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How to Succeed in Interview at Miss Black USA

Tonille Watkis, Miss Black USA 2016. Photo: Vonecia Carswell Photography

Competing to be Miss Black USA is no easy feat. Similar to other systems, Miss Black USA, has a talent portion along with evening gown, on-stage question, fitness and private interview. According to the national director, Karen Arrington, what sets the winner apart is her genuine attitude.

“Miss Black USA celebrates and embraces the rich diversity of women of color,” Arrington said.

The woman who owns her individuality confidently will have the advantage when it comes down to interview time.

How to Succeed in Interview at Miss Black USA


The Miss Black USA organization includes a panel-style interview with three to five judges asking questions for four to five minutes. The contestant stands the entire time with no podium or barrier separating her from the judges. Panel-style judging is beneficial for contestants since it allows them to talk to everyone at once. (Read: Should You Shake Hands in Pageant Interview?)

Terri Bunch, a former Mrs. USA who has over 40 years of experience as a coach, contestant and director in the pageant industry, has one tip for the contestant who wants to learn how to take the wheel in her interview.

“Have three things about yourself that you want to say in interview and make sure you get them out,” Bunch said.

This could be anything ranging from your career aspirations to study aborad or traveling to community service to a huge project you worked on as a state titleholder. Try to answer each question from the judges by incorporating your answer to highlight one of these aspects to yourself.

Here’s an example.

Question: What would you tell your teenage self right now?

Sample answer: As a teenager, I suffered from depression, and ever since I overcame that dark moment, I have created a non-profit to help other young ladies deal with the stress that comes with growing up. I would tell myself to keep going and continue fighting even when your back feels against the wall.

Bunch says it is important to tell a story in the judging room and on stage if the time allows.

Using humor can also be an option to show the judges that you are able to laugh at yourself and find humor in yourself, which in turn will help you to come off more relatable. However, don’t use humor if it is unnatural.


Interview in the Miss Black USA organization is fast. Miss Black USA 2016, Tonille Simone Watkis, said that while she was waiting to be called, she mentally prepared herself to walk into the room. (Read: 7 Strategies to Mentally Prepare for Your Pageant)

“Interview was one point I was most nervous for,” Watkis said. “[There are] two things to remember. First, no one can be me and answer things the way I can answer something or think the way I think. So it’s best to relax and be myself. Second, I maintained a strong mental state by staying focused and grounded the entire time even if that meant having to put music on that will make me calm down and get in my zone to block out whatever else is going on.”

Watkis prayed and sang her favorite hymns while waiting in the wings so she could get herself into the mind of thanksgiving. Getting into the right frame of mind is a key element Arrington suggests as well so you can convey your message in the short amount of time.

“It’s all psychological, Arrington said. “Power plus packaging plus presentation is everything. Don’t speak at them, speak to them and to their hearts and emotions. Remember, people don’t always remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

Eye Contact

Making eye contact with people you are engaging with is necessary, not just in pageantry, but in life. Darting your eyes away or “searching” for an answer on the ceiling or elsewhere could be seen as a sign of mistrust. (Read: 6 Eye Contact Tips for Pageant Interview)

Bunch says if you do not know the best method to make eye contact in the judging room, “imagine that you are out with your girlfriends. Spend the first few seconds addressing the person who asked the question, then look at the other judges when you are explaining your answer and finish by looking at the initial judge.”

Typically, between three to four seconds is natural for looking at one person for an extending period of time.

For Watkis, eye contact came easy for her since she’s an actress and studied acting in school.

“I am very comfortable immediately connecting with people, it was just like when I am acting and I am looking at them, I am giving a genuine piece of me and hopefully they are engaged,” Watkis said. “If you are looking at them, they are looking back at you. If you are gazing over their heads, they are not connecting with you.”

Proper eye contact comes with being authentically you.

“If you don’t show your human side, they can’t relate to you,” Bunch said.

Be Yourself

“Let them feel your vibe,” Arrington said. “The judges are looking for a woman who can represent the ideals and vision of Miss Black USA. They are looking for a woman who owns her power and is confident and authentic.”

To make that lasting impression, remember who you are and what qualities you bring to the table. Know your bio sheet inside and out and be the person you say you are on the bio sheet. Interview is one of the more important stages of the competition. (Read: Pageant Question of the Day: Describe Yourself)

Bunch says it does not necessarily determine the winner right then and there but it is important to do well in.

“It is hard to recover from a poor interview,” Bunch said. “If your interview in not good, you simply are not going to win.”

We believe in you ladies and know you can totally rock your interviews! Best of luck!

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