So you've signed up for a pageant and you don't know where to start preparing... Or, maybe you haven't signed up yet but you're trying to pick a pageant to participate in. The pageant world can be overwhelming when everything is brand new. As a first timer, how do you know what to wear, how to pack or what to practice for pageant weekend? If you haven't found a pageant mentor to give you advice, we've got you covered!
Photo: USA National Miss
Below are 101 tips to figure out the planet of pageantry as a first time contestant. What an expert to answer all your pageant questions? Check out our VIP Coaching Program to connect with our Pageant Planet coaches or check out the coaches directory to find a pageant coach near you. Click below to find the tips you need.
Miss South Dakota USA 2019 Top 5. Photo: Michael Solberg
Contribution by Julia McVaugh Stone
Whether you're brand new to the industry or you're a seasoned pro, it can be difficult to find a pageant to compete in. The right pageant could mean the difference between a positive and negative pageant experience. How do you find a pageant? What should you consider when selecting a pageant? Look no further, we have all the information you need!
1. Do your research
Before you ever commit to competing in a pageant, you must absolutely do your homework!
When new girls decide that they want to do a pageant, they often don’t realize that not all pageants are alike. Just because the majority of pageants have common areas of competition like interview, fitness and evening gown, it does not mean that all pageants are the same. In fact, every pageant and pageant system in the world has its own style, values and culture. In addition to all of those differences, what every pageant and pageant system is looking for in their prospective titleholders is drastically different from other pageants and pageants systems. Every pageant organization has its own brand and that brand is unique to that company. There may be similarities with other organizations but, each system tries to carve out their own special niche in the pageant world.
A pageant is a business, and just like any other business, they create and carefully develop their own personal brand that represents who they are. A brand is simply whatever you think of when you think of a company or a person. Knowing and understanding each pageant’s particular brand is so important for a contestant because if you don’t understand the brand of the pageant that you’ve entered, you can easily make mistakes and you won’t even realize it.
For example, some pageants build their business on a brand that is represented by the “all-American-girl,” or “the-girl-next-door” type of an image. They may want their titleholders to be educated, serious and talented, and to be focused more on their personal platform and community service, rather than being concerned with things like fashion and modern style or being sultry and sophisticated. Still, other pageants have a brand that values titleholders that are adept at public speaking, have a high degree of modeling ability and are very fashion forward.
If you do not understand and embody the brand of the pageant that you are competing in, then you can completely waste your time, money and energy because you will miss the mark on everything you do. So, before you ever plunk down any of your hard earned dollars, or fill out any applications, you must do your research on the pageant that you are considering. Do not ever decide to enter a pageant just because your friend is doing it, or it just looks like fun, until you have been to the website, talked to someone who has participated in that pageant or ideally, until you have actually witnessed that pageant for yourself. Trust us on this!
We’ve known so many girls who jumped into competing in a pageant because they got caught up in the excitement or gave into the peer pressure to do so, and then they regretted it because it turned out to be a bad fit for them. Competing in a pageant takes up a ton of time, requires a tremendous amount of energy and focus and costs a lot of money. Make sure that you know what you are getting into, and that the pageant you choose is one that you are a good fit for.
Of course, one of the best places to learn about pretty much any pageant on the planet is of course, Pageant Planet!
We encourage all pageant systems to list their organization with us, so that people like you can learn about them first hand. You can search our pageant directory by different parameters like location and pageant type quite easily. From there you can contact the directors of each pageant personally and ask them any questions that you might have.
Another great way to learn about pageants on our site is to read through our article database. Every year we celebrate the Best in Pageantry Awards and you can read about the Top 10 winning pageants in many different categories.
And, even as you scroll through our articles and social media, you will constantly see contestants, titleholders and directors featured who are representing or are associated with countless pageants around the globe. You will learn so much about each pageant’s brand and style just from browsing all of the content on our website and social media accounts. You’re bound to come away with an incredible amount of knowledge and information just from paying us a visit!
Another invaluable way to learn about a pageant’s brand and all of the things that they value and promote is to become familiar with their various websites, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages. Every pageant and every pageant system today puts a tremendous amount of effort into promoting and advertising, and the most important way that they do this is through social media.
Often, a pageant’s website is the very first point of contact that they have with potential contestants, so they often put the majority of the information that you want to know on their site. Many pageants actually do have a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) page on their websites because they know that many people do have a lot of questions, especially if they are new to pageantry. The pages will typically discuss their pageant’s competition requirements, such as areas like interview, fitness, talent, formal wear and other things like fun fashion, and so on. They usually will include what percentage or the number of points that each area of competition is valued at, so that you understand the way that they score their contestants.
2. Talk to experienced people
Current or former titleholders
Current or former contestants are by far some of the most reliable people to give you insight into a prospective pageant system. The current contestants will be able to tell you exactly what they are experiencing and they’ll be able to give you advice about the system, the director and the other contestants. These ladies are very helpful because they are currently personally invested in this pageant so they will likely be quite upfront about their take on the whole thing, good and bad.
Former contestants can also give you an incredible amount of valuable information regarding a pageant that you are interested in. The one thing to be aware of when speaking with a former contestant is that if they did not place where they wanted to, or they did not have the experience they wanted to have, they may be bitter or resentful and that will color their information. If they had any conflicts with other girls, the director, staff members or judges, you can bet that you will hear about that, so always remember that there are two sides to every story. Of course, if you begin to hear the same negative stories about the pageant or the people associated with it, then that tells you that this is probably a pageant that you want to stay away from. Likewise, if you hear lots of similar stories that are positive about the pageant, the staff and the contestant’s experiences, then that is great news, and says a lot about the pageant and how contestants are treated.
The director of a pageant is the most important person that you need to know when you are considering entering a pageant. A pageant’s success is really based on the director’s ability to create a positive and enjoyable experience for each contestant, as well as their skills at leading, organizing and producing a quality event. Of course the director’s personality, communication skills and sense of integrity and honesty contribute to their success and how well-liked and respected they are in the pageant community. A pageant director can be highly gifted at creating a fabulous production number and glitzy program, but if they are not friendly, kind and encouraging to their contestants, they will not be enjoyable to work with, and they certainly would not be the kind of director you’d want to work with for a year if you were to win the title.
There is nothing better than having a great director who not only loves their job, but also values and adores their contestants. A good director is always available to answer questions or assist their contestants or potential contestants any way they can. So, don’t hesitate to contact a pageant director if you are interested in their pageant or if you have questions or concerns about their pageant.
That initial interaction will tell you so much about that person too. If you don’t get a good feeling or you don’t like the way they talk to you when you make inquiries, then maybe you don’t want to take part in their pageant.
Photo: USA National Miss
3. Consider the requirements of the title
The commitments and responsibilities of being the titleholder
The very first thing you should want to find out from a current titleholder or director is the commitments and responsibilities that a titleholder has had to uphold during her year.
For instance, you want to know if there is a national pageant or some other higher level pageant in the system that you have to attend if you were to win the title. And, if you are required to attend nationals, you want to know about things like travel, room and board at nationals and services like having your hair and makeup done. It’s important to know if you are expected to pay for all of those things or if the pageant or a pageant sponsor provides them for free.
If you are expected to pay for all or even part of your travel, room and board, wardrobe, hair and makeup, in addition to other services, you may decide that this pageant is not for you. Pageant competitions tend to become more expensive as they become more prestigious. So, a state pageant tends to be more expensive than a local, and a national pageant is more expensive than a state competition, and so on. You may be looking at $5,000 to $10,000 and up for a national competition, depending on the system, and if you do not have that kind of cash, then it’s going to be very difficult for you to compete at the level that you’d like to.
Miss Face of Beauty International 2018 Myint Mo May. Photo Face of Beauty International
Another area to ask about is what is the pageant’s expectation regarding the involvement of support of the pageant’s charity. It’s always insightful to know how the titleholder’s relationship with her platform changed after she won her title.
Everyone who enters a pageant should really have a platform, even if their pageant states that they are not the type of pageant that focuses on platforms. A platform helps you market yourself and your brand, gives you an outlet to volunteer and serve in your community and it also helps the judges to understand you better as a person. But, when you win a title, your platform can sometimes change, depending on what the pageant wants you to focus on.
Most pageants have a charity or a cause that they are associated with, and part of the job of the titleholder is to support the efforts of the pageant with regard to that cause. She may attend events regarding that charity, educate others by giving speeches and talks and she may also organize fundraisers. Because of that intense focus on the pageant’s charity, the titleholder’s initial platform may be put on the back burner for her year of service. It’s a very good idea to try to find out how the pageant views the role of the titleholders’ personal platform, in addition to the pageant’s charity. If you have been committed to your platform or cause for a long time and you’ve got a lot of support and momentum going with it, but your pageant wants you to focus entirely on their platform or cause, during your reign, then you’re going to be very unhappy.
Other things that you might want to ask about are the number of appearances that the winner is required to make during her year, in addition to any other important contract stipulations, if she can discuss them with you.
4. Consider the prize packages
Obviously, the first perk of being a titleholder is the incredible feeling of winning the crown after all of your hard work, and the resulting sense of confidence and accomplishment that you have. But, of course, there are many other great things that come with the job, and usually, you can get that information on the pageant’s website. You can also check out the Best Pageant Prize Packages article to see which pageants are ranked for their packages!
Because every pageant system has different values and is built on different principles, every pageant is going to have a variety of benefits that differ from other pageants. It’s important to know what each pageant has to offer its titleholders because you may have specific goals for your life that your pageant can help you with. That’s why we always recommend doing your research before you sign up.
For instance, if you are a teen or a young miss, and you are looking for ways to fund your college education, then you may want to get involved with pageants that value being a scholarship system. Many well known and established pageants put a high value on education and therefore, they make it a priority to offer tuition reimbursements and educational benefits as part of their prize package. If you are a gal who is looking to begin a career in modeling or fashion merchandising, you may want to check out which pageants offer runway, print and editorial photoshoot opportunities, as well as wardrobe stipends and clothing sponsors for their titleholders. Still other girls desire a career as a performer of some kind, like being a dancer on Broadway, or a professional actor or a position in broadcasting. If that’s your kind of thing, then you should be researching pageants that offer their titleholders opportunities to perform or either have ties to the entertainment industry.
Most pageants do take very good care of their titleholders because they want to not only make them happy, but they want to invest in their lives in some way. Many perks will not be revealed until you actually become the titleholder, but the majority of pageants are up front about their prize packages and all of the things that they offer because they want to attract potential contestants.
Just take the time to do your homework beforehand, and if you have the chance to speak with a former or current titleholder, certainly don’t hesitate to ask about the benefits that she has experienced.
5. Play to your strengths
Just as not every pageant is made equally, not every pageant contestant is made equally. We all have areas that we can improve and areas that we naturally excell in, so don't shy away from that fact. If the thought of putting on a swimsuit and walking across the stage is terrifying for you, don't sign up for a pageant with a swimsuit or fitness competition, like Miss USA. If you're a straight-A student who is super involved in her community, sign up for a pageant that celebrates scholastic and community acheivements, like Miss America. There are even pageants out there that let you use your highest optional competition score in place of one of the main category scores, like USA Ambassador.
Part of pageantry is embracing the best version of yourself so why not find a pageant that will celebrate who you truly are. Stop spending your time fighting your weaknesses to be "pageant perfect," and start putting your strengths on display. When you look through our Pageant Directory, you can see what competitions are in each pageant and then pick the right pageant for you!
It's no secret that pageantry is an expensive sport. If you can't or simply don't want to take all costs out of pocket, you may want to look into getting sponsorships from your community. Getting local businesses to sponsor your competition is a great way to boost your event revenue and strengthen community relationships. Here are 5 tips to get you going!
Mister Supranational 2018 Prathamesh Maulingkar and Miss Supranational 2018 Valeria Vasquez. Photo Instagram
6. Learn how to make a pitch
When it comes to building a relationship with a corporate partner, don’t leave any doubts that their company and you are the right fit.
Focus on these four things:
Tell them who you are and introduce our (the company and yours) mission.
Summarize when you won your title, the number of contestants who competed and other unique facts about you that qualify you to be sponsored.
Point out specifically why their company would be a good fit to sponsor your competition.
Describe what they’ll get out of it. Outline the benefits that align with their business goals. A great way to do this is to create an sponsorship packet for businesses, showing exactly what they can gain by sponsoring you.
Ask small, get small. Ask big, get big. Don’t sell yourself short or stray away from asking for larger donations. The worst they can say is no. It’s OK if they say no. Make the most of your meeting by giving them other options to be part of your event. They could donate a raffle prize or set up an office fundraiser. Always leave with something!
7. Be clear
If you have a personal following on social media, tell them how you plan to promote their business to your following. Whether it be mentioning their business on your program book ad or featuring them in a post or story on social media, the business needs to know exactly what they'll gain by sponsoring you. Empowering young women, while a noble goal, is usually not enough for businesses to spend money. Tell them exactly what they'll gain from the spronsorship. Let them know what you’re offering them in return. Their logo on promotional materials? A feature on the ad page? Be clear about what you’re committing — and make sure you deliver. Suggest deliverables based on level of sponsorship:
Gold member sponsor: feature on the ad page, instagram post dedicated to them and post on story every two weeks.
Silver member sponsor: feature on the ad page and post on your instagram story about them once a month.
Bronze member sponsor: feature on the ad page.
8. Be open
Be receptive to any questions they might have. Remember it’s a conversation, not a monologue. If they don't want to be featured on an ad page and would rather have two social media posts or your attendance at Be sure to include the impact you have had and intend to have on your community. Also, leave your contact information with them so they can reach out to you when they have questions.
9. Make sure it doesn't interfere with your pageant contract
A common clause in pageant contracts is that any prior sponsorships cannot interfere with the pageant sponsorships or partnerships. If you do not plan ahead and make it part of your sponsor agreements prior to the pageant, you can end up running into some trouble when that crown goes on your head. Be careful not to agree to anything with your sponsor that you may not be able to fulfill when you win.
10. Say thank you
Don’t forget to thank your sponsors. Your relationship with them doesn’t end when your event is over. You might be asking them to sponsor your event again next year, so make sure you stay connected. Share videos and other information to remind them that their sponsorship was worth the investment.
Finally, smile. Be upbeat, friendly, positive and polite. Remember you are offering them an opportunity to join a worthy cause — and that is a great thing!
Don't want to worry about finding a business to sponsor you? Check out the Pageant Planet Sponsorship program to raise money for your pageant!
Want even more ideas? Listen to Jesse and Steven talk about unique ways to raise sponsorship money for your next pageant in this podcast:
Miss Hawaii USA 2016 Top 5 - Photo: Travis K. Okimoto
Once you begin your pageant journey, it doesn't take long to realize that, like any other hobby or extracurricular, pageants take up time and – wait for it – money. However, the cost of competing should never keep you from trying. It’s more doable than you think.
Don't forget to budget!
What are you able to spend, and what do you absolutely need to spend it on? Take a minimalistic approach, and build up your pageant wardrobe a step at a time. If you are able to, try to spread out your big expenses such as your evening gown and pageant lessons. I’ll let you in on a secret: You don’t have to buy everything brand new. Many dress shops have a resale section, and many pageant girls are looking to sell their wardrobe. If you're really blessed, you may not have to spend a penny! I'm talking about borrowing and sponsorship. Two of my favorite words. Never be afraid to ask to borrow or to ask for sponsors. You have nothing to lose, seriously. The worst thing anyone can tell you is no, which sounds a lot better than a phone call from your credit card company. While you may not be able to borrow everything or get enough sponsors to cover the complete cost of your pageant, it can certainly relieve a financial burden.
Stick to a budgeting process
For example, many people find Dave Ramsey’s envelope system convenient and simple. Here is the envelope method in a pageant girl's nutshell: First, calculate your total income and figure out how much can go toward pageants. From there, gather envelopes and label them by what you need to spend. That may be “wardrobe,” “hair and makeup,” “travel,” “clothing,” and so on. With this budget, you allot a certain amount of money to your designated envelopes each payday or as you are able to, but no cheating.
This is where you have to roll up your sleeves, put on your lip gloss, and just do it. Asking for sponsors is not fun, but is it very rewarding. See the above section for the best tips on finding sponsors!
Fundraise, fundraise, fundraise!
A fun fashion show, a small pageant, even cookie dough! With the help of family, friends and pageant directors, fundraising can not only relieve a financial burden, but it can be fun. You can make this an opportunity to share your platform and to network with new people. Never underestimate the power of a good fundraiser and good friends.
Look into a part time or side job
Open an Etsy shop or sell a product. If you find a part-time job, that business could end up being your best sponsor. This is an opportunity to make good connections and even have fun making a little money. Keep in mind, you aren't supporting a family with this job, so it doesn't have to be anything big. However, a little bit here and there can go a long way. Who knows! You may just end up with a extra spending money for expensive health foods, am I right?
Don't forget about the little things
Last minute purchases before a pageant are often overlooked. You have your spray tan, hotel room, food, butt glue, you know – the necessities. These items are easy to forget when you are making your budget, but think forward every step of the way up until the pageant. Seriously, a frantic Target trip the night before the pageant can make you cough up more cash than you had originally planned, so add room in your budget for last minute items. Making a checklist of items to pack for the pageant can save you money and stress, so make that a top priority. Once you have your goals and your budget on paper, you are set. A woman with an agenda is a force to be reckoned with.
Now that you've signed up for your pageant and found sponsors to help mitigate the expenses, it's time to start preparing for your pageant. Keep reading to find out what to wear, how to practice and what you should and shouldn't be posting on social media before the pageant.
When you're preparing for your first pageant, picking a pageant wardrobe that represents you can be a daunting task. While we can't tell you exactly what will fit your personality, we can give you a few helpful tips to develop your unique "look." If you'd like more personalized feedback on your potential pageant wardobe, check out the Pageant Planet VIP membership or find a pageant coach in the Pageant Planet directory!
“When planning my pageant wardrobe I tried to develop a ‘look,’" Katie Elliott, Miss Maine 2017, said. "Personally, I love all things that are classy and timeless so that is the style I tend to lean toward. However, other women love looking sexy or wearing unique designs. Wear whatever you feel best in and keep your look consistent throughout all phases of competition. Doing so will help the judges remember you and show your personality!”
11. Dresses that are sweet and girly
Pageant or not, princess contestants are still little girls and should be dressed appropriately. They should not have sheer portions of any of their dresses and the style of the dress should remain age-appropriate. Stay away from sweetheart necklines and strapless dresses for the younger contestants as those styles can appear a bit too mature for your pageant princess.
12. Choose a full-length gown with a full skirt to keep little princess looking sweet and youthful
Occasionally, you'll be asked to choose a tea length dress for the youngest contestants but, most pageant require that even princess contestants wear a floor-length gown. Choose a full length gown with a full skirt. While it definitely looks more age appropriate than a straight gown, it's also easier for the younger contestants to walk in full skirts without tripping. You can acheive this look with either a tulle skirt or crinoline under the dress.
13. Choosing a gown of her favorite color to spark some personality onstage
Pageants can be tiring for our little ones so make sure she has something to look forward to in her dress. Picking a dress in your princess's favorite color gets her excited about that phase of competition because she'll get to wear something she feels good in. For more advice on picking the right gown for your contestant, check out our guide Pageant Dresses: How to Style, Pose and Walk.
14. Rent or borrow a dress for your first pageant
Listen, it's no secret that pageants can be incredibly expensive. Buying a dress, interview outfit, talent costume and paying the pageant fees and hotel, can really begin to add up. Before you decide to commit to more than one pageant, cut expenses wherever possible. There are tons of resale sites and titleholders willing to let you rent or buy their dresses for a reduced price. There's no need to plop down $1,000 for a drop-dead dress until you know you want to continue doing beauty pageants. Compete once and see how your little one feels about pageants before investing in an uber expensive evening gown.
15. Get the right shoes
These princesses aren't going to be in the high, high heels that the older contestants wear. They'll be in Mary Janes, either nude or white, or a nude character shoe. The shoes should be comfortable for your contestant to walk in and age appropriate. For a full guide on pageant shoes and what to buy your princess contestant, check out The ULTIMATE Guide to Pageant Shoes.
16. Wearing a ball gown is an ideal look for this age
It's important that this age group in particular looks their actual age. With Preteens and Jr. Teens it's very easy to look either too young or too old based on the contestant's syling. A ball gown over a straight or A-line gown for Preteens is always a safe bet. A Jr. Teen contestant may be able to opt for an A-line gown or a full chiffon skirt while still looking age appropriate. For more advice on picking the right gown for your contestant, check out our guide Pageant Dresses: How to Style, Pose and Walk.
17. Find the balance
At age 12, you want to be careful that you don't look too young or too mature. Preteens and Jr. Teens are really the in-between ages in pageantry. These contestants are not little girls anymore but they aren't teens or adults yet either. As we said early, it's so importatnt to be age-appropriate with these divisions in particular.
Choose pageant wardrobe that showcases your contestant's personality as well as her general age group. Is her outfit something that would be absolutely ridiculous to put on someone her age? Perhaps you should choose another outfit. Remember, she is a representative of girls her age and should look like it.
International Junior Miss International Jr. Teen 2018 Avery Randall. Photo: Legnar Ekim
18. Wear vibrant colors
Darker colors can come off a little too mature for this age. Make sure your contestant looks happy, upbeat and youthful by selecting bright colors. Choosing bright blues, greens, purples, pinks and even yellow can make your contestant stand out in the crowd.
19. You can be creative with accessories
Older divisions typically stick to traditional pageant accessories, complementary or non-distracting earrings and little else. With preteens and jr. teens, you can go with fun hats, head bands, hair bows, shoes and more for competitions like fun fashion, talent and runway. This helps younger contestants stand out from the crowd and differentiate themselves.
20. Show personality
Above all, your contestant has to show personality. She's developing into a young women with her own style and opinions, let her use them in selecting her wardrobe. Her outfits should be representative of who she is as a person and shouldn't just be a "cookie cutter" of all the other contestants out there. If every other contestant is going with a pink suit for interview and she wants to wear green, go with green. Letting her personality shine through will make her stand out to the judges in a way no one else will.
21. Be age appropriate
The most important thing for a teen contestant to remember is that anything you wear must be age appropriate. You are no longer a little girl, but you are not yet a woman. Other girls your age are going to look up to you, so you have to remember that you are a role model and dress with that fact in mind. Don’t wear clothing that ages you or is seductive in any way. At the same time, you don’t want to wear clothes that are too cutesy, or reminiscent of an adolescent.
22. Stay true to you, not the trends
One mistake that teens often make is that they try to be too trendy because they are not confident enough in their own choices. You have to learn to develop your own style and learn to express your distinctive personality and preferences through your wardrobe. Don’t just copy what all the other girls are wearing. Be an original and get noticed!
23. You don't need sky-high heels
In the past few years, many teens have gotten caught up in the habit of wearing sky-high stilettos with every single outfit they wear, on and off the pageant stage. Really high platform shoes are normal and acceptable in the pageant community, but when you wear them to a daytime appearance or as a volunteer, those regular people who aren’t part of the pageant community are often uncomfortable with that look. They feel like stilettos are not appropriate for a teen to wear. In addition to the people in your community, pageant judges have also begun to state their frustration at seeing girls wearing stilettos or “Tippy Tops” in interview as well. The judges feel that it shows no sense of individuality. There is a world of incredible shoes out there just waiting to be discovered. Why not be a trendsetter and try something different?
24. Take risks
As a teen, you have a lot of freedom to be creative with your wardrobe choices. Fashion is fun, and as a teenager, you are at an age where you are encouraged and expected to have fun. Go ahead and take some risks. Explore fashion options and decide what you like and what works for you. This is the time in your life to try new things. Enjoy it!
25. Talk to the professionals
This would be a good time in your life to have a consultation with a professional stylist. A stylist will help you determine which fabrics, colors, cuts and silhouettes make you look your absolute best, so that you will be miles ahead of the competition. This is a very empowering thing to do for yourself, and it will take your pageant wardrobe and your life to the next level!
26. Don't be afraid to take a risk with your evening gown
No, we don't mean opt for something super revealing or out of left field. We mean you don't have to choose what everyone else is choosing just because it's "on trend." I once competed in a pageant where almost every Miss contestant was wearing a nude, fully beaded gown. Guess who took home the crown? The contestant who dared to go against the trend and stand out in a red, barely beaded evening gown.
Just because something is "on trend" doesn't make it right for you. Be daring. Step outside of the box and choose something that you absolutely love.
27. Try all the styles before you choose one
If you've never had an evening gown on before, you won't know what you like and don't like or what looks good and what doesn't. For your first dress appointment, you need to be open to all the styles that the store has. Try the low-cut dress, the ten-pound beaded dress or the dress with the long train. See what style of dress looks best on your body and makes you feel most confident about yourself. This is a good jumping off point for which dress you should choose for competition.
After you've found a style and silhouette that complements your body, look for different fabrics and colors. Once again, try all of the options you can until you find a dress that makes you feel absolutely phenomenal. When you can picture yourself being crowned in the dress, it's the one.
28. Make your own statement, not anyone else's
Your gown choice says more about you than you realize. We're not saying that your shouldn't listen to the opinions of your coaches or your mom or whoever else, but you need to make sure that the wardrobe you choose is true to you. Here's the deal with pageants, if you pretend to be something you're not, either through your appearance or actions, the judges will most likely know that you aren't being authentic.
29. Know your system
Even though you are a Miss contestant with less restrictions on what you can and cannot wear, you don't have free reign to choose the most revealing, low cut, high low, cocktail, party dress you want. Many systems have formal rules or unwritten expectations for their contestants. Whether it be a rule that gowns may not have any sheer paneling or a general conservative, "girl next door" look about the titleholders, you need to follow suit.
Samantha Dahlborg, Miss Maine USA 2014, reminds us to, “do some research on the pageant you plan on competing in. When competing in Miss USA your gown can be more revealing and sexy, however Miss America tends to lean towards sophistication and beauty.”
30. Pick a dress you feel beautiful in
“My best advice when selecting your competition evening gown would be to pick a dress that makes you feel the most beautiful," Katherine McQuade, Miss Cosmos United States 2018 said. "Make sure your dress is your choice, not your mom’s choice and not your coach’s choice — because when you hit that stage in the dress of your choice, your inner beauty and confidence will shine out.”
If you don't feel like a queen in your gown, no one is going to crown you.
Katherine McQuade, Miss Cosmos United States 2018. Photo: Georgina Vaughn Photography
31. Classic and fashion forward is the way to go
When choosing a gown for a Mrs. or Ms. pageant, you want to select something that you would wear to a black tie event, formal ball or gala, but you want it to be very fashionable. Think elegance and sophistication and something you might see in “Vogue,” rather than something appropriate for a prom that you’d seen in “Seventeen.” This is one major area that more mature women tend to make mistakes in when they are new to pageantry.
32. Confidence comes over "tradition"
You do not have to wear enormously high heels just because you are competing in a pageant. If you are not comfortable wearing a five inch platform, you are under no obligation to do so. Wear the heels that you can walk in and that make you feel confident, even if it is a lower heel than what you’ve seen in other pageants, or on other contestants.
33. Follow the rules or risk a point deduction
Some pageant systems for married women or women in the Ms. category, have wardrobe restrictions that you absolutely must adhere to. For instance, many pageants do not allow evening gowns or swimsuits to have cut outs anywhere on the body. Consult your pageant director or contestant handbook and find out where they draw the line.
34. Know your pageant
Research the pageant you are competing in and try to determine what that pageant’s particular style and brand is. If you see contestants and titleholders wearing modern, form fitting gowns with slits, then they are going to be more open and fashion forward. But, if you see women wearing gowns with long or short sleeves, moderate necklines and less skin showing, then your pageant leans more to a conservative type of brand.
35. This is not a business interview
When selecting an outfit for your pageant interview, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you should wear a business suit. A pageant interview is a place to express your unique fashion sense, so don’t don a navy blue pencil skirt and matching blazer. Feel free to wear a flattering, feminine sheath dress or a fabulous jumpsuit in bright, fun colors and be conservative on the jewelry.
36. Plan ahead
What is the easiest way to keep your outfits looking amazing during the entire pageant? Take the time to prepare and organize your wardrobe. Before the pageant starts select your outfits – don’t forget the shoes and accessories. Then, photograph them so you can remember exactly what you’re wearing for each event or competition Put them into your pageant notebook for reference during the competition weekend. When you're settling into your pageant hotel room, set up your competition wardrobe in the order in which you'll wear the items. Say goodbye to day of wardrobe jitters!
37. Invest in alterations
What is our number one pageant wardrobe pet peeve? When a contestant’s wardrobe doesn’t fit. It doesn’t matter if your dress is jersey, satin, chiffon, a-line or mermaid. If the dress fits incorrectly it will take away from your moment on stage. Alterations can be expensive – but they make a huge difference.
Laurel Stiekes, USA National Teen 2017, said, “You can’t put a price on the perfect fit! Take the time to alter your clothing to compliment you. Most importantly, LOVE what you wear! Matching your attitude with your outfit guarantees a great first impression in any situation.”
This extends beyond just your evening gown. Each clothing item you wear during the pageant, especially competition clothing, should be tailored to fit you perfectly. The last thing you want is for your judge to be more focused on your interview dress that's just a tad too big and completely tune out your answers. Your wardrobe should never distract from your performace and fit will play a big part in that.
38. Don't let it wear you
The last (and most important) wardrobe tip – make sure you wear your wardrobe, don’t let it wear you. If you put something on and the focus goes to your top, shoes, earrings or dress – and not to you – don’t wear it. This is certainly not to say your clothes need to be boring, but they can't be distracting. Your outfits need to show you off, not the other way around.
The best way to avoid this is to put on each clothing item you intend to wear during the competition and stand in front of a full length mirror. Pay attention to where your eye sight falls first. Did it go to your neon shoes? How about your busy printed dress? If it falls anywhere other than your face, your item might be a distraction. You can also ask a friend or family member to do the same thing. Another important point to remember is that clothing can look different in motion than it does stationary. This is where your friends, family or a coach will help you. Put on your clothes and walk toward them, as if you were in an interview or onstage. They will know if your printed outfit or shoes are too distracting if that's where their attention goes.
39. Start early!
If you are new to pageants, you likely have no idea what goes into pageant preparation. And, you certainly have no idea how much time it takes to obtain the skills and experience required to actually win a pageant. Most new girls are totally focused on winning when they sign up for a pageant, because they are under the misconception that that is what pageantry is really all about.
When you first start out, your focus should not be on winning, it should be on creating a solid foundation and mastering the basic elements of pageantry. All of those basic skills take time to get comfortable with and ultimately master, and there is really no substitute for time and practice.
Consequently, you should start your pageant prep as early as possible, and we mean much earlier than you think you need to. Obviously, if you just joined your pageant three months out from the pageant date, that is all the time you have. But, if you do have the time to get started six months or a year out from your pageant date, that would be ideal.
40. Take a quality pageant headshot
Never underestimate the power of a good pageant headshot. While your pageant headshot alone certainly will not win you the crown, it's frequently the first impression judges have of you. They'll see your photos in the program book before they ever see you, so it is imperative that you take the opportunity to put your best foot forward. Now, this is not to say you need to go spend $1,000 on a photoshoot if you're not even sure you'll like competing in pageants. However, this is to say you need to put a little more into your pageant headshot than a cell phone selfie in your bathroom mirror.
You need to have a photo that represents the best version of yourself. We highly recommend getting a professional pageant headshot photographer to do your pageant headshot (you can find one near you by clicking here). If that's not possible or not in the budget, make sure your photo is in good lighting with a plain backdrop and your hair and makeup are done in the photo how they will be done in the interview room at the pageant. For more tips and tricks on pageant headshots, check out Everything You Need to Know About Pageant Headshots!
41. Find your tribe
When you are new to pageantry, it also means that your family and friends are probably new to pageantry as well. They may not understand what you are doing, and they certainly will not understand how much work it entails. That’s why it’s imperative for you to surround yourself with a solid network of people, in addition to your family and friends. Those that are close to you will likely support your goals and aspirations, even if they don’t completely understand them, but they will not always know how to give you what you need.
You need to create a support group of people and professionals who have been where you are, like former titleholders or even current fellow contestants who may or may not be involved in the same pageant system as you.
If you can afford it, get a coach or set of coaches and mentors who can teach you all the things you need to know, as well as understand exactly what you are trying to achieve. Mentoring is such a major part of pageantry, and none of us would be where we are without having those kinds of people in our lives. Whether those mentors come in the form of professional coaches or former titleholders who want to help you, you cannot ultimately obtain your highest goals without them.
The majority of people who watch pageants just think that pageant contestants and titleholders are naturally beautiful girls who roll out of bed looking fabulous every day of their lives and they also happen to be talented, accomplished, and intelligent and have loads of time to volunteer and make an impact in their communities. They have no clue that the girls who make it all look so easy have practiced for years to achieve that illusion. Those incredible queens were just regular girls, just like you, who made a determined decision to go after their dream, and worked tirelessly to reach them.
The good news is that means that you can too!
42. Be organized
Because you have so much to do and a tight timeline, you have to be strategic about your time and your calendar. Your schedule is going to get very full and you will be making countless appointments and commitments to yourself and to others. You’ve got to find a way to get and stay organized that works for you.
One of the best ways to do that is to create a system that will help you remember and manage all of your upcoming events, workshops and appointments. There are a number of ways to do this, and one of our favorite systems is a pageant notebook or organizer. It’s very easy to create a pageant notebook that is divided into the segments of your competition, as well as sections like wardrobe, contact information of pageant professionals and pageant paperwork. The segments of competition are things like interview, swimsuit or recreation wear, evening gown, talent, fun fashion, and any other appropriate categories. Just think through your particular pageant and all of the areas that you will need to keep track of.
Don’t forget your personal goals and areas like your fitness training and your platform and volunteer work. You’ll definitely need sections for those.
43. Know your why
If you’ve been around pageantry for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Know your why!”
“Knowing your why” is all about knowing and understanding yourself and what motivates you in life. When it comes to your upcoming pageant and your pageant career in general, it’s crucial to know what ultimately drives you to achieve your goals and also to know exactly what those goals are. It is not enough to say that you want to win your pageant. You must know why you want to win and what you’re going to do with that win, once it occurs.
If you start asking yourself some serious questions and begin digging deep into your heart and your desires, you will begin to unearth your deepest dreams and longings. Those dreams and longings will help you to define what it is that you want out of this whole pageant thing. From there, you can set your pageant goals and start working towards them. Need help with your pageant goals? Check out How to Set Goals (And Achieve Them) for some guidance!
Contestants perform onstage during the dress show session of the Miss Chinese Toronto Pageant 2018 finals in Toronto, Canada. Photo: Xinhua-Zou Zheng
44. Consistency is key
The success you experience on the pageant stage is actually determined far in advance. When someone wins a pageant or makes the court and achieves a first, second or third runner placement, that didn’t happen because of what they did at the pageant that weekend. That happened because of all of the hours that they put into their pageant preparation in the many months prior to the pageant itself. In order to achieve a win or a top five placement, you must be willing to work very hard in the months before the pageant. One of the biggest truths is that if you want to be successful and grow and develop in the world of pageantry, you have to be willing to do what most people aren’t. This is especially true if you have set your sights on winning the crown.
Success is determined be developing a strong work ethic, honing a habit of mental discipline and by having the mind of a champion. (If you’re getting the vibe that we’re about to play the theme from “Rocky,” because we’re serious about hard core training, then you’ve got the right mindset.)
Training for a pageant is very similar to training for an athletic event. It is so much more than hair extensions and eyelashes. There are going to be days when you do not feel like doing what you need to do, and you are going to have to be able to overcome that complacency and force yourself to do the work.
Girls who are new to pageants always seem to think that the girls who win the crown are somehow more gifted than everybody else and that is why they have an edge over all of the other contestants. There could be nothing further from the truth. The women who win pageants win because they have learned to excel in all of the necessary areas. It may appear from the outside that they came pre-packaged the way they are; pretty, polished and in stellar shape. Everything just comes easy to them and that is why they won.
But, if you could see all that they did to get where they are, you would see a person who worked exceptionally hard, nearly every single day of their lives for months and even years, to get to that point. The key to their success was consistency, pure and simple.
There are no shortcuts, quick fixes, special hacks or “work arounds” to replace consistency when it comes to thorough pageant preparation. In pageants, success, and ultimately winning the crown, is all about being the, “total package” and having high scores across the board, in ALL of the different scoring requirements. But, it does not mean that you have to be the most beautiful, have the fittest body, be the most talented, have 1,000 followers on social media, be the spokesperson for a non-profit and be absolutely flawless. It means that you must consistently score in the upper range of every single area that you are being judged in.
To be successful in life you have to know who you are and you have to be honest with yourself. This is even more true when it comes to your success in pageantry. Every pageant contestant should take a personal inventory to determine what they do well and where they need to improve. Take stock of what your strengths are as well as your weak areas and be rigorously honest with yourself. Everyone tends to overestimate their own abilities and underestimates everyone else’s skill set. Every pageant competitor has natural abilities and areas that come easily to them, where they just seem to shine without a whole lot of effort. Likewise, every competitor has those areas where they either have very little experience or they need to improve drastically to bring that performance up.
Work twice as hard on your weaker areas, and don’t just focus on the areas that are easy or fun for you. Most contestants will double down on the areas that they tend to do well in, thinking that their high score in one area will make up for the areas that they lack. It does not work this way. For instance, if you competed in a pageant last year and made 30 appearances, but you didn’t work on your fitness level or onstage presentation skills, don’t decide that you’re going to make 50 appearances this year, do nothing else and expect that you will place higher. It just doesn’t work that way.
You don’t need to overcomplicate this. Just make it a priority to practice regularly, and try to do something every single day that contributes to your success, if at all possible. And, commit yourself to excellence in ALL areas of competition.
Keep it simple, sister...but, keep it consistent!
45. Take interview preparation seriously
In many pageants, interview makes up the majority of the points within your total score. If that is the case in your pageant system, then you must absolutely make interview preparation a priority. But, regardless of what percentage your interview score is, this area of competition is really what separates the winners from the rest of the contestants. This is the only opportunity that they judges get to meet you face to face, ask you specific questions and get to hear you talk about yourself, your goals and why you want to win this pageant.
There are numerous techniques for practicing your interview and honing all of the communication skills that are required for a successful exchange with the judges. But, the most important skill of all is that you must know who you are, what your values are and what you think and believe about yourself, the world and your place in it.
A lot of contestants spend a great deal of time practicing their answers to hundreds of standard interview questions. That is a very useful technique, certainly, as it allows you to familiarize yourself with potential questions that the judges might ask you. We've made that easy by compiling the Top 25 Pageant Questions Asked by Judges (in Every Pageant).
However, a more effective strategy could be not to focus on the hundreds of questions that you may be asked, but rather focus on the answers that you want to give. You see, you can spend endless hours thinking about all of the questions that the judges might possibly ask you in the space of a few minutes, but if you focus on the things that you want the judges to know about you and your potential answers, you will use your time more efficiently.
A good thing to keep in mind is to try to come up with the three main points that you want to discuss with the judges or that you want the judges to know about you before you leave the interview room. If you can do that, you will find that those key points can be the answers to an astounding array of questions. Another very valuable exercise to do in preparation for your interview, is to schedule mock interviews with different groups of people so that you get to actually talk to individuals on a one on one basis, and see how that feels. This is one technique that works incredibly well and yet it’s the one that most contestants just will not do. But, if you take the time to schedule five or six mock interviews with a variety of people from different walks of life and professions, you will be so incredibly prepared for your pageant interview. You will feel so much more calm and your confidence will be so high because you have already been through a similar process enough times to know that whatever questions the judges ask you, you will have the perfect answer that is all you.
Want to keep up to date on the news you need succeed in interview? Or do you need practice questions sent to your inbox everyday? Sign up for our Pageant Daily newsletter!
46. Start strutting
Onstage presentation is made up of your ability to walk, model, pose and present yourself during the onstage portion of your pageant. Every pageant is different when it comes to what they want their contestants to do on stage, so you have to know the unique qualities of your particular pageant. If your pageant values modeling and posing ability more than the average pageant, then you have to make sure that you are outstanding in this area. And, what you need to do to prepare is going to vary depending on what your experience level is.
If you have some modeling ability already, then you may not need as much preparation as someone who has never modeled or been on stage previously. If you have been a dancer or you have done some acting, those skills will help you to be more aware and more poised during your time on stage. But, if you are brand new to pageants and do not have any experience when it comes to modeling, then you may benefit from hiring a modeling or walking coach prior to your pageant.
At the very least, you can be studying walking and modeling through youtube videos. Renowned walking coach for the Miss Universe Organization, Lu Sierra has several videos that you can view for free. You can also find a pageant coach who specializes in walking by using our Pageant Coach Directory.
One of the very best things that you can do to get better at walking onstage is to begin wearing your pageant heels as often as possible. Wear them while you're doing the dishes, vacuuming, grocery shopping, doing laundry and pretty much any where else you can think of. This may seem like a very strange thing to do and you may feel self conscious at first, but trust us, wearing your heels will help you to feel so much more at ease when it comes time to hit the stage for real.
47. Hire a hair and makeup artist or practice your pageant hair and makeup before the pageant
Perfecting your look, which includes your wardrobe, your pageant hair and makeup can be one of the trickiest parts pageant prep.
The best thing that you can do is to hire a professional pageant makeup artist to help you during your pageant, so that you don’t have the added stress of having to do your own hair and makeup. This is such a great investment because it allows you to focus on all the things that you need to focus on, rather than the drama of trying to get your false eyelashes on while your hands are shaking from nervousness.
However, if you cannot afford a professional to help you out, don’t sweat it! Fortunately, Pageant Planet has an incredible guide on pageant makeup and pageant hair that should answer all of your questions with regard to what you should be going for. Check out A Queen's Guide to Pageant Makeup and The ULTIMATE Guide to Pageant Hair for all of the information you need to do your pageant hair and makeup.
If you do need to do your own hair and makeup for your pageant, you need to begin practicing both your interview look and your onstage look far enough in advance, so that when pageant day comes, you are a total pro. Sherri Jessee offered this pageant makeup course specially for our Pageant Planet readers. Check it out below:
48. Utilize muscle memory
How often and how you should practice your pageant talent really depends on your particular talent, how long you’ve been performing it and how accomplished you are. For a full run down on pageant talent, we suggest reading Pageant Talent: the Complete Guide.
If you have been dancing or singing since you were three years old and you’ve been working with an experienced coach for years, then you may not need to practice every day. But, if you’re trying to dramatically improve your talent before your upcoming pageant, or you’re working out some kinks in your performance, there is nothing like practice to make that muscle memory stick.
Having a talent coach who is well versed in pageant prep is so crucial if your pageant attributes a high percentage of your final score to the talent phase of competition. If your pageant focuses heavily on your talent when they are looking for the winner, then you have to make sure that you are giving them your absolute best. This is not an area where you want to take any risks. If you’re not planning on working with a talent coach, then try to at least meet with one or have a one-on-one with someone who knows your pageant system well, and can advise you on how best to prepare yourself in this area.
Whether you like it or not, when you enter into a pageant, you become a public figure of sorts. You may not yet have a state, national or international title, but if you have a sash with the name of a township, area or city on it, then you have now signed up to publicly represent that locality. You have also entered into a verbal agreement to become a representative of the pageant that you have entered.
Along with those responsibilities come some significant rules of conduct and behavior. These rules not only apply to your behavior publicly but also on social media, because social media is also a public forum. In fact, what you put on social media is perhaps more important than what you actually do in real life because those posts and images reach more people than your immediate social circle and everything that you post is permanent. It exists on the internet for all to see for eternity.
Therefore, if you are now involved in a pageant or are a titleholder, you have to consider a lot of things that you may have not considered before, especially when it comes to your social media posting.
If being a leader, a role model and a representative of the pageant system that you are in makes you uncomfortable or resentful, then perhaps pageantry is not for you. This is not about you needing to be fake, someone that you’re not, not being true to yourself or being controlled in some way. This is about respect for yourself, the pageant system that you obviously desire to represent and the people who are now supporting you and your dream.
49. Talk about why you're involved in the pageant
Talk about why you’re involved with this particular pageant and how the pageant is benefitting you. Talk about the fun events, parades and volunteer opportunities that the pageant is providing. Discuss all the great friends that you have made so far, and how nice everyone is. Always try to promote the pageant director and how organized, supportive and caring they are.
If you have a local or appointed title, you are a representative for the pageant so you should always display photos of you wearing your crown and sash. Always post appearance photos from pageant and personal events, volunteering and service opportunities.
50. Give out pageant information
Share pageant information such as the date, the location, the time and any other pertinent details about the pageant itself. Include information about tickets and hotel discounts if you have it. You want your tribe to come cheer you on!
51. Show some love
Photos, posts and shouts outs of your sponsors and what they give you or do for you are well received, not only by the sponsors but by pageant staff. This shows that you not only have a community supporting you; you also appreciate everything they do and provide for you as well.
52. Know what NOT to post
We know that social media can be a great place to promote your favorite cause or share super glamorous photos from your most recent photoshoot. However, if you're not careful in what you post, it can definitely cost you the crown. Listen below to the story of a girl who lost the title over a social media post and how you can avoid the same fate.
It should go without saying, but you should never post photos of inappropriate behavior. If you are a minor, for instance, you should never post photos of you or your friends drinking or display any photos with alcohol in them. (because you legally should not be doing those things, right?)
In general, be conservative and err on the side of caution. If you are an adult, it is still not appropriate to take a photo holding alcohol. There are a variety of opinions on this subject, but if you are wearing a sash, or a crown, or you are at a pageant-related event, you never have a beverage in your hand, nor do you post a photo with someone else holding a beverage. We dive deeper into the subject in Should Titleholders Post Pictures With Alcohol? Don't post photos of you or anyone else smoking – remember that you are a role model now.
Minimize the public displays of affection. If you are married or engaged, of course this is acceptable but still be conservative. Remember, if you are a titleholder, or you are competing for a title, just be conservative.
Adopt a policy that when you take a photo alone, or with someone else, that you turn around and see what is behind you in the photo. You don’t want to accidentally take a shot with something in it that you discover later after it is posted online.
53. Make sure your social media is "on brand"
If you’re changing pageant systems, or going from a teen to a miss contestant, you may want to revamp your social media to reflect that. Make sure your social media reflects the person you want to present to the judges and to the world. Need more information on what should and should not appear on your social media pages? Check out Social Media Etiquette Guide for Titleholders.
Contribution by Julia McVaugh Stone
Cheri Kennedy with client. Photo: cherrikennedy.com
This is a very common question, especially for contestants on tight pageant budgets. Pageantry is a sport and just like any other sport, there are coaches and other people who can help identify your strengths and weaknesses and help you grow as a contestant. But, plenty of titleholders have won without a coach.
"I think having a pageant coach can be an advantage but is not at all necessary," said Sydney Marsh, former Pageant Planet's Queen of Interview. "For many contestants, meeting with a coach is not a feasible option for money-related, distance or other reasons. Does that mean a girl without a coach cannot win? Definitely not."
As we've stated, plenty of girls have won without a coach. But that doesn't mean you should go into the game without some background knowledge.
"If you are committed to DIY-ing your pageant, I would recommend watching your chosen pageant in previous years, interviewing past titleholders, videotaping yourself in every area of the competition and watching all footage with an improving eye, having multiple people proofread your paperwork and setting up multiple mock interview sessions for yourself," said Sarah Wall Beckman, interview and pageant coach.
While you can gain a lot of knowledge from watching the footage, there is rarely any of the interview portion. Doing mock interviews with an interview coach can help you understand how you come across to the person on the other side of the table, which is actually great information to have in real world situations, anyway.
"Girls who feel like they can't reasonably obtain a coach to help them have a lot of reliable, affordable resources such as former or current titleholders and YouTube videos they can consult," suggested Marsh. "Also, practicing in front of a mirror or a trusted family member/friend can make all the difference. When you see what you look like, you'll better understand what you want to fix or improve. For interview, practicing to yourself or with an adult in a 'mock' setting is another form of great prep."
As we mentioned, there are times when it would be helpful to have a coach's insight.
"If you feel confident about your onstage performance skills but feel unsure of how your platform or interview will measure up, consider hiring a pageant interview expert like me once or twice to give you some feedback of how you compare and get some fresh strategy inspiration," explained Beckman.
Coaches also help in other areas of competition. This is especially helpful if you haven't competed in a while, are changing systems, or are moving up in age divisions as the requirements, expectations and styles change.
"The benefit of a coach is to have someone with a lot of experience in the industry guiding you in your prep," Marsh said. "Different types of coaches can help you perfect different parts of competition – there are coaches for walking, stage presence, interview and everything else!"
Sarah Wall Beckman with client Maddie Hickey, Contestant in Miss Minnesota's Outstanding Teen Local. Photo/Sarah Wall Beckman
If you have been stuck at first runner-up, not making semi-finals, unsure what you're doing wrong or just want to make sure you're doing everything you can to improve and win the crown, a coach is definitely something to consider.
After all, you can WebMD your symptoms all day long but eventually, you go to the doctor, right?
"The surest and quickest way to a win is to hire an experienced coach who knows your pageant system," Beckman said. "When you hire a coach, it's like gaining access to all their years of experience. Plus, a gifted coach will be able to see potential in you that you might not believe is there."
Finding the Right Coach
Just like any other sport, finding the right coach and coaching style for you is important for developing a working and prosperous relationship.
Make sure the coach is worth your time, effort and money. Look for reviews and references from other pageant girls, especially in the system you are looking at competing in. You can also visit our directory for help finding a pageant coach. In addition, we at Pageant Planet offer all of the above resources and more at an affordable monthly rate. Practice makes perfect!
Packing for a trip is both exciting and nerve wracking for most people. It’s a lot of fun to think about your upcoming adventure and anticipate wearing cute new clothes that you’ve just purchased especially for your events and outings. At the same time it can be a major chore, because there are so many things you have to remember because you definitely do not want to be far from home and discover that you forgot some necessity.
And, when you are packing for a pageant, you can bet that all of that excitement and stress is compounded. But, never fear, Pageant Planet is here! We have been through the packing process so many times and we’ve developed a system and plan to keep you organized, so that you can be calm, cool and collected during your pageant weekend. Pageants are stressful enough, so we’re all about finding ways to simplify the chaos and eliminate unnecessary stress so that you can focus on doing what you need to do and enjoy this special time in your life.
Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo in Airplane Mode. Photo: Instagram
Keep in mind that every pageant is different and a state pageant is extremely different than a national or international competition, and for our purposes here, we’re going to focus on packing for a local or state pageant. However, all of our suggestions can be used for larger pageants; we’re just not going to cover all of the particulars that come up when you travel to another state or country.
As always, feel free to tailor our suggestions to your situation and what you like to do. If this system is too structured for you, that’s totally fine. Take the suggestions that work for you, make them your own and just pass on the rest. The important thing is that you have everything you need to perform at your best, and that includes peace of mind and confidence!
Jesse and Steven talk about everything you NEED to pack for your pageant. Check it out below:
54. Make a list and check it twice
This is probably obvious, but creating a thorough list of everything you’ll need for your pageant is the best starting point. What may not be obvious is that if you are new to pageantry, you may not have a clue what you’re going to need for your pageant. That is where we come in! Pageant Planet has got you covered from head to stilettos, so don’t sweat it sister. We’ll warn you though. You will need to pack so much more than you realize, so make sure that you’ve got some roomy and sturdy suitcases available because you’re going to need them.
We have already done the work for you and created a very comprehensive pageant packing list that you can find on our site. Please read through it carefully and customize it for your particular pageant needs.
55. Designate a packing station
Ideally, this concept works if you have a separate space that is out of the way, a large walk in closet or an extra room that you can designate as your packing station or area. That way you can set up a special place where you can lay out all of your things, see what you have and don’t have and visually “stage” your pageant wardrobe. If you do not have a separate space where you can do this, just designate an area where you keep your suitcases or several boxes that you can access regularly because you are going to be using it. Even if you slide your suitcases or some empty boxes underneath your bed, that would work.
You just need to be able to get into your suitcases frequently because you are not going to be doing mad and frantic last minute packing like everybody else. Oh, no. You, my dear, are going to go into your pageant organized and together because you now have a system.
56. Pack as you go
The idea of this tip is to begin your packing process at least a week or two before you have to leave for your pageant. This may seem really excessive to you, but what we’ve discovered is that when you begin the packing process ahead of time, you reduce your stress and you’re less likely to forget things.
There are bound to be items on your packing list that you do not use every day, or specialty items that you will only use for your pageant. These could be things like toiletry items, undergarments that you use for your formal wear or things related to your talent or swimsuit competition. Deal with those items early and go ahead and toss them into your suitcase or put them into your packing area so that you can cross them off your list. You will properly pack them later, but for now, just set them aside so that you don’t have to go looking for them right before you leave.
When you pack as you are just going about your life, you’ll also find that there are many little things that you use frequently that you did not even think to put on your packing list. Eventually, you will get the hang of packing for your pageant and you probably won’t need to start this process so far in advance.
57. Create a pageant week/weekend notebook
This suggestion is what all of the top-notch competitors do and even if this is your very first pageant, it is a great habit to build into your foundation as a pageant contestant. If you can, you want to create a pageant notebook when you first begin your pageant preparation so that you can create sections for all the different phases of competition like interview, talent and swimsuit, for example. This way you can keep track of your progress, create plans, take notes and collect any important paperwork or information that will be helpful or required for that area of competition.
But, if you don’t already have a pageant notebook, its ok, you can make one now. Having a place where you keep all of your important information about your pageant is so crucial to your overall peace of mind and sense of confidence. If you have a notebook like this, you will never have to scramble trying to find something and it is particularly useful when it comes time to pack for your pageant.
How to make a pageant week notebook
For packing purposes, you want to create two sections; one for your pageant paperwork and one for your competition wardrobe inventory. The section for your pageant paperwork would include your travel arrangements, airline ticket, rental car information, hotel phone number and reservation confirmation number and any important phone numbers, just to name a few things. The section for your competition wardrobe inventory is very unique and it will not only assist you in packing properly, it will help minimize your anxiety during the pageant as well as keep you totally organized and looking fabulous!
What you’re going to do is put on a bit of a dress rehearsal. You want to take photos of yourself in all of your competition outfits and any special outfits that you know you will be wearing for specific events or outings that are sponsored by the pageant. You will want to include the shoes, jewelry, undergarments and any other accessories that you will be using with each outfit.
Then, you will create a details list for each outfit and you will write down the day, date and occasion that you will be wearing each of those outfits. Make sure that you also write down each item and accessory that you will need. A good way to organize your competition wardrobe inventory is to print each outfit photo, attach the details list to the back of it, and put each one into a plastic sheet protector. Sheet protectors come with 3-hole punches so that you can easily add them into your notebook. You can also take the photos on your phone and create your details list that way, but it is so much more efficient to have all of it in a notebook. That way all of your important information is in one location and if you have someone assisting you like a parent, friend or coach, they can access your lists quickly and easily.
Miss Delaware USA 2019 Jolisa Copeman walking into the Miss Delaware USA pageant. Photo: Instagram @jo.lisacopeman
58. Put a thing on it
Creating identification and wardrobe labels is really important during a pageant because there are going to be so many girls around you with so many similar looking bags and belongings, that it’s really easy to misplace or lose things. When you are backstage in a crowded dressing room trying to quickly change into your next outfit, and you’re all frantic and sweaty, you will be so glad that you did this.
These labels are specifically for the outfits that are in your competition wardrobe inventory discussed in the above tip, but you can also do this for other wardrobe items if you like. Large office or address labels are very handy for this purpose and can easily be printed from your computer.
Create three “hang tags” or labels for each outfit that you are using for competition as well as any special outfits for events or pageant sanctioned outings. On two of the labels, you want to write your name, title (if you have one) and the name of pageant that you’re competing in, as well as the name of each outfit (blue pantsuit) and the phase of competition that you’re using it for (interview). These are your “identification” or “I.D.” labels. Then, on one of those labels, you will write all of the accessories that go with that particular outfit, including the shoes, jewelry, hair accessories and under garments. These are your “details list” labels.
All of this information is already written down on your details list from your competition wardrobe inventory. All you have to do is refer back to those photos and detail sheets that you already created. You will use these handy labels in the next couple of packing steps.
59. Garment Bags
This idea is especially important for your competition wardrobe pieces. You can also use this system with the rest of your pageant wardrobe as well, but it’s totally up to you.
Using the garment bag system for competition ensures that you will be totally organized for each phase of the competition and all of your belongings will be protected, contained and easy to transport to and from your hotel and the pageant location. Put each of your wardrobe items from your competition wardrobe inventory on a hanger in its own garment bag. Put one of your “I.D.” labels or hang tags on the outside of that dress bag.
If you have a large evening gown or one with a long train, you may want to purchase a garment bag with a wider bottom. There are garment bags that are made specifically for wedding gowns that have a gusset at the bottom of the bag, which allows for more room.
60. Gallon sized Zip-Loc Bags
You can use gallon sized Zip-Loc bags for so many purposes and you will come to love them for your pageant packing. With this system that we’ve created, you will use a gallon sized bag to put all of your accessories into for each phase of competition.
All you need to do is put all of the shoes, jewelry, undergarments and any other accessories that you will be using with each competition outfit into a large plastic bag and then put your remaining labels and or hang tags on the outside of that bag. You should have two labels for each outfit, one that has your identification and one that lists the contents of the bag. It can be helpful to use a smaller Zip-Loc (also labeled) bag for jewelry and hair accessories. Then you would just put that one into the larger gallon sized bag that goes with your outfit.
A great tip is to then, cut a small piece of Velcro and attach the gallon sized baggie to the inside of each garment bag of the competition outfit that it goes with. This will help you stay cool during outfit changes because you aren’t digging around for your undergarments, earrings and other accessories. Then when you’re done with that phase of competition, you just put all the stuff right back in the Ziploc bag, hang your outfit up inside the garment bag, and move on to the next garment bag.
61. Say no to wrinkles
Two issues that we all deal with when we are traveling is not having enough room for all of our belongings and wrinkled clothing. Often times these two problems are related because we are trying to squeeze a considerable amount of clothing into a limited space, and as a result our clothes end up becoming a mess.
This tip comes to you from professional travelers and it might seem kind of odd, but it works! And, it will allow you to keep your garments pressed and lovely without sacrificing your suitcase space. The trick is to roll your clothing instead of folding your items and you will drastically reduce wrinkling.
Some people even wrap their more delicate pieces between sheets of thin tissue paper to protect them. This is a very helpful tip if you have an item that is made from more fragile fabric like lace or something that tends to snag easily like a knitted sweater.
62. Become a pageant “MacGyver”
It is one of the shocking behind-the-scenes realities at any pageant, but the majority of pageant contestants are not fully prepared because they do not bring an emergency kit. We do not understand why so many intelligent and capable women do not even bother to bring a simple sewing kit with them during one of the biggest events of their lives.
But, that’s not going to be you, is it? Not a chance!
We’re going to show you how to create a proper emergency kit and you too will become the go-to pageant “MacGyver.” Not only will you be prepared for any trauma (and they always happen), but you will be able to help other people as well. Hey, that’s what a good queen does, by the way.
Just take a look at our list, add anything that you might need that we didn’t cover and you’ll be good to go.
Pageant emergency kit
Pageant Emergency Kit
63. Get the big picture
It can be very helpful to lay out all of your belongings before you actually pack it all up so that you can see it all. And, as you will soon find out, you’ve got a ton of stuff!
Now that you have your packing list, you’ve created your pageant notebook, labeled all your garment bags and Zip-Locs and have rolled the rest of your clothes up, it’s time to put it all together. This is the time when you can properly package up all those things that you set aside in the beginning that you knew you would not use on a daily basis. The great thing is that if you have already put your entire competition wardrobe into garment bags and have labeled all of the corresponding accessories, you are halfway done. It should not take you long to put the remaining items into your suitcases if you’ve been packing systematically. And, then once you are through, you can feel good about the fact that you are probably one of the most organized contestants and that this thorough packing process is going to pay off for you during your pageant.
Just you watch…..all the other girls are going to be wondering what it is about you that you are so cool headed and calm all week long, while they’re running around trying to find their stuff. Go ahead and offer them a safety pin or an earring back from your emergency kit. And, then put your ipod on shuffle and chill out for awhile. You’ve got this!
64. Be pageant-ready at orientation
Orientation is truly when the pageant competition begins, even though you are not being judged or scored on this phase of the pageant. The other thing about orientation is that it can be nerve-wracking. You will be nervous and that is ok. Everyone is nervous. The key to feeling your best at orientation is to get the focus off of yourself and focus on other people. Smile, introduce yourself, ask other people where they are from and get to know them. This will keep you from being self-centered and thinking about yourself and any anxiety that you might be feeling.
65. Comparison will cost you the crown
You will be tempted to compare yourself with all the other girls…. don’t! This is such a major thing that happens to all females at pageants, and it’s something that hopefully you began working on before the pageant. There are always going to be girls who you think are prettier than you, in better shape than you, are more talented and have better hair. It’s normal to notice those things and it’s really ok.
When you see a girl at orientation for instance, and you notice how pretty she is, you have to grab a hold of your thinking. Instead of thinking, “Wow, she is gorgeous, I don’t stand a chance!” Think to yourself, “Wow, she is gorgeous, and so am I. Good for us!” And, just move on. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in comparisons. If you really are troubled by this habit, then just focus on yourself and try not to pay so much attention to those girls who intimidate you.
Miss Idaho USA getting her makeup done backstage at Miss USA. Photo: Benjamin Askinas
66. Be on time but, be flexible
You will be given a schedule of events, and everything on that schedule may change. Don’t get hung up on that. Be flexible and “go with the flow.” Don’t allow last minute schedule changes or stress to affect your peace and state of mind.
67. Feel the fear, do it anyway
You will feel overwhelmed and feel like you don’t have a handle on what is going on and you may even feel like you are not up for this. Remember, that you are having a normal reaction to a very abnormal and stressful situation. Everyone is feeling the exact same way, whether they are showing it or not. Just know that you are much stronger than you think. You’ve got this!
68. Be a good roommate
You may have to share a room with another contestant. Be kind, respectful and helpful to her and respect her boundaries and expect her to respect yours. You may or may not end the pageant being besties with this girl, and that’s ok. On the other hand, she may end up being your best friend for life. Whatever happens, you’ll be ok, and this arrangement is just for a short time. Bring her a small and thoughtful friendship gift, and make sure that you have a sleep mask and ear plugs in case she snores.
69. Settle in to the room
Your hotel room is your home base and your sanctuary. At the end of the day, this room is “home sweet home.” Make your hotel room as cozy and homey as you possibly can. Bring photos of your friends and family members, small inspirational plaques with positive sayings on them, great smelling candles and some super cuddly slippers and lounge wear to relax in.
70. Bring additional supplies
You will not have enough hangers with two girls in a hotel room, so bring extras! You may also need to bring a wardrobe rack. If you get one, don’t get a cheap one. You want to spend the extra money and buy a sturdy one that will hold up under the weight of heavy gowns, and will also roll if you need it to.
71. Pretty (painful) feet
Your feet will hurt a lot! When you get your pedicure done prior to your pageant, do not have your calluses removed. They will save you from getting blisters. Bring Epsom salts to soak your feet in, along with peppermint foot lotion and foot care products. It’s always a good idea to bring products like moleskin, heel cushions and insoles for all of your different shoes.
72. Don’t sweat rehearsal
Your rehearsals will be long and exhausting. Try to put a smile on your face and have fun anyway. Rest when you can and put your feet up when you get a break. And, don’t worry about the choreography. You will get it eventually, we promise.
73. Keep sight of what’s important
You are having a once in a lifetime experience so do your best to have fun, be open to new people and experiences and take lots and lots of photos and videos. Get to know the other girls who are competing in the pageant and be open. This is a competition, but you can still have an attitude of kindness and you should still be friendly.
74. Take care of your skin
Your skin may break out due to excessive sweat, stress, poor diet and lack of sleep, so be prepared. Bring any face or acne products that have been helpful to you in the past and take good care of your skin during the pageant. Drink extra water and never go to sleep with makeup on your face.
75. Focus on yourself
You may run into some mean girls. Most of the girls you meet will be nice and friendly, but bad apples do show up in the bunch. If you do encounter a mean girl, just ignore her as best you can and focus on what you are there to do. Most of the time if another girl is trying to bother you, or is being critical of you, it’s just because she is feeling insecure and threatened, and she’s trying to get in your head. Don’t let her! Focus on you and your goals, and don’t buy into her toxic behavior.
Roomies Miss Iceland Universe and Miss Great Britain Universe in their hotel room. Photo: Miss Universe Organization
76. You’re always “on”
Be on your best behavior wherever you go. That includes inside the hotel and out, in the gym, in public restrooms, at the vending machine and walking down hallways. You never know who is watching you. You must always remember what you are representing something, be it your city, state or country. Do not allow yourself to use any foul language, say anything negative or critical of the pageant, another contestant or anyone else in a public area.
If you are stressed out, having a bad day or upset about something, wait until you get back to your hotel room or to a private place and have a good cry, phone up your coach, Mom or best girl friend and vent to them, or pray or meditate until you calm down. Remember that you are in a high stress situation and it is very normal to be on edge or run into people who are on edge too.
77. Thank your pageant staff
Be kind, courteous and thoughtful to every single pageant staff member that you come in contact with. These people are all volunteers and they have taken time away from their families, jobs and personal lives to be at the pageant to help and serve you.
78. Just be kind
Be kind and respectful to all service people that you run into at your pageant including your hotel maid, the waiter who brings you your meal and the people at the front desk. You are the face of your organization and all of the people who reside in the city’s name on your sash. Whatever they think of you, they will think of the pageant itself and your hometown.
79. Try to look your best at all times
This does not mean that you must have full hair and makeup on along with a cocktail dress and heels. It means to look presentable and put together even if you are wearing workout gear or shorts and a t-shirt. It’s always a good idea to have a bit of makeup on. Just a touch of lip gloss, mascara and some concealer for those dark circles under your eyes, will go a long way towards you looking perky. But, most of all, wearing a big, bright smile is the best face to put on during your pageant. That will make you feel better and make everyone around you feel good.
80. Keep your tribe updated
It’s always great if you can post regularly on your social media while you are at your pageant. You have a lot of fans and people who are supporting you and they want to share in this adventure along with you. Just because they cannot be there, does not mean that they do not care. It can be so thrilling for your friends and family to see some photos of the beautiful hotel that you’re staying at and some of the cool sights that you get to see while staying in your host city.
81. Thank your tribe
Be sure to constantly express your gratitude for all of the people who have helped you get to where you are. It’s so important to give shout outs to your friends, family and fans by name because it makes them feel like they’ve really helped you reach your dreams.
Photo: American Pageants
82. Shout out about your sponsors
Along the same lines, it is imperative for you to acknowledge every single one of your sponsors and to talk about any of the products or services that they have given to you. You are now a spokesperson for their business, and part of fulfilling your part of the relationship is to advertise their products and services. You’d be surprised at how powerful your recommendations are for all of the businesses that are now connected with you.
Miss Texas Teen USA 2019 with sponsor Eric Vaughn. Photo: Instagram @misstxteenusa
83. Go live!
Try to do some live messages when you have time, and be sure to talk about your pageant organization and all of the great opportunities, events and forms of entertainment that they have arranged for you during the pageant. You are the best public relations department your pageant has. And, there is no better time to start acting like the queen, because if you get the job, that is exactly what you will be doing.
84. Have an audience
Always keep everyone up to date about the important details concerning your pageant such as any promotions that are going on, like people's choice awards and things of that nature. And, most importantly, you have got to communicate very clearly about every single detail about how people can view the pageant, whether that includes purchasing tickets to see the pageant live, or viewing the pageant online via a live stream broadcast or a televised show.
One of the biggest pet peeves of pageant fans is that the contestant that they are backing neglects to keep them informed about those kinds of details. This is what they want to see! They need to know the day, the time and the specific time zone that your pageant is occurring. They also need to know if they need to pay to see the pageant online and how to do that. We all know that you are super busy, but this is the biggest area that contestants slack off in and people do not forget it.
85. Bring thank you cards
You absolutely must take thank you cards with you to the pageant and use them! You can even fill them out with your name and title beforehand, and then just write a personal message at the time that you give them out. You will have so many opportunities to use thank you cards if you really think about it. You can give a card to the maid who always brings you extra towels or the girl at the espresso bar who makes your drink just the way you like it. This is also a fantastic exercise in gratitude and it will help you stay in a positive, upbeat frame of mind.
86. Know whether to bring thank you gifts
You may need to bring gifts with you for all of your fellow pageant contestants as well as something small for your director, any important staff members and your roommate. You may want to bring along some additional little gifts just to have on hand to give to someone who you appreciate. You do not need to spend a fortune on gifts and the nature of the gift will depend on what level of pageantry that you are at. If you have a sponsor who can help you provide gifts, that would be great. The most important thing is that you give something unique and thoughtful, and if it represents you or your city or state, it’s even better.
87. Keep your energy up
You must learn to manage your energy. You are going to get exhausted, so just know that and prepare wisely. Keep yourself hydrated and always have some energy boosting snacks with you. Don’t feel like you have to constantly socialize or go on every outing there is if it is not required. You are in this for the long haul, and many a pageant girl has gotten caught up in all of the socializing with the other contestants that by the time the actual pageant came around, she was depleted and lack luster on stage. Don’t let that happen to you. Take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to schedule in some down time to recharge your batteries.
88. This is supposed to be fun
Live in the moment, make some new friends and savor every single minute of this incredible, once in a lifetime experience. Remember that although this is a pageant and a competition, it is also a huge moment in your life, so treat this time and yourself with respect. Take it all in, soak up all of the blessings and focus on your gratitude and good feelings.
Your first pageant doesn't have to be hard. In fact, you can even win your very first pageant. Listen to Jesse and Steven talk about how to win your pageant on your first try:
89. Don’t procrastinate on your pre-pageant grooming
Be prepared to take care of all of your grooming needs early before the actual pageant. Take care of things like your wardrobe adjustments, your mani/pedi, waxing and hair treatments, at least one week before the pageant if you can. And, never, ever, ever try something new when it comes to your beauty or grooming routine before a pageant. This is not the time to go get a facial, try a new face cream or decide to perm or color your hair a new shade. You should have been developing your entire look for months prior to your pageant, including the hairstyles and makeup looks you’re going to use during your pageant weekend. Your beauty routine should be flawless and include all the best products and cosmetics for you, and you should be immaculately groomed long before you leave to compete.
90. Get as much rest as you can before the pageant
We know that you’re busy trying to get in your last few workouts, practicing for interview and running around checking things off of your “to-do” list, but make sure that you are getting significant rest in the two to three weeks prior to the pageant.
Pageants are intense, draining and very stressful, even though they are loads of fun. You will be feeling a lot of pressure and you will be extremely busy most of the time. Having a solid foundation of good rest prior to the pageant will give you the added boost that you need when times get tough. The last thing you want to do is come into the weekend, already depleted. Invest in your sleep bank.
91. Do not allow yourself to get burned out
Conserve your energy during pageant weekend. You will be burning the candle at both ends by having very long, full days sightseeing, rehearsing, and participating in any events that the pageant has organized. Conserve your energy during pageant week as best you can and don’t allow yourself to get so rundown that you run the risk of getting sick. Take little breaks when you can to get away by yourself, put your feet up, zone out and just chill.
92. Don’t get sidetracked by socializing
You should definitely be friendly, kind and helpful, but remember that this is a competition and you do not have to spend all of your precious energy trying to be best friends with every contestant. Get to know the other girls who you feel a connection with and enjoy the socialization, but don’t feel that you need to become besties with everyone at the pageant.
Miss USA 2018 Sarah Rose Summers upon being crowned. Photo: Miss Universe Organization
93. Don’t pass up networking opportunities
On the flip side of resisting the urge to become best friends with every contestant, you also don’t want to waste the opportunity to make connections and network while you’re competing. There may be other contestants who have similar platforms that you could learn from or potentially partner up with at a later date. (We assume that you are not going to abandon your platform after the pageant is over.)
You may also meet other notable professionals in the pageant industry during your competition, that you should introduce yourself to or give your business card to. Pageant weekend is ripe for those kinds of social opportunities and you don’t want to pass them up.
94. Don’t go off your diet plan
Try to stay on your meal plan as best as you can. You will be in a totally different environment, probably eating in restaurants, ordering room service and just generally eating off of your normal schedule.
Do whatever you can to control what you eat by being prepared. If your hotel room has a fridge, then bring some prepared meals with you and put them in there in small containers. If you can do a quick grocery store run and shop for food during a break at your pageant, that can also help.
Always bring healthy snacks with you that you can eat, so that you won’t be hungry or tempted to go off plan, no matter where you are and what time it is.
95. Don’t slack on your fitness program
You may think that there is no reason to exercise or continue your fitness program since you’re already now at the pageant and you’re as fit as you’re going to get. A lot of girls buy into this belief and they use it as an excuse to get lazy. Look, we understand that you are getting up before dawn, running around all day long and falling into bed after late night rehearsals. But, exercise or some form of moving your body will actually help you during pageant week.
If you are competing over a weekend, then you may not have time to hit the hotel gym for an hour and a half sweat session. But, what you can manage is to do some stretching, yoga, pilates or some calisthenics in your hotel room for 20 to 30 minutes, when you have a break. And, if you are competing over a week, getting a few aerobic sessions in and getting your heart rate up is just the thing to help you handle all the stress that you are under. Exercise is not just about fitting into your evening gown or looking amazing for swimsuit competition, it’s about your mental and emotional health too.
You don’t have to kill yourself and do an outrageous, intense workout like you might do with your trainer. But, if you can find a way to just move your body, even if it’s going for a short walk by yourself, you will double your energy, increase your flexibility and shake off any tension that you’ve acquired during this time. Plus, it will give you a gorgeous glow that will have you looking fit, fabulous and confident!
96. Be wary of advice from other contestants
You really have to have a strong sense of self and know yourself and what works best for you when you are competing in a pageant. You may choose to do things a different way than other girls or you may find that you have your own take on something. If something works for you, then stick to your guns and don’t let someone talk you out of it. Whether it is the way that you prepare for interview, what you do before going on stage or the particular style of shoes you like, don’t change because another contestant tries to talk you out of it, or “just wants to give you some helpful advice.”
Remember, this is a competition, and not everyone is has your best interests in mind. Stay strong, know yourself and trust in your process!
97. Don’t rely on other people to be your personal cheerleader
Having a solid support system around you is so important when you are involved in pageantry because you can go through a lot of emotional ups and downs. You need to know that you have a network of people on your side who believe in you and can encourage you when you’re not at your best. But, you can’t always take those friends and family members with you when you go to compete. And, even if you do have some people with you like your mom or a trusted coach, when it comes time to perform, you are really on your own.
Your coach is not going to be in the interview room with you to tell you that you’re doing a great job, and your mom is not going to be on stage with you, holding your hand. That is why it is imperative to learn to be your own cheerleader. You are the one who is going to be going through this experience and you are the one who stands to win or lose. At the end of the day, this is YOUR dream and you must learn how to give yourself a good pep talk when you need it most.
98. Don’t forget to be thankful
It’s crucial to stay positive and grateful the entire time that you are competing. One way to do this is to make it a priority to be thankful for everyone you run across and everything that is happening to you.
It’s so important to give shout outs to your friends, family and fans by name when you’re posting on social media because it makes them feel like they’ve really helped you reach your dreams. Everyone will appreciate it so much when you express your gratitude for all of the people who have helped you get to where you are.
Along the same lines, while you’re posting during the pageant, be sure to acknowledge every single one of your sponsors and to talk about any of the products or services that they have given to you to use during pageant week. You’d be surprised at how powerful your recommendations are for all of the businesses that are now connected with you.
You absolutely must take thank you cards with you to the pageant and use them! You will have so many opportunities to use thank you cards if you really think about it. You can give a card to your roommate when she lets you borrow something, give one to the maid who always brings you extra towels or to the girl at the espresso bar who makes your drink just the way you like it. This is also a fantastic exercise in gratitude and it will help you stay in a positive, upbeat frame of mind during the competition.
99. Don’t abandon your pageant plan
Stick to your training and don’t try to copy other contestants. This is a very common mistake that inexperienced girls make, especially during their first few pageants. Sometimes, in the middle of a competition, you begin to watch other contestants in rehearsal and you see them doing something like walking or turning a certain way or using some kind of technique that you have not used.
You have to remember that what everyone else does works well for them because they’ve been doing that for a long time. If you begin to feel intimidated, give up on your own training and attempt to do something new, it will backfire on you. You will just look like a bad imitation of what that other girl is doing with excellence. Follow the plan that you have developed prior to the pageant and do not allow yourself to get derailed because of nerves or insecurity.
100. Don’t forget to be on your best behavior all the time
Be on your best behavior wherever you go. That includes inside the hotel and out, in the workout room, in public restrooms, at the vending machine and walking down hallways. You never know who is watching you. You must always remember what you are representing, be it your city or state, or country. Do not allow yourself to use any foul language, say anything negative or critical of the pageant, another contestant or anyone else in a public area.
If you are stressed out, having a bad day or upset about something, wait until you get back to your hotel room or to a private place and have a good cry, phone up your coach, Mom or best girl friend and vent to them, or pray or meditate until you calm down. Remember that you are in a high stress situation and it is very normal to be on edge or run into people who are on edge too.
101. Don’t neglect your social media duties
Always keep everyone up to date about the important details concerning your pageant such as any promotions that are going on like audience choice awards and things of that nature. And, most importantly, you have got to communicate very clearly about every single detail about how people can view the pageant, whether that be purchasing tickets to see the pageant live, or viewing the pageant online via a live stream broadcast or a televised show.
One of the biggest pet peeves of pageant fans is that the contestant that they are backing neglects to keep them informed about those kinds of details. This is what they want to see! They need to know the day, the time and the specific time zone that your pageant is occurring.
They also need to know if they need to pay to see the pageant online and how to do that. We all know that you are super busy, but this is the biggest area that contestants slack off in and people do not forget it.
Contribution by Julia McVaugh Stone
Pageant Director Amanda Daley and her Spirit Girls. Photo Amanda Daley
A lot of girls enter pageants because they are enthralled with the glitz and the glamour that they see portrayed on television and during live events. What they don’t see is all the hard work and time that went into creating that glossy finished production. Most new contestants seriously underestimate the amount of preparation that is required for a pageant, and until they get a few pageants under their belt, they tend to suffer for their lack of knowledge.
This guide is aimed at helping those new contestants understand what they’re really in for and to give them the best advice we can in the hope that we can help to minimize stress and make your first pageant a more enjoyable experience for you.
Based on our own experiences in pageantry and on the input from numerous titleholders, directors and coaches, we’ve narrowed down some helpful tips into six different categories. Hopefully this advice will help you to get a more accurate view on what your upcoming pageant holds, and how you can best prepare for any potential problem areas.
You have to take your pageant preparation seriously
Without a doubt, the biggest area that new girls minimize is just how crucial pageant preparation actually is. You may have figured out by now that preparing for your pageant takes a lot of time, hard work and energy.
But, there is a lot about the actual pageant itself that you just don’t know until you go through it. For instance, if you’re new, you may not understand that a pageant is a production and that you are also part of a show for the audience.
“There is a lot more that goes into a pageant than showing up with a pretty dress and your hair done,” says Cali Mullins, Ms. US World Washington Elite.
“I thought I was prepared for my first pageant”, says Mullins. “I had my clothes picked out and had my hair and makeup done. Unfortunately, what I did not prepare for was the onstage introduction, learning the walking patterns and all of the different ways to walk and stand while keeping the look of concentration off my face.”
“The whole concept of walking patterns was new to me,” she continues. “I had no idea there where different kinds and for different purposes. I have since learned to show up ready to practice, practice, practice!”
“Preparing for a pageant is a lifestyle where you maintain yourself and your skills throughout the year, and then you add to your regime several months prior to the event. I did a lot of yo-yoing between my “normal life” and getting ready for “pageant life,” when I could have integrated one into the other and decreased my stress over it.”
A pageant wardrobe is very different from regular clothing
The first thing that most girls who have just signed up for a pageant do is to go shopping for their pageant wardrobe, especially their evening gown. That’s because shopping for clothes is so much fun, and who doesn’t want to try on fancy dresses?
The big problem with doing this is that most girls who have never done a pageant have no idea what a pageant gown really is, and they also don’t understand the bigger picture of how their pageant wardrobe affects their success in the pageant itself.
There are so many factors and so many details involved in finding the right pageant gown for you and for your particular pageant system. You absolutely must get advice from people who know what they’re talking about, like former contestants, titleholders, directors and coaches who know your pageant system.
Autumn Grant has been involved in pageants for the past 10 years and is now directing her own pageant as the Executive Director of United States of America’s Miss California. She has a passion for pageantry, but most of all she wants to make a difference by helping women understand that they are all beautiful from the inside out.
Grant knows the importance of having a pageant wardrobe that is not only appropriate to the system that you are competing in, but is also customized perfectly for the contestants figure and frame.
“One major tip for a first timer would be to make sure your gown fits perfectly and that you feel comfortable and confident in it,” states Grant. “Make it your own style and let it represent who you are! But make sure it is tailored to your height most of all. You do not want to trip or have to hold your gown up. You want it to graze the ground so that it looks like you are floating on air!”
Cali Mullins, Ms US World Washington Elite, learned the hard way that there were many more important factors to choosing a pageant gown, than just liking how it looks on you.
“I regret not researching gowns for pageants. I picked what I loved, but I should have factored in the time is takes to put it on and take it off, as well as how well I could move in it and how that gown looked under stage lights.”
Mrs. Washington America 2006 Patricia Chapman Photo: Patricia Chapman
Patricia Chapman, Mrs. Washington America 2006, has an incredible pageant story and has used her personal challenges to inspire and motivate so many women in the pageant world.
She was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy during her pageant career, and was even criticized by the judges for how badly she walked on stage.
At one point, the disease had robbed Patricia of her ability to walk, so not only did she have to learn to walk all over again; she had to learn to walk and pose correctly on stage for a pageant. But, that fact did not deter her from coming back to her pageant and winning that crown on her third attempt.
Because she’s had to fight so hard to relearn and just master the basics in pageantry, she tells contestants how crucial it is to know what works best for you and to own your own choices in everything you do, including your wardrobe.
“Other contestants may not give you the best advice regarding what colors look good on you, what style of swimsuit suits your figure, or what is the best style for your interview wardrobe,” says Chapman. “Sadly, I have also witnessed contestants with bad intentions giving bad advice and then smirking about it later. This IS a competition after all.”
“Don't second guess yourself. If you find a gown, a swimsuit or an interview dress that you love, then wear it. But "work that dress" on stage! I can tell when I see a beautiful woman on stage that she does not like her dress or is not comfortable in it. Her posture and confidence suffers. You’ve got to own it girlfriend!”
Chapman also has a personal experience regarding pageant shoes that is a lesson everyone should embrace.
“The trend at the time was to wear clear acrylic shoes with a platform for the swimwear competition. I had a pair but, honestly, I walked better in the nude color pumps that I had worn with my interview outfit. In a last minute decision, I wore my nude pumps with my swimsuit. Back stage, before the swimsuit portion of the pageant, other well meaning ladies kept telling me to change my shoes. I stuck with my decision. That was the year I won! The next year, some of those same contestants wore nude pumps with their swimsuits. Do what works best for you!”
You are responsible for your pageant education
Pageant Planet is dedicated to helping pageant contestants become the very best that they can be and we offer a treasure trove of free articles and information to educate and support you on your pageant journey.
If you are in need of a pageant coach, then please check out our extensive database.
But, if you cannot afford a coach right now because you are new, it’s really ok. In addition to the information that you can find on our website, there are numerous options available to you in the form of books and free online resources.
Ultimately, you are responsible for your pageant education and investing in your own personal development. You never “arrive” in pageantry though. You will always be learning and growing, which is one of the best things about pageantry.
Pageant Coach Joni Nathanson. Photo: Joni Nathanson
Pageant Coach Joni Nathanson, of “Standing Ovation Academy” is a two time Grammy award nominee, a former state titleholder and has worked with state, national and international pageant winners from all of the major systems. Because she is a vocalist herself, she also works with singers, musicians, actors and comedians in all aspects of stage, film and television productions and performance.
“Obviously, I strongly believe in getting an experienced pageant coach,” says Nathanson. "But when you are new in the world of pageants, try to be frugal and don’t spend a lot of money. You can learn a lot by just watching YouTube videos and researching pageant related topics on Google, and it’s all free. Talk with people who have been in a pageant previously. Attend as many pageants as possible and just watch and learn from the other contestants. Being around pageants and even volunteering your time at a pageant can give you so much insight.”
You will probably reach a specific time in your development where your skill level is not improving and free services are not enough to get you to where you want to be. That is the time when you will benefit from a coach. Like many titleholders, you may find that working with a coach is the thing that makes all the difference.
“Get a qualified Pageant Coach,” insists Patricia Chapman. “My third year competing I got a coach and that was the year that I won. The main issues were my resume and voice during interview. I used voice coaching to not sound like a preschooler. My coach revamped my resume to the point that I impressed myself! What I learned from that experience is still valuable to me today.”
Pageants are stressful
Most new contestants enter pageants because they look like fun, but they have no idea just how stressful pageants can be. With time, you learn to prepare for and manage your stress, but in the beginning, it can be a terrible burden.
That’s why it’s so important that you talk to people who have actually been there and can tell you what to expect and how to properly anticipate those things that can raise your stress level.
Earlier in this guide, we covered the importance of packing properly for your pageant, having things like an emergency kit on hand, and what to expect from pageant weekend, but some things we didn’t discuss, and that’s why personal stories are so vital.
“The show can move pretty fast,” recalls Cali Mullins Ms. US World Washington Elite. “I wish I had known I needed to organize my attire, shoes, and accessories accordingly. With so many people and their belonging, in a green room, space and a place to hang your items is not always available. I now bring an over the door hanger to hold my gowns, and all my accessories are in a hanging bag.”
Mrs. Grays Harbor 2019 Brandy Jo Ross. Photo: Miss Priss Hair and Makeup
Brandy Jo Ross, professional model and Mrs. Grays Harbor America, is just about to compete in her 2nd pageant and she’s learned the importance of preparation and having a solid support system. This young mother of an active one year old boy says that she really did not have a good handle on her stress level during her first pageant.
“I do wish someone would have told me to relax and just have fun with it,” reveals Ross. “I was so nervous and scared as I didn't know what to expect. I had never been through something like this, and my anxiety was through the roof! Once it was all said and done I realized just how much I over stressed.”
“Don't be afraid or nervous to reach out to your director, current queen, or sash sisters for any advice, questions, or problems. Everyone is like a big family, and are truly there to help and support one another.”
It’s about being the real deal
Being in a pageant and trying to actually win are two vastly different things and you learn that after some time competing. But, throughout all of your pageant experience, you want to strive to be yourself, no matter what your pageant goals are.
We know it’s a cliché, but that’s because it’s true.
Pageant Director Amanda Daley. Photo: Robbin Manuel Photography
“I want every contestant to know that judges are looking for YOU,” says Kathleen. "Be yourself. It doesn’t matter who has the best clothes, the best hair, who has a coach or the most money to put towards their pageant preparation. The judges care about who will make a great titleholder. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be the best version of YOU and then you have already won.”
Autumn Lynn Grant, the Director of United States of America’s Miss California, echoes the same advice.
“Just have fun and be yourself during your pageant interview. Most fear the interview portion of competition simply because of the word, “interview.” But, it’s really more of a conversation. The judges mainly want to learn about you and what you are passionate about. And, who knows you better than you?
Director of United States of America’s Miss California, Autumn Lynn Grant. Photo: Autumn Grant
It’s all worth it
So what we’ve learned from all of these lovely ladies is that pageant prep is serious stuff, you can’t just wear your old prom dress, it’s going to be very stressful, you’re responsible for figuring it all out and you can’t fake it. Are you still interested?
We know it can all sound very intimidating and a whole lotta work, and some might wonder if it’s even worth it.
It is! Don’t doubt it for a second!
“Be your authentic self, relax, and have fun,” says Ross. “It may be out of your comfort zone at first but it's such an amazing experience and you grow so much! You grow personally, mentally, and spiritually. You realize you have more strength and courage than you may give yourself credit for. Not only are you helping your community, but you're setting an example for others whether or not you realize it.”
“When women say they are honored to be there among these other women, it’s true,” states Mullins. “Celebrate spending time with these amazing women. We all have so much to share with our community and each other. We are joining a sash sisterhood and making friends. I get so much out of meeting new and old friends every time I compete.”
“Fall in love with the experience,” exclaims Chapman.”Have the time of your life. It really is a glamorous weekend for you to be "all about yourself" with no apologies. You have worked hard to be there, enjoy it!”
Her tip is: "Always stay true to your authentic self."Learn More