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10 Things You Must do to Win Your Next Pageant

I was recently having coffee with a friend and asked her what kind of an article would she really like to read. She said, “Oh, that’s easy. Why don’t you just tell everyone what they need to do to win a pageant?” We both laughed and kind of rolled our eyes.

It sounded laughable, but in reality, if you are going to enter a pageant and you actually do want to win, shouldn’t you have a pretty darn good idea what it’s going to take to win?

If you are going to spend countless hours of time, pay hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars and invest energy that might require a financial stake in Red Bull, shouldn’t you know what it is that you need to do to have a chance at winning?

It got me wondering what kind of input I might get if I asked that question to some of the women I know who have been successful in pageantry. The following list was the result.

10 Things You Must do to Win Your Next Pageant

1. Know your “Why”

Motivational speaker Lou Radja has a wise saying, “When the why is strong, the how becomes easy.”

It is crucial to know your “Why” if you want to win. I have created an acronym for the word, “Why” and it is: “Whole Heart Yearning.”

When I think in terms of my “Whole Heart’s Yearning,” that gets me to my real motivation pretty quickly. You have to listen to what your whole heart is yearning for, not just to the surface reasons that might pop up.

Do you want to win your pageant to bring attention to an issue or is it really because you have never felt pretty enough? Do you want to win to represent your home state or is it because you want to show those people who didn’t believe in you?

Whatever the reason is, be honest with yourself. It’s ok if the answer is hard to accept. You can move on from that, but you can’t grow if you’re not truthful.

Mrs. US World Premier 2017, Stacy Benoscek, says that you need to be willing to ask yourself some tough questions and be willing to hear some tough answers.

“Why do you want to participate?” Benoscek asked. “There is only one winner of every pageant, so you need to find out if you are there for personal growth or something else, and be truthful to yourself. The most important thing throughout your entire pageant journey is to BE YOURSELF, and it all begins with your WHY.” (Read: Your Reason & Vision to Win a Pageant )

Stacy Benoscek Mrs. U.S. World Premier 2017. Photo: Noel Richards/Premier World Pageants website
Stacy Benoscek Mrs. U.S. World Premier 2017. Photo: Noel Richards/Premier World Pageants website

2. Know and understand the brand of the pageant system you are entering into

Do your research!

This is so important because I have seen it happen countless times that a girl enters a pageant system that is just not “her” and it can be frustrating and disheartening. She will come away from the experience thinking that there is something wrong with her when in reality, she was just in the wrong pageant system.

Check out a pageant’s website, attend its pageants, talk to the director and prior contestants, and study the winners of the pageant from year’s past. Do not try to be them, just observe the similarities. What does this pageant system value and promote? What are its ideals?

Furthermore, you must be able to encompass that brand while still bringing your true self into it and making it your own. (Read: How to Choose a New Pageant System When You Have Aged Out)

3. Start your pageant prep early

We don’t always have the luxury of starting our pageant prep as early as we’d like, but the reality is that the more time you have to prepare, the better prepared you will be.

Also, the easier the pageant will be for you because everything that you’ve been working on will be ingrained and will be second nature to you. Mrs. Washington America 2010, Carla Richards, says, “Prepare a year in advance before competition to take advantage of every workshop possible that is sponsored by the pageant system you have signed up for. This time is also crucial in preparing your body for the physical fitness portion of the competition. (Read: 10 Ways to Turn Your Pageant Diet into a Lifestyle )

Mrs. America 2017, Natalie Luttmer, knows all too well how valuable preparation is to win your crown. She emphasizes one word, “Perseverance… It’s easy to get discouraged and give up. The tougher road to follow is to keep on pushing through the discouragement and working harder every year. This can apply to competing, physical fitness goals, fundraising and sponsors. Are you going to give up at the first bump in the road? Or are you going to push through to the end of your journey?”

Natalie Luttmer Mrs. America 2017. Photo: Las Vegas Image Studio
Natalie Luttmer Mrs. America 2017. Photo: Las Vegas Image Studio

And, she should know. It took Natalie three attempts to win her state title, but when she hit that Mrs. America stage, all her hard work and preparation was evident to everyone.

She goes on to say that you must have, “The ability to be self-reflective. To genuinely look at your performance and not become defensive when you see something that you need to improve upon or change.” (Read: How to Use Perseverance to Win the Crown)

4. Choose the perfect platform for you

“Pick a platform that has already picked you!” Richards said. “I can’t stress this enough! Your platform needs to be something you are living day to day. Passion is born from personal experiences. This will be evident in interview and onstage presentation when it comes time to share your cause. This is where sincerity shines!”  (Read:  10 Ways to Get Your Pageant Platform Nationally Recognized )

5. Have a plan of action if you do win the title

The best indicator of your future actions is your past actions. The judges want to hire someone who is already successful, and most every Queen I polled said emphatically that you must have a plan for your reign and be able to speak to that plan in detail while in the interview room.

Mrs. Washington International 2017, Angelique Ashton, stated it succinctly.

“You have to have an action plan,” Ashton said. “It is necessary to have a framework to pull from to clearly explain (to the judges) HOW you will do the job. You have to think through WHAT exactly you will do with the title and HOW you will do those things. In other words, you have got to be ready to step into the role and hit the ground running.”

Taryn Smith, Miss Seattle America 2015, agrees wholeheartedly.

”In interview judges are looking for someone who can prove that they will approach being a title holder as a job and that they are more than capable of doing that job,” Smith said. “In my experience, judges don’t want to hear about what you WANT to do as ‘Miss so and so,’ but what you have ALREADY been doing in your community to prepare yourself, and how you plan to expand this work on a bigger scale once you have the pageant organization behind you supporting the work you’d like to do.” (Read: Why Your Interview is Not All About You, But What You Can Do )

Angelique Ashton Mrs. Washington International 2017 – Photo courtesy of Laura Hunter

6. Know how to write an outstanding pageant bio

In every pageant, there is an interview of some kind. In most pageants, your interview score accounts for a large majority of your total score, and it is the only situation during pageant weekend where you get to meet face-to-face with the judges and let them get to know the real you.

An excellent pageant bio is the key to getting the kind of questions you want during your interview because a large portion of the questions you will be asked will be pulled from the information on your bio. And, you can use your own bio to practice your interview questions during your practice time.

Most importantly though, you MUST know your bio. Be prepared to discuss everything on it. If you don’t want to talk about it, do not put it on your bio. (Read: What Interesting Facts Should I Use for a Pageant Resume? )

7. Become a pro at interview

I think we have already established how valuable your interview is to get the scores you want. Therefore, it stands to reason that you need to become an expert at talking about yourself with the judges. If you need to get a coach, then get a good coach. Then, practice, practice, practice!!!

Natalie Luttmer offers some wise advice, “Know who you truly are… You have to know your morals, values and what you stand for so that during your interview you can answer questions naturally. You don’t want your answers to be what you think you should say. You want your answers to reflect who you are. You should also be able to give a quick 30-second introduction of yourself, on demand, without a long pause.”

Taryn Smith suggests these three steps “to make sure you get on a judges radar as their girl that’s ready for this role: 1. Establish your credibility. What experiences make you not just a good candidate for this job, but THE candidate for this job? 2. What is your plan? 3. Is this plan scalable (able to be expanded)?”

Carla Richards uses this great saying to remember how to answer a question well: “Open it up, back it up, then wrap it up!”

She likes to have at least three examples in the back of her mind when answering questions that are open-ended. But, she warns, “Keep your answers specific and be careful not to go down rabbit trails. Stay focused so you can get through as many questions as possible so the judges can really get to know you.” (Read: Journal Your Way to Winning Interview)

Taryn Smith Miss Seattle America 2015. Photo courtesy: Laura Hunter
Taryn Smith Miss Seattle America 2015. Photo courtesy: Laura Hunter

8. Be prepared for emergencies during pageant week

Pageant weekend or week is stressful! Just be prepared and expect it.

Have an emergency Kit and be ready to help other people, too. Have several needles threaded with the color of your gown, opening number outfit, swimsuit, talent and any other outfits you will be wearing on stage. I’m telling you from experience that at every pageant I’ve been in somebody ripped something or a clasp broke and it always happens minutes before you have to go on stage.

Learn to do your own hair and makeup in case something happens. Makeup artists get sick! They are people too, and it happens. In fact, it happened to a girl that I know, and it was really sad. You spend a year preparing, investing time and money for this one big day, and if you do not know how to make yourself look your best, how are you going to feel?  You owe it to yourself to be able to present yourself well.

And, this is great advice for when you do win your title. Contrary to popular belief, not every queen has a glam squad just standing by to jump into action. Most Queens do their own hair and makeup, and they style themselves for day-to-day appearances. (Read: Miss America 2013 does her own make up ) Natalie Luttmer sums it up beautifully by stressing the need for Flexibility.Pageant weekend can throw all kinds of curve balls at you and if you don’t go with the flow, you are going to break in the current.”  (Read: How to replicate Miss America’s Winning Make up Look )

9. Be on your best behavior every moment during pageant week

It goes without saying that pageant weekend is stressful and challenging and will require you to be at your best in the interview room and on stage.

But, you also need to be at your best every moment and everywhere regardless of how you feel. No matter where you are, especially at the hotel or anywhere there might be pageant staff, judges or important people, watch your behavior. Be kind to everyone in the elevator, in the dining room, in the gym, etc.

You never know who you might bump into, and you want to be observed behaving like a Queen at all times. (Read:  6 Things Pageant Staff Want You to Know )

10. Act like a queen even after the pageant

Be a gracious winner and be grateful for this entire experience. Whether you take home the crown or not, you had a useful learning experience, made some friends and grew as a person. If you won, be gracious and sweet to everyone, including the outgoing queen and the other contestants. Remember that you did not get here on your own, and it was a privilege to compete with these ladies on the stage with you.

Make sure to have packed thank you cards in your suitcase and be sure to use them! Give them to the hotel staff, your hotel maid, your sponsors, your director, pageant staff, your fellow competitors, your friends and family, your coach, and basically, anyone who contributed to your success and your win. (Read:  10 Things You Will Wish You Did During Pageant Week )

If you did not take home the crown this time, be mature and behave with dignity. Do not cry on stage; hold your head up and behave like a queen. Save the tears for your hotel room and for your coach.

Just because you did not win the crown, does not mean that you are a loser. Stay grateful and optimistic – pageantry is a journey, and anyone who ever achieved anything great, doubtlessly worked incredibly hard to get there. Remember this quote from Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Read: How to react if you don’t make pageant finals )

You are closer to becoming the title holder that you do want to be.  You ARE in the process of becoming a Queen!

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