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Your Ultimate Guide to NAM Optional Contests

Each pageant girl has her areas of competition where she shines.  Some girls have more success in certain areas than others.

Face it, there’s a reason there are so many pageant systems out there. However, there is one system in particular making it possible for girls to compete and shine in as many areas as possible; National American Miss.

According to their website, “The optional contests provide more opportunities to showcase your individual interests, gain confidence, and be recognized for your talents. Each provides another opportunity to win.”

nam optional contests,national american miss
2015 NAM National Titleholders. Photo courtesy of the National American Miss Facebook page.

On October 21st, 2015 our TPP Question of the Day was “If the same panel of judges judge optional competitions before they judge the actual pageant, do you believe competitors who competed in Optionals have an unfair advantage?” Girls who answered, seemed to agree that yes, it was unfair. However, not to worry. At NAM Optional Contests have a different set of judges.

“Across the country, the optional contests are judged by completely separate panels of judges from the panels that select the state pageant winners. The optional contest scores have no effect on the overall pageant scoring,” said the NAM website.

National American Miss is for girls ages 4-20. Meaning girls hoping to hone their skills for the Miss America stage can do just that long before they are eligible for Miss America’s Outstanding teen.

kira kasantsev,national american miss optionals,miss america,
Kira Kasantsev, Miss America 2015, as 2012 Miss New York during her NAM days. Photo Courtesy of nam365.blogspot.com

In fact, some of our most loved titleholders got their start in NAM and in the NAM Optional Contests. Kira Kazantsev, Miss America 2015, was 2004 Miss California Pre-Teen, 2007 Miss California (South) Jr. Teen, 2012 Miss New York (South) placing 1st runner up at nationals.  She was also Queen 1st runner up to 2006 Miss California (South) Jr. Teen. She placed in multiple optional categories that year including, Volunteer Service Winner, SpokesModel Winner, Most Promising Model 1st Runner Up, Actress 1st Runner Up, Photogenic 2nd Runner Up, and Casual Wear 2nd Runner Up.

Additionally, Kira’s 1st runner up at Miss America 2015, Miss Virginia 2014, Courtney Garrett was 2005 Miss Virginia Pre-Teen and placed Top 5 at NAM nationals.

So, what Optional contests can you pick from at NAM?

To enter an optional competition at NAM Nationals, it is $175 per entry, and at the state level, the optional entries are $75. There are exceptions with Talent at $100 and Top Model costing $150.

All Division National American Miss Optional Contests

NAM Runway Model Search

Ever wanted to walk the catwalk and strike a pose in a stunning designer outfit? Here’s your chance. This new optional sponsored by Mon Cheri features two parts. The first is a Runway Training Camp with Mon Cheri scouts. In part two, contestants strut their stuff to show off for the judges in their outfit of choice.

All national finalists can enter a maximum of two times.

Prizes aren’t just for the winner and runners up in this optional. Each age division winner will receive a certificate, crown, banner, trophy, and an $800.00 cash award and the opportunity to be The Face of Mon Cheri in a month long digital campaign.

The Top 5 in each age division receive a certificate, trophy, and the chance to be The Face of Mon Cheri in a month long digital campaign.

Each divisions’ Top 10 will receive a certificate and the chance to be The Face of Mon Cheri in a month long digital campaign.

NAM Talent Competition

This area of competition is one of the hardest to get performance repetition on in a pageant setting. However, it is a big part of Miss America. The more opportunities you have to perform your talent in a pageant setting, the better off you’ll be. Videos on the NAM website showed girls dancing, singing, playing an instrument, twirling, and tumbling in a cheer routine. (Need an idea for Talent? Read: 7 Best Ideas for Pageant Talent)

“National American Miss allows for two talent entries, each with a time limit of two minutes. This is a strict limit, your music will be cut off when you reach the limit, so make sure it is cut,” said Dani Walker, Miss San Diego Cities USA and former NAM titleholder. (Read: What’s the Difference Between National American Miss and National All-American Miss to learn more about the queen’s competition.)

Prizes include $250 cash at State and $800 at Nationals and a trophy for the winner and trophies for the 1st-4th runners up.

nam optional contests,national american miss optionals
Melessie Clark, 2014 Miss Pennsylvania, 2nd Runner Up National American Miss, 3rd Runner Up Top Model Award, Winner Talent, 1st Runner Up Spokesmodel, Winner Actress, 1st Runner Up Best Thank You Note, 1st Runner Up Spirit Award. Photo courtesy of pointpark.edu.

NAM Photogenic

We have discussed the importance of a beautiful headshot in the planet of pageantry. According to a video on the NAM website, you can enter 1-4 photos of any color and size. They also do not have to be professional or “pageant” shots. School photos and “photos you take yourself” are also acceptable. The video suggested entering photos with your best smile that showcase your personality. (Read: The Best & Worst Pageant for Pictures)

Prizes at state include $250 cash and a trophy for the winner and trophies for the 1st-4th runners up. At Nationals, the prize package includes $800 cash with official crown, banner, and trophy.

NAM Most Promising Model

This area of competition is entered automatically with just one entry into both the Photogenic Competition. AND the Casual Wear Modeling Competition. Judges are looking for a girl they feel has the most potential to be a model.

Prizes at State include a trophy for the winner and 1st runner up. At Nationals, the prize package is a $1000 modeling scholarship and official crown, banner, and trophy.

NAM Casual Wear Modeling

national american miss optional modeling contest
Camille Schrier, Top 5 Casual Wear 2012. Photo Courtesy of nationalamericanmissphotos.com.

Once upon a time, this was an area of competition in Miss America and MAO Locals. We were all so confused as to what to wear at the time. This area at NAM helps show the contestant’s style and personality outside of her pageant wardrobe.

In fact, Walker said in her Pageant Access video on Youtube that she never bought an outfit for casual wear and just took something from her closet.

Like Fun Fashion, you want to have a bit of routine to work the stage with your outfit, but don’t overdo it. (Read: What You Need to Know to Increase Your Pageant Fun Fashion Score to learn more about modeling.)

Prizes include $250 cash and a trophy for the winner and trophies for the 1st-4th runners up at State. At Nationals, the prize is $800 and official crown, banner, and trophy.

NAM Actress Competition

Actress Competition. Photo Courtesy of thepageantplanet.com
Actress Competition. Photo Courtesy of thepageantplanet.com

Sounds like fun right? You can showcase your skills in preparation for the day you win an Oscar. Or close to it. In this competition, designed by acting coach Bob Luke, contestants perform a commercial on stage. A video on the NAM website that discusses this area of competition laid out the procedures as follows: Adjust the microphone to ensure maximum comfort for you and audio for the audience and judges. Introduce yourself, and when the MC says action-perform as if you are talking to a person on the other side of the TV screen as you perform a commercial you have memorized.

Bonus? Unlike other areas of competition where you only get one shot, in the NAM Actress Competition you get two takes. With this you can perform it the same way or do a complete 180 and perform it differently. Have fun with it! You’ll get the highest of the two scores.

No need for a brand new wardrobe, either. In this competition, you will wear your Official State Production Number Outfit. Also since this is a pageant stage and not a Broadway production, no props are allowed. It is very much inline with what an audition for a commercial would feel like.

At State prizes include $250 cash and a trophy for the winner and trophies for the 1st-4th runners up. Prizes at Nationals are $800 cash and the official crown, banner, and trophy.

NAM Spokesmodel Competition

nam spokesmodel,national american miss spokesmodel competition,nam optionals
Spokesmodel competition . Photo courtesy of namiss.com.

Remember how we talk about how important it is to be strong in your presence in interview and know your stuff? Why? Because should you win, as a titleholder you are going to be speaking on your platform and the platform of the National pageant throughout your year.

Think back to how poised Kira was in her onstage question at Miss America 2015. It definitely made us forget her talent performance and think, “Hey, this girl knows her stuff.” Perhaps her Spokesmodel win at the 2006 Miss California (south) Jr. Teen competition had something to do with the confidence she displayed on the Miss America stage.

Contestants in the Spokesmodel Competition present a minute and a half speech on a topic of her choosing to the judges and audience while standing behind a podium, like you would in a Miss America interview. While you bring your speech to check-in for it to be placed at the podium for you, Walker suggests not looking at the speech if possible describing it as a “Safety Net” in her video “Top 5 Spokesmodel Mistakes” on her Pageant Access Channel on YouTube.

The key to a great orator is someone who looks at their audience and not at their speech. Light travels faster than sound so people will connect with you through your eyes before they ever hear your words.

Prizes include $250 cash and a trophy for the winner and trophies for the 1st-4th runners up at State. National winners receive $800 cash, crown, trophy, and banner.

national american miss titleholders, nam titleholders,
2015 NAM National Titleholders. Photo courtesy of the National American Miss Facebook page.

Volunteer Service

It is no secret that pageant titleholders are often found in the community giving back when they reign. However, many pageant systems want titleholders to already be established women of service in order to capture the crown.

Walker explained, “Volunteer service competitions are mainly based on the honor system. There is a standard form to fill out in your contestant packet. You can list the places you volunteered and the number of hours you donated. Many girls will often include letters of recommendation for the organizations for which they volunteered, and at Nationals they include photos from each of the events.”

Prizes include trophies for the winner and first runner up.

NAM Academic Achievement

Prizes for this optional at State include trophies for the winner and first runner up. At Nationals, the winner receives a $1000 scholarship to the college of her choice and the winner-4th runners-up receive a trophy.

Miss Personality

Prizes for the winner and first runner up include trophies.

Miss Spirit

Prizes for the winner and first runner up are trophies.

Best “Thank You Note” to a Sponsor

Prizes include trophies for the winner and first runner up.

Best Resume

Prizes offer the winner and first runner up trophies.

Most Ticket Sales

Prizes for each age division include a trophy for the winner.

Princess, Jr. Pre-Teen, and Pre-teen Only Optional Contest: Art

Prizes include a trophy for the winners and first runner ups.

As you can see you have a lot to choose from. It depends on your pageant budget of course, however, NAM Optional Contests really allow you to use the skills, materials, and wardrobe you have on hand to make a splash in the competition. Even if you don’t place or win; there is no doubt that the experience gained by competing in a NAM optional can be put toward your preparation and confidence in future pageant systems when you age out of NAM.

Do you have additional questions? Write them in the comment section below or consult your National American Miss handbook. Now, go show those judges what you’ve got!

Which dress do you like better?

One thought on “Your Ultimate Guide to NAM Optional Contests

  1. Just a question? My granddaughter got third place in two optional contest but wasn’t in top ten… Does she still compete in those areas in calf in November? Thank you

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