“What’s your talent?”
Six months into training and preparing for Miss Kansas USA, I was getting quite annoyed whenever someone asked me this question in a usually snarky or joking tone.
I would then have to explain, for what seemed like the millionth time, Miss USA did not include a talent portion, but Miss America did.
I competed in my first Miss Kansas USA pageant the same year I competed in my very first local pageant that was part of the Miss America Organization. So, I got a little taste of both.
I didn’t seek the opportunity at first. A friend of mine sent me the information for the local pageant that was less than two weeks away because they were scrambling to find more girls to compete and thought I would be good at it.
On a whim, I signed up and did the paperwork, and then had less than a week to prepare for a pageant with absolutely no prior experience.
I can’t forget to mention, I was the heaviest I had ever been and, for some reason, had guts to walk the stage in a swimsuit.
To my surprise, I had a blast competing and was surprised when I found myself among girls who weren’t catty and were willing to support me in my first dabble in the pageant world.
So when I was watching the Miss USA competition with my mom, I started to get an itch. I wanted to try this pageant thing again, but this time, with more time to train and prepare.
So, I Googled how to compete and that night, sent in my application. Within the next week, I received my acceptance letter and a packet of information. I had around six months until the big competition weekend.
The Miss USA pageant would be a lot bigger and way different than the local one in which I previously competed.
There was a lot more work I would have to do, so I took on the challenge and went through the whole experience with a determined and open mind.
After all was said and done, I concluded the pageant world isn’t all glamour and pretty faces, and these pageant girls deserve mad respect.
Here are 10 of my takeaways of what it's like to live in the world of pageants:
For the local pageant, I had to come up with a $100 donation and I ended up using clothes, a swimsuit and dress I already had in my closet.
For Miss Kansas USA, I had to come up with $900 to cover sponsorship fees, hotel, food, etc. I ended up fundraising a little more than $3,000 and spent every penny.
That’s even with cutting corners, being thrifty and not employing a coach.
2. Working out a lot -- a lot, a lot
I was working out three or four days a week, sometimes more. The gym became my second home.
3. Having self-control
During the competition weekend, they fed us, probably, some of the worst things to give to girls trying to look good in swimsuits on stage.
Some girls brought their own prepared food, while others simply skipped the meals. Some didn’t touch their desserts.
I only ate the chicken part of a Chick-Fil-A sandwich because other girls did, and I felt bad about eating anything carb-heavy in front of them.
4. Actively signing up to be judged
Yes, essentially, you are signing up and paying to be judged by not only judges, but also audience members and anyone else watching at home. Nobody watches pageants judgment-free.
5. Mastering the art of multitasking
Try doing an opening-number dance routine on a platform in the highest heels you’ve ever worn and a skin-tight dress slowly riding up.
6. ...and improvisation
We were responsible for doing our own hair and makeup and everything in-between.
Our dressing rooms didn’t have mirrors, so we had to share mirrors propped up on chairs, shelves and anything we could rig up.
7. Butt glue
It’s sprayed on your butt so your swimsuit doesn’t ride up, and not strictly used for your butt. That is all.
It’s not just food pageant girls sacrifice. There were plenty of times when I spent my weekend nights eating out alone before hitting up the gym.
9. Studying, and more studying
There is a private interview with the judges, as well as on-stage questions. It’s encouraged the girls are up-to-date on current issues, not only in the US, but also around the globe.
It takes a lot of confidence to walk across the stage in a swimsuit in front a lot of people. It also takes a lot of confidence to surround yourself with a huge group of beautiful girls and not get consumed with comparing yourself to them.
Many people think pageants are outdated and unhealthy. There is a lot of negative stigma attached, but the experience taught me a lot about who I am and what I can accomplish.
Many of these girls use the pageant system as a way to receive scholarship money for college.
Among my fellow contestants were law students, nurses, medical students and driven college women who want to make a difference in the world.
So, give these ladies props. They are chasing their dreams while looking fabulous as they walk across stages in the tallest heels ever.