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7 Most Common Pageant Mistakes Made Onstage

21, November 2012

As a former runway model and current pageant coach, I see the same mistakes over and over again. You may have the perfect swimsuit body or the most amazing gown, but if you don’t present yourself well on stage, your chances of winning are greatly diminished. The next time you are practicing for onstage competition, have someone record you and look for these most common mistakes.

International United Miss 2019 Sara Thornton. Photo: International United Miss Instagram

7 Most Common Pageant Mistakes

1. Not smiling

First and foremost, you must smile when you are on stage. This helps the judges like you. A friendly and confident contestant is who they are looking for. If you have trouble remembering to smile, try practicing walking with a pencil held across your molars. This will force your cheeks to pull up and the corners of your eyes to crinkle. A smile is actually perceived in the eyes.

2. Pretty feet

When I started modeling, we called this the Model’s T Stance. That is because your feet should actually form a “T”. Your front foot should be pointing straight ahead and your back foot should be at an angle to one side. This foot position will turn your hips slightly hiding any imperfections in your leg shape and make you appear thinner.

3. Purse arm

Have you ever seen a contestant who holds one arm perfectly still while moving the other arm, as if holding a purse? I call this “Purse Arm”. Not only does this look awkward, but it is a sure signal that you are nervous. To avoid this, practice brushing the sides of your thighs with your thumbs. This will ensure that both arms are moving as you walk.

4. Not spotting on turns

This is a common mistake I see in contestants of all ages. When making a turn, whether it is a circle turn or a pivot turn, you need to spot to the front of the stage. This is a technique used by dancers. You need to keep your head pointing to the front as much as possible. This not only looks better, but it allows you to make eye contact with the judges. Also, remember to look forward until you are off the stage.

USA National Miss 2019 titleholders. Photo: USA National Miss

5. Undergarment lines

Please, always try your gown, opening number outfit and fun fashion on with the undergarments you plan to wear before your pageant. Check from all angels, especially the back! I have seen more panty lines that I would like to have seen! Another area to check is for bra lines. If you need a bra and can’t find one that doesn’t show, try good ole duct tape. This may take practice, so don’t wait until the night of your pageant to try this.

6. Holding hips too tight

If you are wearing high heels, you MUST move your hips! This is not the side to side motion of someone trying to look sexy, but more of a front to back motion, like a speed walker. Holding hips too tight will cause your whole walk to look stiff. This is the one area I work on with most of my clients. Recording your walk will help you to see the difference moving your hips can make.

7. Fidgeting with clothing

This is a mistake made by all ages also. Be aware that if you have ruffles, they are available to play with. This may mean changing the style of gown or fun fashion you are wearing. When you try on your pageant wardrobe, try to avoid embellishments that hit your finger tips. This will help you to avoid that tendency to fidget. So, the next time you are onstage, remember these tips. Most of all, remember to relax and have fun!

Want personalized help for your onstage performance? Check out Pageant Planet's Pageant Prep Feature!


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