Being able to afford college is not easy. Making a difference in the world is no piece of cake, either.
For nearly a century, the Miss America Organization has been giving money to women who make an impact in their communities to help offset the costs of secondary education.
But, in order to win that coveted check and title, there's a ton of behind-the-scenes preparation that goes into it all.
A pageant girl is more than glitz and glitter; she is responsible for representing the fundamentals of leadership.
Any woman between the ages of 17 and 24 who doesn’t have children yet and who lives, works or goes to school in the appropriate region is eligible to compete.
You just have to want it bad enough and be willing to do weird things with butt glue.
Here's what the world of pageantry is really all about:
Before The Pageant
Usually this includes a fact sheet, contract, a list of community service activities and a personal platform statement.
This platform is an issue each competitor values the most, like the importance of blood donation or inspiring social action.
This is important because it defines who you are before you say a word. A stylish interview outfit says, “I am ready for the job, and proactive to make a change in my community.”
A unique gown says, “I’m not afraid to stand out and take risks to increase the public’s perspective."
Even the swimsuit is important and can tell the audience, “I’m confident in my body and my sassy attitude is what it takes to make things happen.”
This is a portion many people don’t often know about. All local competitors are required to raise $100 per pageant to be donated to the Miss America for Kids Organization.
Not to be confused with an entry fee, this money is divided between Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the Miss America Scholarship Organization and the local pageant’s scholarship fund.
So, once the paperwork is sent in and the garment bags are packed, the day will finally arrive. Pageant day is one thing after another, building anticipation until that last moment arrives.
Not sure what to expect? The day might go something like this:
The morning of the pageant is spent rehearsing walking patterns, routines and scripts. This time is also a bonding period between the ladies.
Rehearsals are interrupted for the private interviews. Contestants have 10-minute private interviews with the panel of five to seven judges, which provides the personal time to allow judges to get to know each lady.
For nine minutes and 30 seconds, the judges can ask anything related to the fact sheet and platform statement, as well as current events, and both regional and generic questions.
At the end of that time, each contestant has 30 seconds for a closing statement to tie up loose ends, thank the judges and get them excited for the night ahead.
This portion constitutes 20 percent of the total score, so it is important to earn as many points as possible during this first impression.
There is usually a dress rehearsal to help provide an idea of how things move, as well as how much time is available to change outfits between categories.
Finally it is time for the show, and backstage turns into a hot mess. Hair is curled, lashes are extended and tattoos are covered.
Vocalists begin their warm ups, dancers use the hallways to stretch and the pep talks begin.
The competitors are first introduced during the opening number. A simple dance routine without any official scoring allows the audience and judges a preview of the night.
During this portion, each lady has a few moments at the mic to introduce herself, as well as her hometown, school and personal platform. Although this is not a scored category, it just might spark the interest of the judges.
The first judged category of the on stage portion is the lifestyle and fitness section, worth 15 percent.
This allows the ladies to show off their healthy lifestyles. It is not about how skinny someone is, but rather how confident she is in her body.
The ladies actually glue their bikini bottoms using butt glue to prevent thong wedgies while on stage. Remarkably, many girls use Elmer’s Spray Glue that stays on for weeks, tearing away at the flesh each day.
The better option is a water soluble roll-on adhesive found at medical supply stores. Backstage, it isn’t rare to find an assembly line of girls waiting to get glued before running down the hall.
The girls take their turns on stage before returning to the dressing room to prepare for the heaviest weighted category: talent.
Worth 35 percent of the total score, each contestant has 90 seconds to showcase her personal talent. As with any competition, it is important to stand out.
The high glory and elegance of the competition is the evening gown portion. Backstage, the ladies update their hair to simple up-dos, darken their lipstick and even use duct tape to keep their boobs up.
This last major portion is worth 20 percent of the total score.
At this point, the evening is coming to an end, but it’s not over yet. In effort to give the audience a sample of the morning’s interview, the ladies must return to the stage to receive the final 5 percent of their scores: the on-stage question.
Each contestant chooses a question, which are usually opinion-based and about major controversial topics.
The contestant isn’t expected to solve the problem, but rather have a concise opinion on the matter and a rough understanding of what can be done to solve it.
It is important to pause before starting, speak clearly and avoid rambling. After thanking the judges, the contestant steps back and exits the stage.
Now it's time for crowning.
The number of contestants determines the number of runners up. If a winner should be unable to fill her role, the first runner up will take over the responsibility.
When the winner’s name is announced, there is an eruption of cheers.
She steps forward to center stage, where previous the titleholder, usually with the help of the reigning Outstanding Teen, will give the new winner a beautiful bouquet, an official Miss America sash and the crown.
Her year begins that night. With the help of many sponsors, she will spend the next few months preparing for the state pageant and making appearances to promote Miss America Organization, her platform and the local pageant system.
It's trite to say, but everyone walks away a winner. Even those who do not walk away with a crown could leave with great prizes and scholarship money by winning supplementary awards.
The prizes are not wads of cash, as seen in "Honey Boo Boo." This is a scholarship organization, and the awards are paid out directly to the contestant’s college office or student loan agency.
Awards may be given out for the academic excellence, dedication to community service or the highest points in a specific phase of competition.
The Miss Congeniality award is decided by the contestants themselves. After spending time together, they vote for the contestant they felt was the kindest and most helpful.
Contestants who exceed the minimum $100 donation to Children’s Miracle Network are also eligible for the Miracle Maker Award, given to the contestant who raised the most.
But only one wins the crown.