The Miss Universe pageant took place this past weekend and the world watched, rooting for their country but only five women made it to the queens court and only one carried the crown into 2015. Now, there's always been this misconception that pageants are catty, filled with girls sabotaging one another to get ahead as depicted in Beyonce's "Pretty Hurts" music video. As a former competitor, it's safe to say that there are some bad apples that think their pits don't stink like the rest of us but for the most part, the overall experience creates a bond. It forms a sisterhood of girls working individually towards a common goal and the comfort of knowing you're not alone when you can't have pizza for the next 6 months or fighting for a good cause creates a connection.
As I tweeted away during the competition, I saw hundreds of people, all ages and nationalities solidifying their bets on Jamaica. She was definitely the total package and one of my top votes as well. It felt like a slap in the face when she was awarded 4th runner up. You could hear the crowd's roaring boos long after she walked away with her bouquet in agreement that she should have placed higher. Countless people took to social media expressing their disappointment and feeling that the contest was rigged. Hold on, let me find my shock face. I'm sorry but I can't find it.
Don't be confused. What does it all mean? How do you prepare for the switcheroo? How do you avoid the shenanigans and go home with the crown? Here are the secrets to winning a beauty pageant competition.
Secret #1: Choose the Right Pageant
You've been inspired by the beauty, glitz and glamour and think you could have answered those on-stage questions ten time better than the women who placed top five among hundreds. Can't be that hard right? You begin researching your local pageants so that you can work your way up to a televised competition to show the world what they're missing out on. That's wonderful! Truly, I mean it, no sarcasm. I'm all for aspiration… with a hint of wisdom. How do you choose a pageant to compete in?
1.Make a List
Make a list of the competitions in your region that you qualify for according to the requirements (age, gender, country etc.)
2.Be an investigator.
VERY IMPORTANT STEP! Go through the organizations' website(s) and social media. Research all of their previous queens and top contenders. Where are they from? What do they all have in common? Are they tall or have a particular body type? Do they share common features? Are they mostly of the same ethnicities or race? Is there a pattern of winners? What were their interview responses like? Just take notes. If you don't fit that mold, don't be fooled into thinking you'll be the exception. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule but please, be wise and weigh your chances. If a pageant is new to the circuit, it may be difficult to tell and worth a try but even still, get a feel for the staff, then decide.
One pageant called me in for a "casting" and welcomed me with open arms, making me feel selected but in hindsight, it was only because my pageant fees would be helping fund the costs of the production. After seeing their top picks at the contest, out of about 300 girls, I realized that I didn't meet the height, hair or physique requirements (even with my four pack abs) from the very beginning. Heck, in my 2 minute interview with a round table of judges, one of the them (a house wife of New York) asked me "how much of that hair is actually yours?" Seriously? I didn't realize that had anything to do with qualifying to represent New York but there goes an example of the switcheroo. Apparently, it was a factor. At first, I justified it by saying that they wanted to see how I'd respond to a public curve ball from an interviewer but then I realized it wasn't so. Think a step ahead. You're asking this organization to make YOU the face of THEIR company. Can you really fit the bill? More importantly, do you want to represent them?
Pageants are ran by people and it can get very political so don't feel intimidated or counted out. Instead, learn how to play the game. I asked a strange question earlier about noting a pattern. Reason being, I've heard an actual crowned queen say that if the winner of the previous year looks similar to you in race or complexion, don't run the following year because politically speaking, they have to keep the organization "looking diverse." It's important to know the system you're competing in. Everybody talks. Listen carefully and you'll figure it out.
3. Count the competition.
How many girls usually compete in each of the pageants you've chosen? The truth is, the smaller the number, the better your chances of winning. Top pageants usually have hundreds of girls go up against each other and narrow it down to 20 finalists and onward, while others only allow 30-50 from the beginning. Smaller pageants allow you more time with the judges, the ability to really show yourself and win.
4. Be fully invested.
Take a good look at all of the fine print and determine whether or not you're comfortable with everything that's required of you. I'm talking about the segments of the contests (talent, interview, evening wear, fitness, etc) all the way trough what's expected of you once you've won the crown. Remember, you'll be reigning for an entire year so be certain you know what you're in for.
Secret #2: Know Your Competition
Ok, so clearly this is the part where we all think to size up the other girls and exceed their accomplishments. Unfortunately, here's what most of us don't realize; to know your competition is to know yourself. YOU ARE YOUR COMPETITION. The secrets to winning a beauty pageant lie within you because your total package will never be like anyone else's. If the competition you've chosen is mainly about appearance and you've figured out the physical formula and decided to alter yourself for it, you've already lost. Sure, you might have a better chance at winning the title and crown but you've forfeited a major life long part of you for one night to be chosen among the clones. No shade intended. I just really wish we'd all own ourselves and realize what's not worth our time or soul for that matter.
If your pageant competition has a fitness portion you'll probably have to show it off in a swimsuit. With your physician's approval, find a knowledgable and trustworthy fitness coach and/or nutritionist to help you plan and accomplish your goals. Take care of yourself and don't lose sight of what a healthy version of yourself looks like. It's easy to think you need to lose more weight when comparing yourself to others so don't. I repeat do not compare yourself to others. Remember, you are your competition. I had to come to terms with the fact that no matter how much weight I lost or muscle I toned up, I have a curvy body with hips and a bigger bottom (similar to our first lady) which is perfectly okay. Maybe not for some pageant circuits but for me it was and still is.
It's important that you choose a pageant coach who knows what they're talking about. Some coaches know the systems inside out and have years of experience while newer coaches can offer fresh insight to help you stand out. Whoever you choose to go with, consider your chemistry with them. One may be top rated but leaves you feeling bad about yourself, reaching for perfection instead of your best self. By all means, I believe in tough love but there has to be a balance. Also, if many of your competitors are utilizing the same coach, it's impossible for there not to be bias or favoritism. I'm not saying to shy away from them, but to be aware of these things and choose wisely.
Much like a job interview, you have to learn the proper etiquette of interviewing, walking and presenting yourself. Make it a part of your daily lifestyle so that it becomes second nature. Have your family and friends take notes and encourage you along the way. Practice, practice, practice.
Also, very much like the working world, people like a connection and may favor someone they are more familiar with or can relate to. Some say it's who you know, not what you know. This is where the imbalance and the feeling of pageants being rigged comes into play. For example, there is a current reigning queen who is the sister to the pageant's director. Clearly, there's a conflict of interest and if I was in that competition, I'd leave the minute I found out she was registered to compete. Simply strive to make a connection when it's your turn to interview by making practice by doing so with people daily. You'll never win with honor if you pay your way through, whether it's with money, bribery or physical transactions. Trust me, I've seen girls crying their eyes out after attempting to illegally elicit a win and still losing. Nothing is promised. May the best candidate win!
After understanding yourself, you'll have an easier time with garments. Find a stylist (like me, firstname.lastname@example.org) and figure out what colors and cuts work best with you. Pay attention to what's trending and be careful not to end up wearing the same evening gown as your fellow pageant mates. I've seen it all too many times.
4. Hair & Make Up
Practice doing your own hair and make up before the contest. Stop by your nearest Sephora or make up counter and take the time out to learn your face. I said Sephora specifically because they actually give free classes on how to do your own make up based on your face shape. They also help you find the right products for your complexion and skin type. I love them.
Secret #3 Be Aware of Your Surroundings
You've gone through the preparation process and it's pageant weekend. Take a deep breath. You're doing great. Surprise! Your judging begins now. Not when you see a judge, but this very moment. Be kind to everyone you meet, even if that means being the bigger person in every situation. Initiate conversation, smile and be yourself. You never know who you're speaking with (a judge's relative) or who's observing you so start winning before you receive your crown. Convince everyone that their queen has arrived through your actions. These are the secrets to winning a beauty pageant.
Ultimately, no one can guarantee you the crown but I hope that my advice has gotten your wheels turning and thinking to a new level. As for Miss Universe, we could speculate and debate the possible reasons as to why Miss Jamaica didn't win but we'll never know why for sure. Good luck!
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