2017 International United Miss titleholders having a blast together. Photo: @intlunitedmiss Instagram
One common bond pageant girls share is that we've all been "the new girl" before. Whether you started early on or in midlife, even the most experienced pageant girl can remember moments from her very first competition. The good news is, Pageant Planet is here to help every level of competitor. If you're new to the industry and reading this, welcome! Perhaps by reading this list, you'll get a leg-up on the competition by learning from the mistakes of those who've gone before you. For our seasoned competitors reading on, you'll likely nod in agreement at each topic when you realize you've either seen it or done it yourself!
1. Not knowing the system
Overall, I think this is the number one mistake newbies encounter. Not only should contestants be aware of the pageant industry as a whole, you should know specifics about the pageant you are entering. Work your candidacy by familiarizing yourself with the core values of the pageant. Some pageants are community service and achievement focused, while others might be heavily weighted in talent or beauty. You have to know the difference in the genres of pageants out there in order to put your best person up on that stage. It's always important to know what you'll be representing if crowned a titleholder. This comes with doing research before you get to your pageant interview. Be familiar with the history and mission of the pageant and how you can best leverage your unique characteristics to benefit the system. (Read: Pageant Question of the Day: Choosing A Pageant System)
2. Not being yourself
First-time competitors can get caught in their own mind game of trying to put on a facade to become someone he or she is not. I think that selling yourself out and not just being yourself is also one of the top mistakes in pageantry. The judges want to get to know who you really are as a person. They will ask you many different questions in the interview, but an answer that is honest rather than forced or trying to answer what the judges want to hear is the best way to go about it. Everyone is unique. Your hobbies, skills, talents and ambitions are different from the contestant standing to the left or right of you. If you start to compare yourself, you will fall short of the expectations you set for yourself. (Read: How To Market Yourself In Pageant Interview)
International United Miss New Jersey delegates having fun at the 2017 International United Miss pageant! Photo: @iumnewjersey Instagram
3. Not typing paperwork
I am ranking this highly because when I judge, I must honestly say, it is my number one pet peeve and reason why I will score you lower. Lack of typed paperwork shows me you are lacking time, energy and the effort to do so, which are not great qualities to see in a prospective queen. It's 2017 and technology is all around us. Perhaps you don't own a computer. If you have a library card, you can use one for free at your local library! Take the time to type your paperwork out. You are applying for the role of a titleholder, making this your "job" for the year. Ask yourself if you would submit a handwritten resume to a prospective employer. No? Then please do your directors and judges a favor and type it out – we appreciate this so much! (Read: Pageant Arrival Etiquette: What You NEED To Know)
4. Going into the interview "cold"
For lack of a better phrase, what I mean is experiencing your first pageant interview with no practice or guidance beforehand. These aren't always like a typical job interview, so do some exploring and ask questions before going into that interview room! There are several different types of pageant interviews, each with different strategies and suggestions for being the most successful. Do your research so you understand what may be behind those doors where the judges await. You also need to explore what topics might come up and if there are any that are off-limits in your particular pageant system. If you're stuck or need help, you've come to the right place! You can do mock interviews and even work one-on-one with an experienced pageant coach right here on Pageant Planet, or search for a coach in your area to practice with here.
Confidence & Poise clients have been practicing in mock interviews for their upcoming pageants all summer! Photo: @marylynnswenson Instagram
5. Improper body language or movements
First impressions are huge and the majority of what we communicate is spoken through our body language, not our mouth! Make sure to make the best first and lasting impressions on your directors, peers and judges by not making body language mistakes. (Read: 5 Body Language Mistakes You are Making in Interview) You must always be approachable, make good eye contact, and smile whether or not your are competing on stage or just participating in orientation. Always save tears or disappointment for behind your hotel room door. "One beginner mistake I see quite often is pageant contestants not making eye contact with the judges during evening walk," said Krystle Bell, founder and pageant/life coach at The Glamour Effect and Media Correspondent with Pageant Planet. "Also, walking too fast and poor posture are other common mistakes as well." In addition, watch out for some other beginner mistakes in body language or movements that I've seen often in new contestants: not standing in "pretty feet," holding the microphone improperly, too much motion in the arms or not knowing how to walk in heels. These things take some practice!
6. Improper evening gown
When I think of evening gown, I think of elegance, grace and red carpet events. Although it is totally about the girl wearing the dress and not how much she spent on it, I do think it is important to put your best foot forward in evening gown to appear elegant and pulled together. The most common mistake I see are gowns that look too much like prom gowns, dresses that are cheaply or poorly made and dresses that do not fit correctly. (Read: Can You Wear a Homecoming Dress in a Pageant?) If cost is an issue for your gown, instead of buying something new that is cheap or knock-off, consider something on consignment, a resale board or an app like eBay or Poshmark. You can find a steal of a deal while not compromising your best onstage look.
Beautiful gown choices at the 2017 Mrs. International pageant! Photo: @mrshawaiiintl2017 Instagram
7. Wrong shoes
There are a couple of ways you can go wrong with shoes. Personally, this is my least favorite task in wardrobe planning so I'm sure I'm a regular culprit myself, to this day. First off, in the younger age divisions, I see a lot of girls wearing heels that are just too high or mature for her. This can also lead to "Bambi legs" where the poor thing can barely get down the runway. Kitten heels are a good option that still looks fancy and gives a little bit of height. (Read: What Shoes Should a Child Wear in a Pageant?) Secondly, shoes that take attention away from you. I would hate to see something like black shoes under a pastel gown. When the contestant steps up on stage, that would likely be the first thing a judge notices. Lastly, I've surprisingly even seen some shoe styles a bit too casual lately. As much of a pain as they are, heels are usually the right answer unless you are going to a rehearsal or similar event.
8. Not being prepared
This is a rather vague topic and can cover a lot, but in general, I'm referencing what you need for the weekend and what is needed of you. Preparing for a pageant can be a challenging task when you are new. Some mistakes to avoid would include not having your paperwork and receipts printed and in a folder, forgetting your final entry fee balance, not having a packing checklist in place or forgetting items at home. Being as prepared as possible with checklists and reminders will keep you focused and ready to compete, even if you are new to the game! (Read: Pageant Preparation Course)
Miss Virginia High School America 2017, MollyPaige Deans, ready to rock the weekend at the 2017 Miss High School America pageant. Photo: @missvahigh Instagram
9. Not using a seamstress
Like I said, it is not about the dress but the girl who wears it. That said, no matter what the gown costs, it should fit you well and be flattering. Bodies are not made for one-size-fits all, where no two body shapes are the same. What looks good on the mannequin may not look good on your body. A professional seamstress can help make sense of your wardrobe. She will coach you through the proper fit of a variety of garments and help you modify pieces to look the best on you and your shape. Even the smallest of modifications can make the biggest difference, such as adding a strap or taking length off your gown. (
Speaking of, for the younger girls, be sure you don't visit the seamstress too early before the pageant. My daughter and I made this mistake before her very first pageant in 2012. We had her dress taken up three months prior to the pageant date. By the time she wore it, it was four inches off the ground. Whoops! 10. Forgetting a dress rehearsal The final mistake to make note of is beginner contestants forgetting to have a dress rehearsal. You should always have one of these to make sure that everything is functioning and fitting like it should. Doing this can also allow you time to plan for undergarments, shoes and accessories. That last thing you want to do is plan these items on the fly before each phase of the competition. You won't have time!
2017 Elite Miss Virginia, Christina Choi, perfectly coordinated for the opening number at the 2017 Elite Miss Earth United States pageant. Photo: @elitemissvirginia Instagram
Don't ever forget that everyone has to start somewhere and it is okay to be the new kid sometimes! If you're new and reading this, you've definitely come to the right place. Take time to read up on tons of coaching articles for insider knowledge so you look like a pro going into your first competition! You can also shop for dresses or even find your interview attire and accessories. Pageant Planet is a one-stop shop that helps competitors of all levels, so make sure to get out there and explore! Good luck!
Her tip is: "Remember you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”Learn More