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How to Style Curly Hair

14, April 2018

Miss District of Columbia 2015, Cierra Jackson. Photo Cierra Jackson Miss District of Columbia 2015, Cierra Jackson. Photo Cierra Jackson

I have naturally curly hair, so I can empathize with all of the challenges that my curly-haired sisters go through. The upside of curly hair is insane volume like no other type of hair, as well as having an original look because it is rarer. The downside is dryness, frizz and the fact that your hair seems to have a life of its own. You never know what you're going to wake up to. Some days you feel like Beyonce, and it's magic. Other days you can easily pass for Ronald McDonald. When you are a pageant girl, it can be especially challenging because curly hair is not just one kind of hair. It comes in many different textures, weights, lengths and curl structures. Thick, coarse curls are dramatically different from fine, corkscrew curls, and not every style will work for every person. (Read: How to Style Thick Hair)

Thankfully, there are more and more titleholders wearing their curly hair with pride, and today there are so many resources and products to help you make the most of your hair. But, it takes time to learn to work with your curly hair and sometimes you can really benefit from working with a professional hair stylist. Pageant Planet actually has a directory where you can research hair stylists and makeup artists in your area.

If you are going to wear your hair curly for a pageant, regardless of the area of competition, you have to make sure that your hair is “styled.” What I mean is that your hair must look polished, and not messy or too casual. The challenge of curly hair is that it often by nature looks very carefree and undone. A pageant is a place where you have to control your curls and make the most of them while at the same time guiding and coaxing them into a real style. You will have to be glamorous while in an evening gown, professional while in interview and fun and sporty while in a swimsuit.

It can be challenging for any pageant contestant to choose the right complementary hairstyles for each phase of the competition, but it is even more complicated for a curly girl. But, don't worry my curly-haired queen! You are not alone. We have created an amazing course all about making the most of whatever hair you have. In this article, we're going to explore curly hairstyles for every age group in different aspects of pageant competition. (Read: 7 Best Pageant Hairstyles for Curly Hair)

How to Style Curly Hair

The best curly styles for the evening gown phase of competition

Because of the unpredictable nature of curly hair, and the fact that the more you mess with your hair the bigger the chance that you will develop frizz, why not take advantage of hair enhancements? There is nothing wrong with using extensions, hair falls, half wigs, clip in bangs and ponytails in order to achieve a variety of looks in a short amount of time. Since the evening gown phase of competition requires that you create a hairstyle that best complements your dress, these types of hair helpers can open up all kinds of options for you. (Read: How to Style Your Weave)

Glitz This little doll looks just like a little doll, and that's what she is supposed to look like in a glitz pageant. Her curls are big and bold, and her hair is accessorized by bright flowers and organza.

Glitz headshot. Photo: Eve Dupree Glitz headshot. Photo: Eve Dupree

Princess This precious princess is pretty in pink in her evening gown, and the half-up, half-down hairstyle with the teased up crown and swoop bangs is so sweet.

Photo: Hairstyles 123 Website Photo: Hairstyles 123 Website

Preteen Hairstyles for Preteen contestants need to be kept simple, pretty and complement the young girl's natural beauty. She is still a child, and she needs to look like one. So, all styling should be done conservatively. This young lady's soft curls and simple hair accessory is all that she needs to be radiant.

Photo: Hairstyles 123 Website Photo: Hairstyles 123 Website

Teen It's very important that a Teen looks age appropriate, and not overtly sexy, during the evening gown phase of competition. She should look pretty and ladylike but still look like a young girl. This half-up, half-down hairstyle with rolled-up sides and loosely pinned ringlets is the perfect complement to a Teen style dress.

 Photo: Pinterest Photo: Pinterest

Miss option #1 This evening hairstyle is reminiscent of Jessica Rabbit and has all the va-va-voom required to put all eyes on you! This is a very popular style for Miss contestants, but this version is really taking advantage of the volume that naturally curly hair has. It starts with a standard blow out, but then the ends explode in a profusion of giant curls that have been teased up. The smooth and silky crown enhances the spectacular curls. This is the hair that makes people stare! (Read: How to Get Pageant Hair Like a Victoria's Secret Angel

Miss Universe Thailand 2015, Aniporn Chalermburanawong. Photo: Thailand-beauty pageant Facebook Miss Universe Thailand 2015, Aniporn Chalermburanawong. Photo: Thailand-beauty pageant Facebook

Miss option #2 If you're looking for a way to stay as close to your natural curl as possible for your evening gown debut, then look no further than this gorgeous crop of curls. So simple, yet so stunning! If your gown has a unique neckline, then you need to make sure that your hair doesn't hide it while still holding its own.

Miss Universe Brazil 2016, Raíssa Santana. Photo: Pinterest Miss Universe Brazil 2016, Raíssa Santana. Photo: Pinterest

Ms./Mrs. option #1 Now, this hair is drama! What a jaw-dropping, over-the-top do for a Ms. or Mrs. contestant to complement a divine, body-conscious evening gown. It is a sultry, but very wearable style that takes a traditional barrel curl look to the next level by creating texture just by loosening up the curl a bit. This is the only place where a bit of frizz is totally fabulous! (Read: How to Remove Frizz from Pageant Hair)

Miss Universe Brazil 2017, Monalysa Alcântara. Photo: Thailand -beauty pageant Facebook Miss Universe Brazil 2017, Monalysa Alcântara. Photo: Thailand -beauty pageant Facebook

Ms./Mrs. option #2 This is the perfect up-do for a more mature contestant who also happens to have curly hair. This loosely curled, piecey up-do is an ideal choice for the evening gown competition as it looks effortlessly elegant and would suit many different necklines and styles. This hair is upscale, yet approachable, and regal without making the wearer look like a prom queen. (Read: Top 10 Mrs. Pageant Hairstyles of 2017)

Eva Longori. Photo: Pinterest Eva Longoria. Photo: Pinterest

The best curly styles for the swimsuit phase of competition The swimsuit competition is similar to evening gown in that your hairstyle must complement your suit while not overwhelming your overall look. You also have to consider your age and what is appropriate for the type of competition you are in. Swimsuit or fitness wear is all about demonstrating your vivacious and energetic personality, as well as your healthy lifestyle. (Read: How to Transform Your Pageant Hair From Swimsuit to Evening Wear in 60 seconds)

Glitz Glitz hairstyles are always going to be very fancy, even when the child is wearing a swimsuit, and this cute updo is perfection for this bathing beauty.

Photo: Hairstyles 123 Website Photo: Hairstyles 123 Website

Princess For a princess contestant or younger child, it's always best to stay as close to their natural hair texture as possible for the swimsuit competition. Really, this is all about being practical. Let her express her beauty through her personality and energy on stage. She does not need to be heavily made up, and pageants can be very long days for children, anyway. A simple flower or other hair accessories that match her suit or sun outfit is just fine. (Read: 10 Summer Pageant Hairstyles You MUST Try)

Photo: Pinterest Photo: Pinterest

Preteen Preteen contestants are not Teens and they should not be portrayed as Teens if they have a swimsuit or fitness wear portion to their pageant. Simple, lovely and natural curls, or basic hair enhancements like clip-in ponytails, is all a girl of this age requires. She should just be showing her exuberant spirit to the judges.

America’s Miss, Miss New Jersey 2018, Milan Grooms. Photo: Milan Grooms Facebook America’s Miss, Miss New Jersey 2018, Milan Grooms. Photo: Milan Grooms Facebook

Teen option #1 Singer Tori Kelly is a young lady who has fast become the "it-girl" when it comes to her gorgeous locks. She has mastered her curly mane and has motivated curly girls everywhere to give up their straightening irons. Her diffused curls with one side held back with a braid is so original, youthful and trendy. Any Teen contestant with curly hair would be enchanting in this look. It definitively has a Katy Perry "California Girls" vibe and would be a perfect style for the swimsuit competition.

Tori Kelly Photo: Kevin Mazur on Getty Images Tori Kelly Photo: Kevin Mazur on Getty Images

Teen option #2 Even though Monalysa Alcantara was competing in a Miss pageant when this photo was taken, I actually prefer this idea of using a scarf or headband for a Teen contestant. This look is so adorable and fun, but if you are competing in a Miss pageant in the United States, I think this look would translate as too young. But, for a Teen contestant, highlighting your curls with an accessory like this could be just the thing to get the judges' attention.

Monalysa Alcântara competing in the Miss Piaui 2017 Pageant. Photo: 180 graus website Monalysa Alcântara competing in the Miss Piaui 2017 Pageant. Photo: 180 graus website

Miss option #1 Blake Lively's large separated waves with one side pinned back is a very creative, fun, but still somewhat sophisticated way to wear your hair during the swimsuit competition. This style lends itself well to different types of textures, lengths and curl variations. It will also go very well with different types of swimsuit tops and will be an attention-getting style. (Read: 10 Daily Habits to Get Perfect Pageant Hair)

Blake Lively. Photo: Marie Claire Blake Lively. Photo: Marie Claire

Miss option #2 Miss USA 2017, Kara McCullough, has become such a hair idol for curly girls everywhere. She always looks fantastic no matter how she chooses to wear her hair, and this look is no exception. When you've spent months in the gym getting fit, you want to show off that hard work and impress the judges.

Sometimes, girls do way too much to their hair during the swimsuit portion of the competition, and it frankly distracts from their physiques. This hairstyle will ensure that you will get the right kind of attention. This is such a sporty, fun-loving do with the curls all piled on top of the head and just a few tendrils along the sides of the face and the forehead.

Miss USA 2017, Kara McCullough. Photo: E Online Miss USA 2017, Kara McCullough. Photo: E Online

Ms./Mrs. The ponytail has become a mainstream pageant hairstyle in the last few years, and when it looks as amazing as this one, why not? A ponytail for a Ms. or Mrs. contestant can work perfectly for the swimsuit phase of competition as long as it is done with a lot of defined curls or deep waves. You can wear it high or low, but just be careful that you don't end up looking like a genie or like you've just come from the gym. This is a stylized pony, so your hair should be wrapped around the rubber band or hair tie with no pins showing. If your hair is not quite long enough, feel free to invest in some extensions. (Read: How to Style Thin Hair)

Photo: Sweetside-Store Website Photo: Sweetside-Store Website

The best curly styles for the interview phase of competition Regardless of your age in a pageant, when you are are preparing for the interview, you need to remember that the entire purpose of meeting the judges face to face is so that they can get a real sense of who you are. It's about communication, presentation and trying to connect with them on an authentic level. So, it is crucial that your hair aligns with the totality of who you are, and that it does not overpower your look. You want to keep the focus on your face and what you are saying to the judges, and overly done hair can be very distracting.

Glitz Interview for glitz pageants is very different from most pageant interviews. They are still in the glitz style, so the hair should still be highly curled, but maybe a bit toned down. And, of course, accessories that match the child's outfit is to be expected.

Photo: Powerhouse Books Photo: Powerhouse Books

Princess An interview for a Princess or child contestant is a lot different than it is for an older girl. But, it is still a good idea to keep the hair off of the face so that the child's lovely features can be the focus of attention. This curly hairstyle with a cute bow would be an ideal choice.

Photo Hairstyles 123 Website Photo Hairstyles 123 Website

Preteen When choosing a hairstyle for a Preteen for their interview, you want to keep their natural curl in mind and not try and change them too much. It's so important for them to feel confident about themselves at this tender age and allow their natural charm and charisma to come through. Keep makeup, jewelry and accessories simple. (Read: Can You Win a Pageant with Short Hair?)

Photo Hello Magazine Photo: Hello Magazine

Teen option #1 Bella Thorne's half-up, half-down style with loose waves is a lovely choice for an interview style for a Teen contestant. This style is shown with relaxed, beachy style waves, but it would look just as nice with tight spiral curls and larger barrel curls, too. You can wear it with or without bangs, and if you don't happen to have bangs, why not try some clip in bangs? The reason this style works so well is that it is simple, it controls your hair and it puts all of the emphasis on your beautiful face, which is what you should be putting the emphasis on during your interview.

Bella Thorne. Photo: Marie Claire Bella Thorne. Photo: Marie Claire

Teen option #2 This style is similar to the half-up, half-down style above, but it has a slight variation. The crown is pinned back instead of being teased up, it is parted on the side and the curls are allowed to have a bit more volume. Again, a style like this is putting all the attention on your face, and that side part actually does a very special thing in that it brings the focus to your eyes. Just make sure that you keep your curls moisturized and defined by using a shine-enhancing serum or leave-in conditioner because you do not want to look messy or too casual. (Read: How to Get Voluminous Pageant Hair)

Hailee Steinfeld. Photo: Harpers Bazaar Hailee Steinfeld. Photo: Harpers Bazaar

Miss Miss Tennessee Teen USA 2013 Emily Suttle was a Teen when she used this headshot, but I think this hairstyle is so perfect for any adult competitor, too. The hair is parted on the side, which so often does wonders for curly hair, and the large curls are arranged artfully around the face. This style is professional, feminine and does not look too overdone or fussy. Your hair should not overshadow your face or your message when you are talking to judges.

Miss Tennessee Teen USA 2013 Emily Suttle. Photo: Pageant Planet Miss Tennessee Teen USA 2013 Emily Suttle. Photo: Pageant Planet

Ms./Mrs. option #1 I am crazy about this hairstyle for a Ms. or Mrs. contestant!  This is a shoulder length bob, set on rollers or curled with a large barrel curling iron, and just brushed away from the face lightly. I think any curly girl could pull this off, whether your hair is short, shoulder length or long. If you have tight curls, then you'll have to work with them to change the curl pattern, but it is so worth it. This style is so sophisticated and chic, and I guarantee that you will turn every judge's head when you walk into the room!

Kate Beckinsale Photo: Marie Claire Kate Beckinsale Photo: Marie Claire

Ms./Mrs. option #2 Wow! This curly do is sensational for interview for a Ms. or Mrs. contestant because it is so vibrant and stays true to the natural curl of the wearer, but it is so polished and modern! I love how it essentially has no part, so the curls just cascade gracefully around the face, but the hair is pushed away from one cheek, and then a few tendrils are allowed to drop down playfully on the opposite side. If your hair is not short, or longer than shoulder length, you can still create this look easily. You just have to make sure that you maximize the volume of the hair and don't touch it once it's done. This is hair that says, "I'm a boss."

Miss Brazil 2016, Raíssa Santana. Photo: Pinterest Miss Universe Brazil 2016, Raíssa Santana. Photo: Pinterest

You can be the "best tressed" at your next pageant

Hopefully, this article helped to inspire and empower you and your feelings about your curly hair, and has helped to give you some new ideas for your next pageant. I'm sure that somewhere along the way, somebody has suggested to you that in order to win a title, you might have to change your hair. In pageantry, it is so vital to be true to yourself and own all that you are. (Read: Can Your Pageant Hairstyle Hurt Your Chances of Winning?) The pageant community needs individuals, not cookie-cutter copycats. You do not have to change who you are and what you look like to be successful.

If you really do want to rock your curly hair at your next pageant, then Pageant Planet is behind you all the way. We do our best to give you the tools that you need, and if one of those things you need is a new hair stylist or makeup artist, then check out our directory. There are so many cool ideas and techniques for making the most of curly hair, so if we missed one that you would like to share with us, please let us know in the comments section.

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