Mrs. U.S. Woman of Achievement 2017, Lindsay. Photo: U.S. Woman of Achievement Pageant
“Girls compete with each other; women empower one another,” is a quote that can be seen on a variety of social media outlets. And it’s true. While popular belief will have you think that pageants are nothing more than catty competition and young ladies in swimsuits, what the contestants from behind the scenes will tell you is, “I met some of the smartest and most passionate women at the pageant.” And it’s true. In our immediate group of friends and family, we might be the only ones who act on our passions and actively fight for change. But in a pageant, you are surrounded by women just like you who are doing everything they can to change the world for the better – even for just one person – all while being successful students, career driven, and holding down a household. However, society will have us believe that we shouldn’t or can’t have it all. Yet there is a pageant that celebrates the fact that you certainly can: the Woman of Achievement pageant. Founder and Executive Director Marlena Martin offered the following tips for contestants about how to win in the Ms. and Mrs. division of the U.S. Woman of Achievement Pageants.
1. Be yourself “We've heard it before, but this is a system where the more in-tune you are with yourself and the more you can be comfortable in conveying that ‘true you’ with the judges, the better you will fare in competition," Martin said. No one’s road to success is the same; tell your true story and be you. Judges want the genuine you and not a carbon copy of last year’s winner. 2. Know your platform Platforms are big in many systems, so make sure you know yours like the back of your hand. “The more you are passionate about what you propose to do with your platform, or have already done, the better,” Martin said. She explained, “In the Women of Achievement Pageant we have a separate Platform Interview. One that focuses directly on a presentation of your platform to the judges.” In this part of the competition, you want to grab the judges' attention and make yourself memorable. “Decorate your platform table with the colors of your platform, create interactions with your platform table judges be it a quiz, a gift bag as they leave...something whereby they remember you,” Martin advises. “Also, stay within time limits: three minutes max to introduce it or the timer will cut off your speech and three minutes to answer questions about it," Martin added. "Make it intriguing. Dress well. Keep your speech on time and rehearse it – even if it's with index cards, still rehearse. If you stay within the time limit, you look prepared. Be concise. Don't go off on tangents. Stick to the major tenants of your platform.” (Read: How to Turn Your Passion Into A Successful Pageant Platform)
U.S. Woman of Achievement National Platform Winners. Photo: U.S. Woman of Achievement Pageant
3. Be a good speaker If someone isn’t clear or rambles, how long will you listen to them before you just tune them out? Speaking skills are a must if you want to be able to get things done and be remembered in a positive light. “Go to Toastmaster's to brush up on speaking skills or enter a public speaking class,” Martin suggests. “From the personal interview, the platform interview and a possible PowerPoint, you must be able to speak about your passion in life and how you have and will use the title.” Toastmasters is a program to help you improve public speaking and communication skills. Many pageant girls rave about their experience using Toastmasters to prepare in pageantry, so give it a shot! (Read: 7 Activities That Help You Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking) 4. At nationals, wear a national-level gown You’ve probably heard the story about the girl who won her pageant in a discount prom gown. But each system and each level of competition have different wardrobe needs. “At the Ms. U.S. and Mrs. U.S. Woman of Achievement pageant, evening gown is competitive,” Martin said. “My best advice is not to wear a ‘state-winning gown’ to nationals. There is a difference between a state gown and a national competition gown in all its grandeur. Trains, bright colors and avoiding black at Woman of Achievement all work for the evening gown competition. Black will blend with the backdrop, so we recommend against wearing solid black." "If you need to add sleeves, a train, some bling, do it," Martin added. "You do not have to buy a designer gown; you can rent a gown or modify an existing one or have one made.” We all know we do pageants on a budget when possible, so reach other to pageant friends for help, advice, borrowing/renting from them or pageant resale. (Read: How to Choose the Right Neckline You Should Wear in Evening Gown)
Crowning. Photo: U.S. Woman of Achievement Pageant
5. Have a spell checked and accurately typed application and paperwork Think about the horror I had misspelling my name on a resume that I mailed to a bunch of magazines. Imagine your horror to look over your paperwork after the pageant and realize you misspelled something on your pageant paperwork. “If you ‘retype’ or ‘remake’ the application, be sure to include the same questions and the logo and keep it to two pages as the original,” Martin said. “Many professionals judge Woman of Achievement. A sloppy, hand-written application with typos sends a message you do not care or are not professional for the job.” Think of your application as a job resume going to HR. You have to get past them to get hired just like you have to get past the judges to win a pageant. (Read: How to Use Pageantry to Climb the Corporate Ladder) “Remember your paperwork is your first line of communication to the judges and the pageant system as a whole,” Martin said. (Read: Who Should Read Your Pageant Paperwork Before You Submit It) 6. Be tailored Properly fitting wardrobe is the difference from a mishap, a misstep, or just looking frumpy. Invest in it. (Read: How to Avoid the Top 10 Most Common Wardrobe Malfunctions) “Interviews are seated,” Martin said. “Don't wear a short skirt that will ride up two inches for a seated, professional interview. Also, your evening gown should be tailored beautifully to your body shape. We have had a few plus-sized women win national titles and they have always had immaculately tailored gowns and suits so that everything was cut right to their figures. It makes a difference. No matter what size you are, be tailored in all your outfits and do not reveal too much. You want the judges mesmerized to your face and your words.” (Read: What You Need to Know About Hemlines Before Competing)
Platform winners. Photo: U.S. Woman of Achievement
7. Promote the program on social media Today, pageant contestants are spokespersons for the system and its sponsors. Social media is a key way judges and directors get to know contestants and their commitments. (Read: What Should You Post on Social Media as a Titleholder) “Show the judges who may be researching you online that you care enough to post about the program and recruit other women into the program (or teens into the Teen Achieve program),” Martin said. “Show that you are proud of your title and involved making appearances before you get to nationals.” Anyone can write what they do on paper, but social media allows us to actually see them doing it. 8. Be on time Don’t go for a grand entrance; it’s not pretty. Being on time, in all aspects, demonstrates responsibility. “At rehearsals, in returning pageant emails, making pageant payments and being on time for orientation,” Martin said. “Directors know you take your title seriously when you are attentive, on time and at functions to support the program.” Other titleholders are watching, too. How would you feel if the girl who wins is always late?
Platform winners. Photo: U.S. Woman of Achievement
9. Have personality in Fitness While the fitness competition can be daunting, take pride in yourself; every part of yourself. Find something positive to put a smile on your face on stage. “You can wear swimwear or sporty activewear such as Zumba or yoga wear or a tennis dress,” Martin said. “Have fun. Bring a prop and show personality on stage.” (Read: What You NEED to Know to Prepare for Pageant Fitness Wear) When I competed in Miss Oklahoma USA, I was the “fat” girl on stage. But I was smiling and rocking that stage like I was in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Why? I had lost 15 pounds in about a month and a half working with a trainer, eating right and working out. I felt amazing! I looked my amazing! And the judges noticed, one saying, “It looked like you were having fun out there last night.” I explained my weight loss and she got a huge smile on her face and congratulated me. So embrace it! 10. Get creative in your talent or onstage speech (you get to choose which one you will do) Choices are great during pageant competition, so find the one you are best at that you think will show your strengths. “Don't be afraid to use props, get the audience involved, make the judges laugh, and be comfortable with being yourself,” Martin said. “It's fun to do things differently. We give you a big stage to work with. Use your space depending on your topic or talent. We want you to relax so WE can relax and enjoy the show!” Yes, the judges and audience want to enjoy the show. It’s a show! They don’t want to feel awkward. I used to get compliments for singing in talent. But I always got stage fright unless I closed my eyes, so I decided to spin flag instead. The issue? That was sometimes more awkward than me just closing my eyes and singing my heart out. (Read: Is Technical Skill or Entertainment Value More Important in Pageant Talent?)
Tanya. Photo: U.S. Woman of Achievement.
Woman of Achievement The Woman of Achievement pageant offers Miss, Ms. and Mrs. divisions. “We offer seminars, leadership workshops and a pageant competition for women who are active with community platforms, education and/or visual or performing arts,” according to the pageant organizers. This means that even at the pageant, you’re growing and gaining valuable skills. Judging Criteria You’ve learned about the areas of competition, but here is the score breakdown. 25% Personal Interview 25% Platform Interview 20% Creative Expression/Speech 15% Evening Gown 15% Fitness Interested in competing? Appointed titles are still available and the national pageant will take place November 10-12, 2017, in Long Beach, California, aboard the historic Queen Mary! What better place to crown a new queen than on a ship named after a queen? Trivia note: the Queen Mary is named after Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning Queen of England’s grandmother. Queen Elizabeth II has had a pretty successful reign, taking the throne after her brother abdicated it and then issuing a statement that the first born, male or female, would be in the line for the throne before Prince George was born. Seems like that successful woman is making headway for others to follow her, doesn’t it?
Elizabeth receiving her awards. Photo: U.S. Woman of Achievement.
Going Forward No matter what you have heard about pageants, don’t let the fear of cattiness or unworthiness get in your way. Success is in the eye of the beholder. Sell it. If you have accomplished something you are proud of, speak about it. If you have made a difference, no matter how small or insignificant you feel it may be, talk about it. To become part of a system that celebrates your achievements in multiple areas of your life, contact Marlena Martin and Woman of Achievement today to find out how to compete this November. Remember, to the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world. Good luck!
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