Jessa Carmack (right), Miss California 2016, with other California titleholders during Interview at Miss California 2015. Photo/jessacarmack.wordpress.com
The Miss America Organization interviews are some of the hardest and most intimidating interviews in all of pageantry. It is one of the longest interview processes, but judges can also ask you anything they want within that time. If you are coming up on your first MAO local, you may be a bit shocked when you walk into that interview. I've been there. I nailed interview in pageants before, but I walked out crying in all but one of my MAO interviews and all because of one question, "Who is someone you look up to and why?" (Read: 10 Common Questions Asked in a Miss America Interview)
The interview format has changed over the years, but most of it is still the same. (Read: How To Be Successful in Miss America Interview)
So, to make sure you get off on the right foot, here are some tips for your first MAO Interview.
1. Know what to wear
Grace Burgess, Miss Tennessee 2016. Photo: @missamericatn Instagram
This is important, as vain as it sounds. But MAO, and office worlds in general, have changed from business suits and pantyhose to more tailored and modern dresses and outfits. Hillary Clinton's infamous pantsuit has been replaced by jumpsuits and dresses that were once covered up by shoulder padded blazers. Make sure your shoes are comfortable. You will be standing during the interview and you don't want to fidget, even if you are behind a podium. (Read: 5 Ways to Pageant Proof Your Heels)
Look at photos from the most recent Miss America before competing to get an idea as to what to wear for your interview. (Read: 5 Interview Looks from Miss America 2017)
2. Have someone check your paperwork Before you submit your paperwork to your director, make sure someone looks over it for any misspellings, grammatical errors and confusing wording. (Read: Who Should Read Your Pageant Paperwork Before You Submit It)
This is a great habit to get into for the "real world". I can't even tell you how mortifying it was to notice months later as I was wondering why I hadn't heard from a copy writing position I had applied for and then realized I misspelled something on the resume – mystery solved.
3. Brush up on politics
President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan talk with Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams during a State Dinner. Photo/missamerica.org
Miss America judges do not have to avoid politically charged questions and can ask you anything. To be prepared, make sure to research anything involving women, the economy, humanitarian involvement, racial injustices, healthcare, immigration, the national debt, foreign relations, your field of study and your platform. If it is an election year, make sure you know what is being voted on and have an opinion but also know both sides of the argument. (Read: A Pageant Girl's Guide to the 2nd Presidential Debate)
4. Be comfortable with controversial
Just like the political questions, controversial questions may come to light. Make sure to state your answers to these diplomatically, acknowledging both sides of the argument. Hot topics could be immigration, refugees, LGBTQ Rights, natural disaster emergency relief, race, domestic abuse, abortion, gun control, drug legalization and pardoning of prisoners – be prepared. (Read: How to Handle Politically Controversial Questions)
5. Stay current on what is going on
Georgia Frazier, Miss Oklahoma 2015, with her interview binder during rehearsals at Miss America 2016. Photo courtesy of the Miss Oklahoma Facebook Page.
I remember not being aware that Hurricane Katrina had happened until about four days later when I turned on the TV in my dorm. It was my first two weeks of college and my mind was elsewhere. With social media, hardly anything gets past us today. It just takes a few people to post for us to get curious enough to check it out. But, make sure you are looking not only at what people you have things in common with are posting, but others as well so you really get news from all sides. Make sure you are aware of not only the national news but your local and state news as well. (Read: What Are The Best Resources To Use To Study Current Events?)
If for some reason you missed an event, tell the judge you don't believe you are aware of that event and ask them to explain. If they decline to explain, let them know you will look in to it as there is a reason they must have brought it up. Remember, in order to be a good titleholder, your attention has to be on those outside of you.
6. Know the history of MAO
Knowing the history of MAO will help in your passion for the system. You may get asked who your favorite former titleholder is and why. The pageant didn't always offer a scholarship, nor did it have a platform. It once had casual wear and a current events quiz. Learning the history may also help you set goals. For example, if your state hasn't won ever, maybe you want to be the first. If your state hasn't been in the Top 10 in a while, maybe you want to make that happen. Use it as motivation and a talking point. (Read: Miss America History as well as your specific state's history)
7. Know the four points of the crown
Savvy Shields crowned Miss America 2017.
I'll admit, I blankly stared at a judge when she asked me, "What point on the crown means the most to you?" "Ugh, the left one?" She laughed and then explained that each point symbolized what the system stood for, "Style, Service, Scholarship and Success." We moved on to another question, but a few weeks later she was my judge again and asked, "What are the four point of the crown?" I proudly listed them off, while making invisible points on my head with my fingers. Make sure you know this! The MAO crown is very recognizable and hasn't changed in years, so make sure you know what it stands for. You may even be asked how you represent each of the points. Yes, I have been asked that. So be prepared. (Read: Miss New York Mission)
8. Know your platform
Know your platform inside and out and be able to explain it! (Read: 5 Tips to Perfecting Your Pageant Platform for Interview) For a lot of new MAO competitors the platform is new; it may be something they are interested in but haven't done anything with, or they don't realize how big of a deal it really is with MAO and plan to use the title to begin work on it rather than already have it going. Here are some answers that you should be prepared to give. What have you done with your platform? What do you plan to do with it? Why/how did you get involved? Why is this important? How will the title help you achieve these goals? How could your platform help you promote the title? When it comes to your platform, have a passion, not just an interest.
9. Know why you are there
Mallory Hagan was 24 when she won Miss America 2013.
Many interviews, even in the professional world start with, "Tell me about yourself?" This question and others like it can be asked at any time during your interview. (Read: The 10 Toughest Pageant Interview Questions and How to Answer Them) Often, MAO competitors choose to compete because of the scholarship. But you never want to sound like you are there for the money. While the scholarship may be the entire reason you decided to sign up, ask yourself what you can do for the pageant. What will your legacy be? How will you help the title develop and improve? What makes you stand out from the other girls? (Read: Why Your Interview is Not All About You, But What You Can Do)
10. Have a closing statement I
think this catches EVERY first-time MAO contestant off guard and we usually end up mumbling something along the lines of, "Um..thanks for being here...bye." Not the way to go. Think about it this way, lawyers get a closing argument and so do you! You have 30 seconds to plead your case and end your interview on a strong note. Thank the judges, restate your platform, restate why they should pick you, and leave them with something to remember you by. (Read: How to Win Interview With Your Closing Statement)
While the MAO interview is intimidating because it can cover a wide range of topics, as long as you are prepared, you'll be fine. A pageant coach is a great way to make sure you are off on the right foot. You can find a coach in our Directory and/or join our Pageant Box membership for access to our private portal.
One of my favorite things about MAO was that, unlike other pageant systems, there was usually an MAO pageant that I was eligible for almost every weekend. In some states, this may not be the case, but the point is you'll have more than one chance in the year to win a local to go to state. Some systems all you have is the state pageant one weekend. So if you have an off weekend, learn from it and keep at it. Some MAO competitors won their state titles young, while for others it took their entire eligibility to finally win the crown. So, wipe the tears, touch up your lipstick, and don't give up.
Good luck, ladies!
Tip: "Have confidence in yourself, you weren't made to be anyone else."Learn More