Miss America 2017, Savvy Shields. Photo: Miss America Organization
When the month of September rolls around, only one thing is one every American citizen's mind. No, it isn't Labor Day sales, it's Miss America! Arguably the first American beauty pageant, Miss America has been making small town girls' dreams come true for decades. How do you get started on your journey to becoming the next Miss America? Well, every Miss America started out the same way. At their local Miss America pageant. Preparing to become the next Miss America requires hard work, dedication and a commitment to the Miss America organization.
Miss America and Miss America's Outstanding Teen There are two "divisions" in the Miss America Organization. Depending on your age, you will need to find a local pageant that offers your age division. Contrary to popular belief, not all locals will offer the Outstanding Teen program. Be sure to check with your local pageant for this information. It is also very important to make sure you meet age and eligibility requirements. This is your first step to preparing for your local pageant. The Miss America system has many requirements for contestants to be eligible to compete, and before you sign up, you should do your research to be sure that you are eligible. (Read: How to Use Your Age as an Advantage in Pageantry)
Titleholders for the well-respected Miss America Organization: Miss America 2017, Savvy Shields, and the newly crowned Miss America's Outstanding Teen, Jessica Baeder. Photo: @missamerica Instagram
Interview Interview in MAO is unique in a way that only a Miss America pageant can be. Most local pageants are set up to mimic the state and national levels. However, local pageants that feed into the state pageant have some variations on the requirements for interview. (Read: 10 Tips For Your First Miss America Organization Interview) Interview in MAO is worth the largest portion of your overall score, and for the Miss division, it is focused mostly on current events. To prepare for interview, you should do several mock interviews. It is best to do these with trained pageant professionals, but also with your local community members like teachers and professors you trust, friends and family members. (Read: 10 Things You Should NEVER Do in a Pageant Interview) Every Miss America judges panel is required to have a "novice" on the panel, meaning someone who does not know a lot about pageantry. Getting some real world feedback will help you to beef up your interview skills before the competition. (Read: 10 Common Questions Asked in a Miss America Interview)
Alexis Grace Stritt poses before interview at the 2017 Miss South Carolina Pageant. Photo: Personal Facebook
Lifestyle and Fitness Let's get physical! When preparing for your local Miss America pageant, it is important to be sure you are in great shape. No, that does not mean getting super skinny. Yes, it does mean working out regularly, eating a balanced and nutritious diet, and being healthy! (Read: 10 Tips to Get Healthy Before Your Next Pageant) A healthy lifestyle is the key to being prepared for the swimsuit or fitness competition. BE HEALTHY! A healthy and happy contestant is always in demand. (Read: 9 Struggles of Getting Swimsuit Ready Every Pageant Girl Knows)
Miss America Savvy Shields during the 2017 Miss America Competition. Photo: Miss America Organization
Talent One thing that makes the MAO system different than other systems is the talent portion. It is also a crowd favorite of pageant fans everywhere. To win talent, you don't have to be a classically trained professional since you were five. You have to work hard on perfecting your craft and, above all, be entertaining. (Read: 3 Tips to Help Choose Your Talent) Think back on the past Miss Americas. Were they the best singer or the best dancer? No, not always. But, above all things, their performances were well put together, well executed and entertaining. (Read: 5 Ways to Make Your Traditional Pageant Talent Stand Out) Practice your talent in front of audiences of strangers to get unbiased feedback to help you better prepare for your local. Also, consider hiring a professional talent coach to critique you. (Read: Top 5 Pageant Talent Coaches of 2016)
Miss Texas 2016, Caroline Carothers, during the preliminary talent competition at Miss America 2017. Photo: Miss America Organization
Evening Gown The evening gown competition is one of the lowest percentage of your score. However, it is one that tells a lot about you as a person. The evening gown you pick should reflect your individual personality and style. (Read: Top 10 Evening Gowns from Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2017) Remember, MAO is very conservative, therefore you should take the style of the system into consideration when picking your gown. A gown cut down to your belly button with a slit cut up to your thigh is probably not the best choice for the system. Also be mindful of your body shape. Choose a gown that enhances your natural shape and complements your skin tone. Choosing a gown can be daunting, but consulting a pageant professional can ensure you have a winning look, with or without the crown. (Read: How To Choose The Right Evening Gown For Your Body Type)
Miss New York's Outstanding Teen 2018 Asia Hickman during the 2017 Preliminary Evening Gown Competition at Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2018. Photo: P.G. Photography
Community Service MAO is a big advocate of community service and requires each contestant to have a personal platform as well as to be an advocate for the national platform. (Read: How to Promote Your Platform Through Community Service) It is important when preparing for your local that you have fully developed your personal platform because you will be asked about it in your interview. Knowing all about it is great, but being genuinely passionate about it is even better. MAO wants a titleholder with a heart. Someone who is heavily involved in what they care most about but is also able to handle promoting the national platform.
2017 Washington Miss America Organization local titleholders at the Renton Farmer's Market. Photo: missseattlewa Instagram
Moving Forward There are many components to competing in a Miss America pageant on any level, and the best way to prepare is to get help from a pageant professional. Pageant Planet offers a VIP coaching program so that you can be well prepared for your next or very first Miss America prelim. (Read: VIP Membership Trial) Who knows? Maybe you could be the next Miss America or Miss America's Outstanding Teen! We're cheering for you!
Her tip is: "Enjoy networking and remembering you are competing against yourself not others!"Learn More