for you to have a great performance.
--For your resume and platform, you can assure predictable presentation if you export your file to a pdf format before sending it to your director. I've seen resumes that go to a 2nd page on my computer, even though the contestant made sure it was a single page. Unfortunately, the judges only get the first page, so it doesn't look good for your document to end mid sentence.
Those contestants who make sure to follow every instruction and get everything in on time have a special place in the director's heart. Plus, they have the time to spend going through their paperwork to make sure they are totally prepared for the competition. Last minute items on pageant day really take you away from concentrating on your interview and performance.
Hopefully that helps you complete everything. Of course, if you don't know for certain, always feel free to ask. Chances are, your question will help the director clarify the paperwork or provide instructions to make it easier for everyone.
Ace Your Interview
The first place your judges see you is in your interview. By being prepared to meet the judges, you set the tone for how they will react to your on-stage performance. Below are some tips to be sure you are able to let them get to know you.
Review your paperwork and think about what stories you can tell about each line on your resume and platform. Understand that your paperwork will often drive the questions. If there are questions you have gotten in many interviews, review what content in your paperwork is driving those questions. Think of ways to vary your content so that you can tell your stories in fresh ways even if you feel the question has been asked many times. Remember, that a public figure will often get the same questions from the public and must answer generously and graciously every time.
Be yourself. Don't try to anticipate who you think they want to see or what they want to hear. You want to win as yourself.
Be well rested the night before. Be energized and vibrant.
Listen to the question so you really know what to answer. If you don't understand the question, don't be afraid to ask for a clarification before you proceed to answer.
Find a balance between short and long answers. If you feel an answer needs more explanation, tell a story from your own experience that explains why you hold a certain perspective. Once you have made your point, wrap up the answer and let the panel ask the next question. Short answers are fine for a question that has “low gain” for you (i.e. it won’t help the panel get to know you well). Questions about your platform should have longer answers as this is where you should have significant content.
Try to frame your answers in positive perspectives. While not all subjects are easy to talk about, an answer that demonstrates emotional balance and intelligence is best. If you have topics that make you cry or angry, work on those by journaling so you can answer them in an interview without losing control. It is ok to show passion in your interview, but you don't want to feel like you are unable to interview because of your emotions.
Remember that the judges want you to do well. Show them the wonderful person that you are and let them get to know the real you. Don't overthink your responses and just enjoy yourself.
Some of you may be competing for the first time in the Miss America System. I remember entering this new world of Miss America and taking my daughter shopping for wardrobe that seemed to have mystical requirements and huge sticker prices. It was a particular type of swimsuit she needed or a business suit for interview that she would never wear again outside of the pageant world. (Now even more in Miss America 2.0, the wardrobe you need for a local competition should not be clothing that you wouldn't find in your existing wardrobe.)
What I didn't know is that no one should spend a lot of money to compete in a local preliminary Miss America competition. In fact, chances are, you can compete quite successfully without spending anything extra. Here are some suggestions to help you think about what you already have that could show you at your best in the competition:
Interview: Gone are the days that you need a business suit to compete in a pageant interview. Think about what you already own as you consider this criteria: Choose something that flatters your shape and draws attention to your face. It can be a nice dress or a pant outfit that looks like something you would wear in a downtown professional office. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it should fit properly. Make sure that you feel comfortable in it and you don't find yourself fidgeting with it. For example, if the neckline plunges and is at risk for showing your bra, you will be self conscious during the interview. That will come across in a negative way. Try your dress on and walk up to your mirror above your bathroom vanity and determine if you like what you see. Since you will be behind a podium, the main focus will be on your upper body and face. But don't forget that your first impression is when you enter the room. Make sure you are wearing heels that will help you walk vibrantly into the room.
Talent: Wardrobe should complement the piece you are performing and not inhibit you from really selling your performance on stage. The judges will start forming an opinion the moment you walk out on stage, so don't underestimate how important your costume is. Practice in your outfit so you know how you move in it, this includes jewelry. If you are wearing a headset mic, large earrings could get tangled in the headset or worse yet, make a banging noise against the mic as you are doing your performance. Practice as if you are doing the real performance. That will get the nerves out and give you the extra edge to really wow your audience.
Lifestyle and Fitness: Teens should pick a workout outfit that is something bright and vibrant. Cutaway details in the top or leggings are acceptable, as long as it doesn't make you (or your parents) uncomfortable. You can use a sports wear from standard retailers (Target, Macy's, Venus) but make sure that the fabric is not so thin that you can see through the clothing under bright lights. A top that is lined will prevent that problem. In Miss America 2.0, Miss candidates no longer compete in swimsuit.
Evening Gown: Probably every young woman in a Miss America local recycled her prom dress for her first local competition. That is absolutely fine to do that. Just make sure the fit is right and that you feel comfortable in the dress. Definitely don't go out and purchase an expensive evening gown just to compete in a local competition. Look at after prom sales, second hand shops or borrow a nice dress from a friend (as long as it fits well). If you win a title, wardrobe expectations are higher when you compete at the state competition for Miss Minnesota, and even more expectations if you are lucky enough to compete at Miss America. With those expectations, there are often dress sponsorships, which will help you pay for a really cool dress. Lastly, you should look at the current trends by watching the latest Miss Minnesota or Miss America pageants (check the websites for photos). But don't choose something just because last year's winner won in it. Instead, learn from how they carried themselves in the dress and how it complemented their personality. You are a different person, so find the dress that is right for you. Sometimes that dress is right in your closet already. Miss America 2.0 is expanding the idea of "red carpet" and not everyone wears a gown. We have seen some competitors win in a nice short dress or even a pant suit.
On Stage Question: Teens do On Stage Question in their Evening Gown. According to the prescribed format, teens answer their question right after they model their Evening Gown. Miss compete in On Stage Question as an extension of their private interview, so they will wear the same outfit they wore for interview.
Be wise in the wardrobe you select:
--Think of items that you have gotten compliments on: what color/shape/styles seem to coincide with positive impressions?
--Re-purpose what you already have.
--Check everything for a good fit and get alterations if you need (not too early to start thinking about that for January)
--Make sure everything looks well kept (pressed, no missing buttons, dragging hems, etc)
Mostly, have fun with selecting your wardrobe and make sure it reflects you well. In the end, it should make you feel fantastic both in interview and on stage. It is YOU who will win over the judges, not what you are wearing.
It should come as no surprise that success requires preparation. Every contestant who shows up on the stage to compete in a pageant has completed all the requirements just to get there. You have selected your wardrobe, chosen a talent, sent in a headshot and submitted paperwork. It is no small effort.
Before a contestant has even walked into the interview room, they have set an expectation of what the judges might expect. The first thing I notice as a judge is the contestant's attention to details, such as the ability to follow the format, has paperwork with no spelling/grammatical errors, and signed the platform statement. I'll scan quickly through the paperwork looking for something I want to ask about. If you have great interesting facts, I already have a good start. Your accomplishments should also stand out.
Years ago, I judged a local where the current Miss America, Cara Mund, was competing. When I saw her resume, I was instantly sold on her as she had not only great accomplishments, but it was presented in a way that featured her work very clearly. It was enough for me to easily write 5 to 10 questions just from her first page. Before I even met her, she won that pageant. Of course, she lived up to her paperwork in every phase of competition.
So if you are just starting out, you may be challenged to come up with interesting facts about yourself or Miss America worthy accomplishments. Start with what you have that is obvious, if you don't have a lot of accomplishments (yet), then list what you have and think of things you can do to build upon that. Do your platform work already: volunteer for an established organization, advocate for a cause you feel is worthwhile, see someone in need and help them.
If you don't have a lot to put into the accomplishments section of your resume, focus on interesting facts. Think about things that people ask you about when you meet them. Do you have a special interest or skill that people often ask you questions about? Make them varied enough that it gives the judges a good amount of topics to draw upon.
On the platform, I often am looking for what makes the platform personal for that contestant. Has it affected your family? Why do you have a passion for the topic? Then the next thing I want to know is what have you done already. If you are just starting out, it may be very simple, like starting to do the research. As you have devoted more time to your platform, you will be able to touch on personal connections that you have made as you improved the lives of others. The last part that I want to see is what plans you hope to accomplish in the next year for your platform. Be specific about these plans, such as organizing a fundraiser or speaking at schools. Think about how you might set that up.
The final point about all the paperwork is that you won't necessarily tell everything in your resume and platform: after all, it is only 2 pages. However, it should give the judges a springboard for everything you want them to know before you arrive at interview. Be sure to have something that gives you an opportunity to talk about points that are important to you.
As a post script, here a some common errors that I see as a director that makes me ask you to send me an update:
--Your resume or platform go to a 2nd page. Solution: Send as a pdf so you know that variations between computers don't change the page formatting
--You competed in a prior pageant and you have text saying "As Miss Prior Pageant, I will..." Solution: Don't embed a local title into the body of your platform. Instead, say "As a titleholder in the Miss America system..." if you think you might compete in multiple pageants. Or, be sure to read through your whole platform statement one last time before you send it in.
--You didn't sign your platform statement. Solution: Use pdf signature and apply it to your document electronically. Or, print, sign and scan to send electronically. Or, mail a signed platform.
--The formatting or section headers don't match other contestant applications. Solution: Refer to the paperwork guidelines and compare your documents to the example on the last page. Update anything that doesn't align.
--Your paperwork has spelling or grammatical errors. Solution: Run a spellcheck and have someone else read through it to give you feedback before you turn it in.
I want everyone to put their best foot forward so that the judges see the awesome young women you are. Believe me, the judges notice when things don't look right. I've heard comments from them about all of the things noted above. I will try to catch things as I'm compiling the books for the judges, but if someone turns paperwork in late, it will go in as I get it. I've heard directors say that they have seen paperwork come in that goes beyond the 1 page guideline and the judges only get the 1st page with the paperwork ending mid sentence. Believe me, that leaves an impression. So to be sure you are telling the judges what you want them to know about you, read your paperwork aloud before you send it.
Interview Prep at Holiday Gatherings
During holiday times, it is likely you will be getting together with a large group of people--this is not a time to be shy about your intentions to compete. I encourage you to talk about your platform and even ask family and friends if they would ask you questions they think a judge would ask you. You've likely heard that advice before, but here is something you might not have heard: If someone has a differing view point than you, rather than arguing with them about it, ask them this: "What makes you feel that way about [this topic]?" Really listen to understand their differing point of view. Then when you have some time to yourself, journal about what you heard and think about what you learned from this exercise. Does it expand the language you use to talk about your platform? Does it prompt you to do a bit more research to find out about another point of view? All of this will help you to be prepared to respond from your heart if you get a similar question during interview.