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11 Life Lessons I learned from Pageantry
I hope that some of these life lessons I’m going to share help you – and you don’t even have to necessarily get in a bikini and walk across a stage! *wink*
My pageantry journey
It was a Miss Jr. Teen Sacramento title it was more of a money maker than belonging to a big pageant organization but I’m still so glad I entered because it got the ball rolling.
My parents said if I was serious, I had to raise the $400 entrance fee myself. At a young age it left me with little choices but to go door to door and beg for money. This allowed me to take it seriously – and not take it for granted because someone else footed the bill. I went door to door in my neighborhood asking for money to cover my entrance fee with my high school best friend, Becky (we are still good friends to this day.) It’s crazy to think how nowadays people would probably be posting about me on NextDoor thinking it was a scam, oh the good old days… anyway! My dad saw how dedicated I was that he paid the remaining amount and I placed Top 10 out of hundreds of girls and had fun! I had never planned to continue a pageantry path, then college happened.
The summer of my junior year in college I began the interview process for the Fiesta Bowl Queen and Court. Through the intense interview process and frequent drives from Tucson to Phoenix for interviews, I secured a spot on court for the year-long festivities. It was one of the best experiences of my life that made me realize how preparation is so important – I’ll get into that later.
But then I had a big break up, but when I say big, I wasn’t heartbroken (he got me a vacuum for Valentine’s Day for goodness sake, buh-bye) but it was a huge relief and life changing opportunity for me. I kinda felt like that relationship was holding me back in many ways so I looked to pageants, knowing that by entering I could focus on myself.
I entered the Miss USA system which doesn’t have a talent competition and is more of a beauty pageant. I’m so glad I did because I wouldn’t have the girlfriends in my girl gang I have now if I didn’t experience that.
Aside from winning local titles, crowns and talent awards, cash prizes, and did a lot of volunteer work as a titleholder. I placed top 10 at state each time I competed.
I grew so much as a person every year and that’s why I usually returned the following year until I aged out of the pageantry system. I would have kept going until I couldn’t enter any more because I knew how much I grew every year. I very much attribute my growth as a young adult to pageantry.
And so, now that you know my quick pageantry history, I’d love to share some life lessons I’ve learned from participating in them that I apply to every day life.
Pageantry provides a healthy perspective of participating in a competition. As you present your best prepared self, you realize you can still help another contestant who is also competing, knowing it doesn’t affect your outcome. Everyone brings something unique to the table. A different night with different judges, it will be a different winner.
Life Lessons from Participating in Pageants
Be prepared (sometimes way in advance) before you have the opportunity.
I had a personal trainer and worked out for a full year to prepare for the second time I competed at Miss Arizona USA. I had 6-pack abs. I was training mentally and physically to be strong and feel good about being on stage.
Sometimes we wait for opportunities but how are we preparing for those unknown opportunities today? Are you reading, researching, interning, practicing, or training, before that possible big break in whatever field you want to be in? Prepare yourself now for who you want to be – whether you see that goal or “chance” now or later. The more skills you have, the more prepared you will be when that opportunity comes – the audition, the job interview, the promotion!
Decide how much you’re going to invest going in and what you want out of it.
I did not spend any money on new wardrobe when I was competing in the Miss America Organization. I either borrowed clothes, or bought it used at a discounted rate because my goal was to earn scholarship money, get ahead, and have FUN!
I plan my investment of time and money with business, budgeting, and even the house – know your limit. Know how much you are willing to invest and realize if what you are doing is either a hobby or a career that either costs you money or earns you money. It’s also OK to pay for a hobby if it brings you joy or provides unique opportunities. But if you want to make money, be as frugal as you can so you can get ahead.
Event attendance means you are amongst potential new friends.
Instead of looking around and seeing competition – even if it is one, or if you feel like only one person can get hired for that particular job, look around and realize the women surrounding you are potential friends.
You already have some common values or similar personalities to bring you together in an industry meeting, club or fundraiser. You could be sitting at a table during a luncheon with one of your future best friends – so don’t feel any threat, instead, introduce yourself and create a bond! You are all there for a common reason, these are your people!
A title is just a title, but you can still be the best _____.
This might mean Miss Phoenix, or if we are talking about a job, Assistant to the Assistant. Don’t focus on the title above, focus on the title you have now and be the best _________ . Titles are temporary, the work, people, and events you participate in is what will further you as an individual personally. You can be a Miss City and get more networking opportunities or just as much as Miss State if you are willing to put in the time.
Rehearsing is mandatory.
Each time I drove up to Phoenix for the next Fiesta Bowl interview, I would ask myself questions out loud in the car and answer them 20 different times. Not surprisingly, I was asked a majority of the questions that I made up. I suppose interview questions are pretty predictable. I was able to formulate answers coherently because I practiced and I didn’t memorize anything on paper, I just remembered key talking points.
If you know your key talking points about yourself or your business, or your goals, you will be prepared when somebody asks instead of being stumped and having to think about it. You should know your elevator pitch. Also, talk slowly. Knowing it will help when you meet someone on the plane, in the elevator, or in passing. Know what you do, articulate it well and you may have a business opportunity present itself!
Everything is just a phase. There is so much more to come.
There is also a time in one’s life where pageantry no longer matters. I’ve seen titleholders have their shiny new title in their Instagram bio but as time goes on, they drop it from their bio because there are other accomplishments that occur over time.
Your identity is not in a title. So enjoy every chapter and every phase that you are in because one day it will change, but you will move onto newer things. Every single event in your life is a stepping stone. And if things are difficult for you right now, know that you are just going through a phase and it will also not last forever.
Winners are rarely first-timers.
Rarely did I witness a young lady who just entered a pageant for the first time take the tile. Usually, the winner was a woman who had experienced interviews, training with her walk, and worked on herself long before the competition. She had also lost a few times before.
So that shows that if you don’t succeed at first, try again, and again with anything. So you didn’t get that job you thought you would, maybe another position will open up (this happened for my husband!) This also means whoever is at the top of your industry didn’t just accidentally get there – they worked HARD, and you can too!
Control your thoughts.
During rehearsal a contestant out of nowhere suddenly stood out so much that other experienced contestants began to feel threatened by her. Hearing everyone else freak out started to stir up anxiety in me but I realized what could I do? Grow out my hair and turn it ginger and grow my boobs? Nope. In the end, it didn’t matter because I don’t even remember if she placed in the top 10. But what it did, was take many contestant’s focus away from themselves.
I love the phrase I see on Pinterest that says: How to be successful – focus on your own sh_t. Honestly do this in life, with business, and stop comparing yourself because it’s a waste of time. You can’t change or stop anyone else, you can only focus on yourself and what you bring to the table and trust me when I say it’s unique! Admire others for their strengths, and if you compliment or cheer for them, it really removes any jealousy, trust me.
Sometimes being No.1 isn’t the best for you right now.
American Idol winners had contract obligations that second place didn’t have. I heard it was almost a curse to win first place. In pageantry, some winners decide to put school on hold to fulfill Miss State obligations (it can be a full-time job to dedicate to serve their state) but maybe that’s not what you can do right now. Maybe you wish you were busier with work or were the No. 1 (insert job title here) but do you realistically have the time?
We just have to let things that are meant to be, be. You can still have successful in other ways without focusing on a single position as the end all. Maybe you want to have a million followers on Instagram, but you can have less than and still be successful in other ways. (The IG example was just an easy one to throw out). You can still be a successful _____ without being No. 1 in the whole state/country/world. There are many famous people who came in as a runner-up.
You might not be what they are looking for.
A saying commonly emphasized by pageant directors during prep weekend, “Different night, different judges, different winner.” It’s true. Fate. Destiny. Preparation meeting opportunity. God’s plan. The truth is, you don’t know what the judges or the powers be (hiring committee, that new guy you met, the business you want to hire you to do business with) you don’t know what they are looking for. There are many factors you can’t control what their tastes are.
I have not landed many acting jobs and the reality is, I don’t fit the bill. I could be too tall, too skinny, my hair might be too long, I talked too fast, or laughed weird – everyone is looking for someone very specific and if you aren’t a perfect fit, you don’t want to be a part of that deal anyway. Maybe you aren’t a fit for the work culture or you didn’t mesh well with the interviewers, well that’s ok! The thing meant for you will be yours.
Rejection isn’t that painful (and the sooner you get over it, the better).
Initially rejection can be devastating when you prepare and do your best and still don’t get chosen, but I know many pageant girls felt they gave their absolute 100% and had no regrets on stage. That is the most wonderful feeling yet it’s also the most humbling and devastating to realize not every opportunity or competition in life is a cut and dry competition scored by time, strength, or numbers.
People are chosen for jobs, opportunities, or even pageant queen titles are based on personal preferences, opportunity, and personal judging tastes that are not cut and dry. This is life. We will always lose more than we win, but it’s how we handle the small defeats that propel us to prepare for the destiny we are meant for. I think this applies to relationships too – let the people who want to leave, leave.
I hope some of these lessons I shared can motivate you – and look at that, you didn’t even have to train for a year with a personal trainer or walk across the stage with a spotlight on you in front of strangers.
Another tip – if you can’t tone it, tan it.
Works every time. xx
Photography by Heather Kinkel / Makeup and hair by Lizzy Marsh
Have you ever participated in a pageant? Share in the comments what titles you had and what your biggest takeaway was from participating!
**This post was updated from the original post, published June 19, 2019.
Love this post, and couldn’t agree more with these lessons! I’ve competed in the Miss America Organization for 7 years now and am about to try out Miss USA. I don’t always think people realize how much lessons from the pageant world can transcend into every area of life, and I can truly say I come out of each pageant stronger, smarter, and better prepared for whatever life throws my way.♥️