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How to Succeed in Pageant Interview

06, May 2021

Pageants are won or lost in pageant interview.

If you've spent any time at all in pageantry, you've heard this saying at least once. And for good reason - pageant interview is probably the most important competition of the week. Do it right and the judges will look for you, and even root for you, in the other competitions. Stumble in interview and you'll have to work harder to capture the crown. Scary, we know.

That's why we've pulled together our best pageant interview tips and even some practice pageant interview questions for you in this guide. We'll dig into what to expect during pageant interview, how pageant interview is judged, how you can prepare for pageant interview, what makes you stand out, and even pageant interview outfits and hair and makeup.

Now that's a lot of information so we broke it up into the follow categories. Go ahead and click on the section you want to review now. You can always come back for the rest later.

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What to expect during pageant interview

How is pageant interview judged?

How can I prepare for pageant interview?

How to stand out in pageant interview

How to pick out a pageant interview outfit

How should I style my hair and makeup for pageant interview?

What to expect during pageant interview

Oftentimes, pageant interview will be your first phase of competition, or in other words, your first chance to make an impression on your judges. Which means, it’s arguably the most important competition. So let’s prep you for the basics first. 

What your interview will look like will vary with what system you compete in. You’ll either have a round robin style or a panel style interview. In round robin, you’ll have a conversation with each judge individually, and you’ll likely be one of a few contestants in the room and you’ll all rotate between judges. In panel, you’ll have one conversation with all the judges, and you’ll likely be the only contestant in the room. Round robin interviews are found in National American Miss, Miss American Coed, USA National Miss and International Junior Miss. Panel interviews are found in Miss USA, Miss America, Miss Grand International, Miss Supranational, Miss Earth USA and Miss High School America.

Interviews can range from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, all depending on the style of interview and system. If you’re not sure whether your pageant is panel or round robin interview and how long it lasts, be sure to consult your pageant handbook, or ask the current titleholder or the director. We've included a few popular systems and their interview times and styles below

Miss America
Interview Format: Panel
Interview Length: Ten minutes

Miss USA & Teen USA
Interview Format: Panel
Interview Length: 90 seconds

Ms. World
Interview Format: Panel
Interview Length: Five minutes

Mrs. and Ms. Earth Organization
Interview Format: Panel
Interview Length: Five minutes

American Elegance Pageant
Interview Format: Panel of three to five judges
Length: Four minutes

Miss American Coed (MAC)
Interview Format: Round robin
Interview Length: One minute per judge

National American Miss (NAM)
Interview Format: Round robin
Interview Length: 35 seconds to one minute per interviewer. Length depends on age division.

Mrs. and Ms. United States National Pageants
Interview Format: Panel
Interview Length: Five minutes 

America’s Majestic Miss National Scholarship Pageants
Interview Format: Round robin
Interview Length: Two minutes

Miss Teen of America
Interview Format: Panel
Interview Length: Three to four minutes

pageant interview, Miss North Carolina usa

Miss North Carolina USA 2021 Madison Bryant. Photo: RPM Productions

Now, let’s talk about what to expect in the room. You’ll be told when to enter and where to stand. If you’re in a round robin interview, you’ll be told which judge to go to first. There will be a staff member in the interview room keeping time and will let you know when you must stop. 

Overall, the actual “competition” itself is easy. You enter the room, stand where you’re supposed to, talk when you’re allowed to begin, stop when the timer goes off and exit when you’re supposed to. You still with us? Great, let’s dig in a little further!

How is pageant interview judged?

It's natural to have a ton of questions on how your pageant is judged. You're probably wondering what goes into that score. Is my pageant interview outfit being judged? My hair and makeup? The contents of my answers? How I sit or stand? Well the answer is yes... and no.

Your pageant interview score usually makes up between 20 and 40 percent of your total pageant score, depending on your pageant. What goes into that score is a mixture of things and likely will only be revealed to the judges. But, let's talk about a few common things that judges will consider.

What judges notice during pageant interview

  1. The content of your answers. The judges will take note of and take into consideration what your message is. If they ask you why you should win and your answer is, "I don't know," or some variation of a fluff answer, they're going to notice and assume you're unprepared for the pageant or the title.
     
  2. Your body language and tone. Or in other words, how you're delivering the message. This includes things like your voice inflection, whether you're using filler words (um, like), eye contact, posture and all the non-verbal things.
     
  3. Your appearance. We know it's controversial to say. However, your appearance isn't about whether you're meeting a certain beauty standard. It's referring to whether you look put together. Is your outfit clean and wrinkle-free? Is your hair messy and in your eyes or clean and out of your face? Is your makeup distracting or clean-looking?
     
  4. Your confidence. From how you walk into the room, how you stand and sit, to whether you slouch or look away when you talk, everything you do portrays confidence or insecurity. Confidence and positivity is infectious so the more you radiate that energy, the more your judges will be drawn to you. 
     
  5. Your consistency. Does everything about you make sense? This might sound a bit weird and you're probably thinking, "Of course it makes sense." But what we're asking is really, "is everything about you on brand?" If you describe yourself as bubly but show up in a dark interview outfit with your hair slicked back and dramatic makeup - that doesn't really make sense, does it? 

Now we've discussed what the judges will look at during interview. Let's look at the way judges score interview.

2020 I am titleholders in interview outfits. Photo: Brittany Link Photography

How judges will score your pageant interview

Judges have maybe 30 seconds to score your interview and write their notes before the next interview has to begin. Much like the interview itself, that's not a lot of time. You get up, move to the next judge and begin your interview. That small portion of time is really the only time they can score you and give you feedback. So what do they have time for?

Judges will usually score your interview 1-10. IF they have time, which is not always possible, they might write a few short notes like "good eye contact" or "good answers." So what does this feedback come from? What's the basis for it? It's simple really; how you make the judges feel. Did you impress them? Make them laugh? Pull them in emotionally? Or, did you feel awkward and make them feel awkward? Make them pull the answers out of you?

So how are you supposed to make them feel good and in turn, confident in you? AND, how do you use the feedback from the judges to prepare for your next interview? Let's dig into how to prepare for your pageant interview.

How can I prepare for pageant interview?

Okay, you have a general understanding of what pageant interview can look like, now let's dive into the details and tips on how to prepare for your pageant interview.

Pageant Paperwork

First things first, you have work to do before you ever walk into the interview room. You'll have to prepare your paperwork for the judges. We know, this sounds boring. However - this can actually set you up for success in your pageant interview because you can tell the judges what information is important to know about you before they ever talk to you. Which means, what you put in your paperwork can direct your entire interview. Chances are, if you put a really interesrting fact on your paperwork, you may be able to predict the first question you're asked in interview.

What types of paperwork will you be required to prepare? Most pageants will have you prepare a contestant resume or fact sheet. Some heavily platform-based pageants will also have you write a platform essay. We have an entire course called Pageant Paperwork & Resume (Examples, Templates & Tips) that will show you how to fill out your paperwork and stand out before interview. We highly recommend you check that out before starting on your paperwork.

Next thing to be mindful of with pageant paperwork is meeting your deadlines. Each system has its own process for submtiting your paperwork, including its own deadlines for submission. This information is usually included in your pageant handbook or one of the info packets you receive after signing up. If you've looked everywhere (and we do mean in every email, info packet, and smoke signal) and can't find the information, reach out to your director or contestant coordinator. 

And finally, don't skip the deets! What we mean is, if a director says your bio sheet needs to be one page only, and you've submitted two... you're doing it wrong. The rules are in place for a reason so follow the instructions. You don't want to leave a negative impression before you ever get there. 

Now, there's something you should know before your pageant. Your judges may not get your paperwork until the day of your interview. They may only have a minute to review it before you sit down in their chair. That means your paperwork has to stand out. No mistakes, no typos and full of information they could use to start a conversation. If you're not sure how to do that, we'd recommend seeing a pageant coach. We even have Pageant Planet's prep membership that you can work with a coach to prepare for all aspects of your competition. You can check that out at Pageant Planet Pageant Prep

Miss Indiana US 2020 Jessica Hopper. Photo: Jessica Hopper

Practice Pageant Interview Questions

How do you become great at literally anything in the world? You practice. Not just once or twice, either. You practice consistently. You practice every single day. This is how you need to approach pageant interview as well. 

First, you'll need practice interview questions. Lucky for you, we've compiled 233 absolutely free practice pageant interview questions. These questions are the same ones that Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA 2019 used when she prepared for her interview. Not only are we giving you the questions completely free, we'll tell you how she used them and how you can too. Have them sent to your email here:

Now that you have the questions, we want you to print out the pages. Next, cut the pages into little strips with one question per strip. You could rewrite them all by hand on flashcards too if that's better for you. The most important part is that you have individual questions. Now, put all your strips in a jar (or cards in a stack). Each day when you're getting ready, pull 5 strips (or cards) and answer those questions in the mirror.

It's going to feel weird at first but it's actually an extremely useful way to practice for interview every day. It only takes 5 minutes and it allows you to see your facial expressions while you answer questions. Bonus points if you time your answers to make sure you're right around the 30 seconds mark. 

Mock Interviews

We cannot stress this enough. You need to do mock interviews to prepare for your pageant. Let's back up and explain what a mock interview is. If you're new to the pageant scene or you've never heard of it before, a mock interview is essentially your dress rehearsal for the real day. You (or a coach) gets together a panel of "judges". For your mock interview, this could be anyone from family to total strangers. You give them your paperwork. Then, you simulate your pageant interview exactly how it'll be on pageant day.

You'll practicing entering the room and sitting down for a round robin interview, or entering the room and addressing the judges for a panel interview. Your room should be set up similarly to how your interview room will look on pageant day. Then, your panel will ask you questions while someone else times you. You'll get up and move to the next judge or exit the room, depending on the interview style. Your panel will then score you and give you feedback. 

You should review your feedback with a coach, if you have one, to see where you can improve for your next interview. Then, practice some more and schedule another mock interview. Schedule as many as you can prior to pageant day. The more you flex your interview muscle, the easier it is to perform come pageant day.

If scheduling a mock interview is overwhelming for you, mock interviews are included with the VIP and VIP Platinum Pageant Planet memberships. We'll do the scheduling, you just show up.

Talk to people

Sounds obvious, we know. You're probably thinking, "Hello? I talk to people everyday already." But, what we mean is talk to strangers. Not in the creepy, dangerous way. But every chance you get to engage with someone, whether it's out shopping or a community service event, take it and start up a conversation. Each time you do this successfully, you prove to yourself that you can handle any interaction you're in and that you're a good communicator. This helps a whole bunch with thinking on your feet during pageant interview. You can't memorize answers to every possible question and succeed in interview. BUT you can build up your "social muscle" so that your social skills are strong for your interview.

The other side to this is to take every speaking opportunity you can. Your teacher wants a volunteer to read out loud in class? Do it. Your boss is looking for someone to present a new project? Do it. Your local library needs someone to read to the kids? Do it. Every single chance you get to talk in front of strangers or people who might make you nervous, take it. The more you talk, the more confidence you gain, the easier it is to have a great pageant interview. 

Miss Grand International 2020. Photo: Miss Grand International

Practice the details

This might be the silliest advice you'll receive, at least it'll make you feel the silliest. Practice the small things, like entering the room, siting in a chair and introducing yourself. Pageant interview isn't the time to sloppy walk into a room and plop yourself on the seat, unsure of whether to greet someone or shake their hand. 

Practice walking into a room confidently. If you're seated for the interview, practice sitting in a chair. You should sit on the front half of your chair, leaning forward, with your ankles crossed and legs together and tilted to the side. Believe it or not, this isn't how most people naturally sit in a chair. So it'll take some practice. 

The other detail you should think about is whether to shake your judges' hands in pageant interview. Most experts will tell you not to, especially after the pandemic. And we agree - it's best not to shake your judges hands. It can get just a little... well... awkward. So leave it out. If it does accidentally happen on the day of, don't sweat it and don't make it awkward. Oh - and of course, if your judge puts their hand out for a shake, don't leave 'em hanging. 

Age-specific details

Interview preparation will look different for each age division because actual interview will be significantly different. Below we've included some things to focus on for each age division.

Princess

  1. Teach the etiquette - Teach your little one how to introduce herself, have a seat and make eye contact. Depending on how young your contestant is, they may have an issue sitting still and staying focus. Work on how to do that in brief coaching sessions. Teach your contestant to thank each judge when they're finished their interview.
     
  2. Practice questions - This list specifically for princesses will help get you started. We also recommend you download the 233 practice pageant questions.
     
  3. Don't overpractice - This seems counterinituitive but you may know this better than anyone. Children have short attention spans. If you force them to practice for too long, they'll lose interest fast.
     
  4. Work on social skills - This extends beyond pageantry. Social skills are extremely important for young kids to develop.
     
  5. Let your princesses have a say - That's not to say they get to run the show. But, if they learn some independence and get a say in the outcome, they'll be more interested in competing.

Preteen

  1. Be confident in yourself - With confidence in who you are, you will be able to present yourself in the best light possible and the judges will really get to know you and why you are best for the crown!
     
  2. Be conversational - Don't memorize answers! Just have a conversation with your judges.
     
  3. Share your community service - Wow the judges with all the work you've been doing and why you like doing it so much!
     
  4. Have fun - Pageants are supposed to be a fun time! Remember to keep it a positive experience and focus on why you love competing so much.

Teen

  1. Be conversational - Don't try to memorize answers. Just have a conversation with the judges; they're normal people too.
     
  2. Know when to stop - There can be a tendency to ramble on. Practice stopping when you're done your thought instead of put more filler information in. The ideal answer should be 30 seconds in length. 
     
  3. Be calm but upbeat - If you're too excited, it can come off as nervous. If you're too calm, it can come off as tired. Think about how grateful you are to be at the pageant and sharing your story. 
     
  4. Know your paperwork - Yes, you wrote it so you should know it. But you'd be surprised at how many contestants have no clue what's on their paperwork before they go into interview.

Miss Grand Kenya 2020. Photo: Miss Grand International

Miss

  1. Don't stress - Okay, easier said than done. But you've done the work leading up to your interview. Now you need to let your stress dissolve. Throw on your favorite playlist, color, meditate. Do whatever you need to relax before your interview.
     
  2. Make a game plan and stick to it - Know the three things that the judges must know about you before you leave interview and practice how to say them in any question that comes up. When interview rolls around, stick to the strategy you've practiced.
     
  3. Be informed - It's a crazy world out there but you're expected to know it. After all, how can you impact a world you don't understand? We created Pageant Daily to give you free coaching and recap important new stories for this reason. We highly recommend signing up for it. Check it out here
     
  4. Know your paperwork - Yes, you wrote it so you should know it. But you'd be surprised at how many contestants have no clue what's on their paperwork before they go into interview.

Mrs./Ms.

  1. Develop your marketing plan - Make no mistake, this is a job interview for a spokesperson position. How are you going to make a difference with this title? Focus on what you've done so far and how this title could take that to the next level. Include concrete goals to show you've really thought this through.
     
  2. Keep the personality - Yes, Mrs. and Ms. contestants are definitely expected to be poised, but that doesn't mean you should throw fun out the window. Don't forget to showcase your personality in interview. 
     
  3. Be a role model - As the oldest contestants, you set the example for how younger contestants should act. Remember that little eyes and ears are always observing.

How to stand out in pageant interview

Standing out among the crowd is essential to success in pageantry, but it can be difficult in a sea of accomplished, driven and well-rounded contestants like yourself. There are few obvious ways to stand out during your pageant interview.

Personal brand

First, focus on who you are and what your personal brand is. Think back to Miss USA 2016 Deshauna Barber. What is the one thing she left the audience with? All of Barber’s messaging throughout the competition, from her meet the contestant video to her mic drop-worthy onstage answer, was focused on how she was a woman fighting for our country in the Army.

During pageant interview the key is to make sure you leave your judges with everything YOU want them to know about you: think your message, platform, ambition, community service and personal goals. Brainstorm and write these down in the weeks you are preparing for competition. Plan your wardrobe, interview answers and paperwork around the personal brand you want your judges to remember.

Body language

Second, body language says more about you than you know. Did you know that it takes between seven and 30 seconds to make a first impression? So much of what goes into a first impression is your nonverbal signals or your body language. Pageant interview is likely your opportunity to make a first impression so your body language becomes even more important during this phase of competition.

Before you walk into the interview room, check your posture. Stand up straight, shoulders back, take a deep breath and let your shoulders fall naturally. A good tip is to pretend there is a string attached to your head that pulls your body upward and then let your shoulders fall to a relaxed position.

When answering a question, be cognizant of how much you are moving your hands. Sometimes having too much movement can overpower your message and may even block your face from the judges. The goal is to impress them with your answers, not distract them with your arms.

Eye contact

Third, maintain eye contact with the judges. While eye contact is super important, do not stare your judges down. The preferred length of time for eye contact is between three and five seconds at one time. If you are in a panel style interview always address the judge who asked the initial question and slowly make eye contact with the other judges as you answer. In you are in a round-robin interview, do not let outside distractions deter your natural eye contact.

Be present with the one judge you are talking to and have a conversation. Talk to your judges how you would talk to your parent’s friend, conversational and friendly, but not too informal. Take a deep breath, relax and wow them with your charm and intelligence.

The right outfit

Finally, to really stand out, make sure your outfit of choice complements your figure and brand. Try it on for your friends, family and coach in advance of the competition. Make sure your outfit is not so bold that it detracts from your message. The goal is to look polished, professional and ready to take over the crown.

Miss USA 2018 Sarah Rose Summers and Miss North Carolina USA 2018 Caelynn Miller-Keyes after their Miss USA interveiws. Photo: Miss Nebraska USA Instagram

Do your research on what looks are popular in pageant interview for that system. For example, Miss USA 2018 Sarah Rose Summers wore a shorts-blazer combination into interview. While that outfit went over well at Miss USA, it would not go over well for a Miss America contestant. Now what your system is looking for and plan your wardrobe accordingly.

How to pick out a pageant interview outfit

What do I need to consider when picking my outfit for pageant interview?

There are many very important points to consider when selecting your outfit for pageant interview, but the two most crucial points are the importance of the first impression and the power of the pageant brand.

First impression

The first point, as we’ve said before, is that this is likely the very first time that the judges are going to meet you. They will have seen your headshot, but this will be the first time they get to see you live and in person.

The reason that this is such a big deal is that the judges are attempting to come to a decision rather quickly about who they believe is the best contestant to fill the role of titleholder. In your regular everyday life, a first impression does not hold the same degree of importance. If you do not make a great first impression on someone, you usually have an opportunity at a later date to change their opinion or give them a better idea of what you are really like. In a pageant, the judges are consciously trying to come to a decision that they have to make in a short time period. If the judges like you in the interview room, you have an even better chance to wow them when it comes time for the rest of the pageant.

Pageant brand

In addition to making a positive first impression, the second point to consider when picking out your outfit for interview is the pageant’s specific brand.

This is where you need to be able to step back and be objective about yourself and the pageant that you are competing in. Do not neglect these details because if you do, you will totally miss the mark and the judges will not take you seriously as a contender for the title.

Each pageant system has a brand and you have to pay attention to that brand if you want to do well in the pageant. A pageant brand just means whatever someone thinks about when they think of a given pageant.

For example, when people think about the Miss America brand, they think about the idea of the “girl next door.” She is pretty, sweet, down to earth and likable, not to mention very smart, articulate and talented. When people think about the Miss USA brand, they think about a tall, fashion forward, “model type” of woman who is also a good spokesperson and has a bit of glamour and style.

Miss District of Columbia USA 2018 Bryce Armstrong after her Miss USA interview. Photo: @thepageantaddict Instagram

When choosing an interview outfit, as well as all of the pieces of your competition wardrobe, you need to keep the pageant brand at the forefront of your mind. Remember that you are visually communicating to the judges and everyone you meet about whether you have what it takes to be the next titleholder. If your pageant’s brand is very conservative, then do not wear low cut tops, short skirts or sky-high heels, no matter how great you look in those styles. If your pageant’s brand is known for embracing modern, cutting edge fashion, you might want to enlist the help of a stylist if you are not sure what kind of clothing you should be wearing.

You have to get this point right or it can cost you in the interview room.

Find photos from last year’s pageant, especially the behind-the-scenes images, like what the contestants wore for interview. Check out the pageant’s social media pages like Facebook and Instagram for pictures like that. You can even check out the current titleholder’s social media pages to see if she posted what she wore for interview last year. Look for what the top five or ten contestants wore for their interview and pick your style accordingly.

Common sense

In addition to the importance of the first impression and the power of the pageant’s brand that you are competing in, you just want to have common sense when selecting clothing for interview.

Everything that you choose for interview and for the rest of the pageant competition must be age appropriate, flattering to your body and it must make you feel confident and beautiful. Never compromise or settle when choosing your competition wardrobe. Compete with excellence and make certain that everything that you wear really represents who you are and what you stand for. When in doubt about what to wear, find a professional. We can recommend some here.

What colors work best for pageant interview?

Color should be another huge factor in choosing your interview outfit. After all, your style can be impeccable, but the wrong color choice can make the entire outfit fall flat.

"Depending on the system that you were in, you want a color that looks well on you since you were being judged on facial beauty in interview," Wendi Russo, CEO and Founder of Crowning Success said. "Most newbies gravitate towards navy or black. In my opinion, that is a pageant no-no."

Russo is correct. While you are interviewing for a job, you are not interviewing for the traditional corporate America job. You have a limited amount of one-on-one time with the judges and you want to communicate as much about yourself as possible. Your color choice is an ample opportunity.

Bold Colors

"You're not interviewing for a banking position," Russo said. "You still need to stand out and to me, a color does that very nicely. If you were interviewing for a traditional corporate job then you would be in black or navy."

Kylah Johnson, Mrs. Corporate America 2016. Photo: misscorporateamerica.com

Russo advised her client, Kylah Johnson, pictured above, to dress in yellow for her interview at Mrs. Corporate America 2016. "She looked professional and divine," Wendi said. "You want a color that looks well on you since you are being judged on facial beauty in interview."

Savvy Shields, Miss America 2017's state interview outfit. Photo: Miss Heart of the Ozarks Scholarship Organization Facebook

Another great bold color choice comes from America 2017 Savvy Shields when she won her state title of Miss Arkansas 2016. The royal blue jewel tone is ultra-flattering with her tan skin and blonde hair.

Pastels

While bold colors are always a great option, Aguirre is a huge fan of pastels for interview.

"I'm into jumpsuits and lately I have been a huge fan of high-waisted, flared-out white pants with a very light pale blue or light pale pink color," Aguirre said. "These blouses are the ones with the attached bows. Obsessed!"

Miss Massachusetts USA 2016, Whitney Sharpe, after her interview for Miss USA 2016. Photo: Michelle Aguirre

One of Aguirre's favorite examples of all time comes from Miss Massachusetts USA 2016, Whitney Sharpe. She nails every aspect of the trend. The white pants are perfectly tailored to fit her body. The pants are also lined so it is not see through, an important note in pulling off this trend.

Prints

Prints are another way you can show your personality while standing out in a sea of solid colors. The keys are balancing the outfit and picking the right print.

Miss Uptown OKC USA 2017, Jeanette Sealey. Photo: Lynne Crowe

A great example of a print is Miss Uptown OKC USA 2017, Jeanette Sealey. This print is fun and flattering but also professional. The pinks and purple are great with her golden skin. The busy top of the dress is balanced out by the darker skirt. This keeps the entire dress balanced.

Can I wear a pattern for pageant interview?

When it comes to finding an outfit with patterns there are a couple of things to consider.

First, you want to make sure the pattern on the outfit is not too much. It the pattern overshadows you and the focus turns to your outfit, you have already lost. If a judge is focusing their time analyzing your outfit of choice, they are not giving you their undivided attention.

Second, consider the distance from your judges. When it comes to patterns, certain distances can make the patterns “dance” across you in a negative or distracting way. To test whether this is the case, try on your patterned outfit for your coach and stand or sit the same distance away from him or her as you would your judges.

Lastly, consider the size and design of the pattern. Some patterns are too busy and become overwhelming. Small prints with a lot of detail tend to have this effect so try to stay away from intricate patterns in interview. It is best to pick a simple or abstract pattern for interview to keep the attention on your words, not your outfit.

How important is my pageant interview outfit to my score?

Nailing your interview is critical to winning your dream title. One of the ways you can win over the judges before delivering your perfect opening line is picking the right interview outfit. After all, you never get a second chance at a first impression.

According to Wendi Russo, CEO and Founder of Crowning Success, the first step in picking the perfect interview outfit is to research the system you are entering.

"Every system has its nuances," Russo said. "United States is slightly sexier. America is more conservative and jumpsuits are okay as well. Galaxy is a little more fashion forward. Mrs. America could be conservative to more fitted."

After researching your system, the key when shopping for your pageant outfit is to find something that you feel confident in that still falls within the guidelines of your system.

"I would tell them to choose something they feel professional, sexy and classy in," said Michelle Aguirre, a consultant for PR Pageant Coaches and former Miss Florida USA 2013.” At the end of the day, they are interviewing for a job where we can get away with wearing a knee length dress with an open back, like mine back in the day."

There are also many trends quickly rising in interview. You can wear anything from a traditional suit to a super trendy jumpsuit! However, according to Aguirre, the most important aspect of your interview outfit is the fit!

"I honestly think that a contestant should choose what fits them best based on their bodies," Aguirre said. "Everyone is different. Does it matter whether to choose one of those three (jumpsuit, dress, or traditional suit)? NO! As long as the girl in the interview outfit feels beautiful, she will feel comfortable and confident and kill that interview!"

Where do I find outfits for pageant interview?

There are no limitations as to where you can find your perfect interview outfit! Everywhere from high-end boutiques to resale sites could potentially have the outfit of your dreams!

Boutiques/Pageant Dress Shops

Pageant dress stores and other high end boutiques are a great one-stop shop to get all your pageant outfits. In addition, stores like these tend to employee former titleholders or coaches with some offering their own coaching services. These types of stores can offer expert advice while making your pageant preparation that much smoother.

For example, Dazzle Boutique, located in Oxford and Waterbury, Connecticut, carries dresses, shoes, swimwear and other pageant necessities. Named one of Pageant Planet’s Top 10 Dress Stores of 2017, it carries designers Alyce Paris, Ellie Wilde, MacDuggal, Sherri Hill, Rachel Allan and more.

The downside to stores like these is there is often a bigger price tag. However, according to Russo, quality is important and that can mean spending a little extra.

"I notice the girls do not want to spend a lot of money on their interview outfit," Russo said. "However if you spend $40 on something, the fabric is so thin you probably will see through it. Remember, you will still wear this in the future after you win, so invest wisely because this is the message you are sending while you are communicating to the judges about why you should be chosen. So even if you spend slightly more than $100 on your interview dress, just know you will wear that throughout your year and it will have been a good investment."

Department Stores

You may live in an area where pageant dress stores are not as common or require a long distance to travel. Not to worry, department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom carry a wide variety of brands that are perfect for interview!

Russo has dressed her clients in a variety of designers including Fernando Wong suits and dresses, Black Halo, BCBG, Mark Bouwer and occasionally Calvin Klein. Most of these brands you can find at department stores!

Discount Stores

Now, you may find yourself on a tight budget for your pageant. Discount stores like Ross or TJMaxx do carry designer brands at discount prices.

If you are not afraid of a little clothing hunt, second-hand and other thrift stores like Goodwill could have golden ticket items at unbelievable prices.

Pageant Resale Sites

Pageant resale sites can be a great resource in finding quality pageant attire at an affordable price. However, there are some pros and cons to the websites.

Crown Formals offers a wide variety of pageant items like gowns, swimwear, interview attire and jewelry. You can buy or sell straight through the website. They offer a wide variety of items, options for a large range of ages, easy to sell options and they offer "new item" alerts. However, there is a listing fee, no "buyer/seller insurance" through the site and contacting for purchase may be difficult.

The Glass Slipper is another good option. You can list any pageant item for free. You have the opportunity to buy or sell via the website, but all items listed on the website are also automatically transferred to the Facebook page to gain a wider audience for your sales.

Pageant Resale offers the widest variety of pageant items that can be found on an official website. It has a very easy sale system and offers detailed information on each item. They also offer limited buyer/seller protection and have a large following on both the website and social media. However, there is a six dollar listing fee and a six month post limit before removal.

What type of accessories are best for pageant interview?

Your outfit for pageant interview will determine what kind of accessories you should wear. For example, if you have a knock-out dress, you will want to go with simple jewelry. If you have a basic outfit, you can spice it up with some fun accessories.

When you choose your accessories, put an emphasis on one piece you want to highlight. Are you going to wear big chandelier earrings? Then keep the necklace simple or go without it. Wearing studs? Choose a bigger necklace. Does your outfit have sleeves? Chose to not wear a bracelet. No sleeves? How about adding a simple watch or bracelet or even a bigger sized ring?

If you think you have on too much, chances are you do. Never wear something that will fall off easily or jewelry which makes an entrance before you do i.e. loud bangles. Remember the emphasis is on you, during pageant week.

The key to accessories is to look balanced and pull the outfit together. Do not go crazy with accessories that clash or distract from your outfit.

What shoes work best for pageant interview?

Your attire should match that of the attire you would wear for a job interview. So, would you wear eight-inch stilettos to a job interview? I would hope your answer is “no!” In this phase of competition you are going for a professional look. Rhinestones, sequins and anything sparkly should be left for the on-stage portions of the pageant.

Style

Ideally, a closed-toe style with a high-but-not-vertiginous heel works best for this round because it allows you to stride confidently and works well with most interview outfits. The shoes can have a pointed-toe or be rounded, as long as they look classy. A peep-toe can also be acceptable, but you want most of your feet to be covered. Make sure that your shoes are comfortable and that you can walk and stand gracefully in them.

Avoid ankle straps that cut off the line of your leg. If you are tall, you can pull them off, but shorter contestants should be aware that ankle straps cut off your leg lines. Typically, any shoes that are very “strappy” would not be acceptable in this portion of competition.

Color

The most typical color for interview shoes is nude, but you could also pull off any neutral tone. If the rest of your interview outfit is pretty plain and you need something to make a statement with, you could consider a print!

When done well, print shoes can complement an outfit perfect and project your sense of style directly to the judges. If you are worried that your print or shoe style is too out there, pair it with white!

Height

The height of your heel is be determined by your age division. For example, Princess contestants need not be in four-inch heels and Miss contestants should not wear flats. A good rule to follow for Princess and younger contestants is to pick a shoe that would be appropriate for a church service or a semi-formal brunch. Preteens, Jr. teens and Teens should go with heel heights that are age-appropriate. Miss, Ms. and Mrs. contestants should go with a heel height around four inches.

How should I style my hair and makeup for pageant interview?

Let's talk fun things - hair and makeup. These are the finishing touches to an already incredible look. 

Pageant hair

In most pageant systems, this is the first time that the judges are seeing you, so you want to make a killer first impression. You want your hair to look clean, healthy and beautiful. The judges should focus on your interviewing abilities and confidence, not on your hair. Styling your hair is very important for pageant interview because the judges will be very close to you. There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a style.

Style

It doesn’t matter whether your hair is up or down as long as it is out of your face. If you have hair that falls in your face and gets distracting, it is a good idea to sweep it off your face. You can use barrettes, pins or other clips to create and fresh and appealing look that brings the judges’ focus to your face, not your hair.

Straight or curly hair could work in this phase of competition. If you decide to curl your hair, you will want to curl your hair away from your face. B be sure to avoid crunchy looking hair by using heat protectant spray and not too much hairspray. Because the judges are very close to you, they will be able to see all of the details. Bigger, looser curls are also more common in interview. Try to avoid super tight, ringlet-like curls. You do not want to show up looking like Shirley Temple!

If you want to rock straight hair, be aware that this look only works with those who have the right facial structure. If you have a naturally long face and your hair is longer, going with this style can actually make your face look too long. You will also need to be sure you get some lift at the crown of your head in the form of teasing, but a straighter look can be really refreshing when so many girls tend to go after big curls these days.

Volume

Make sure that you get some tease in your hair so that it looks like a natural lift on the crown of your head. This is a great way to nail your interview look. Even if you do not tease your hair in everyday life, you will need to add some extra volume while competing.

Miss Central Georgia USA 2021 Erin Snow. Photo: Erin Snow

Pageant interview makeup

Check the rules

First, make sure you are allowed to wear makeup during competition. More natural pageant system do not allow contestants under a certain age to wear makeup during the pageant interview competition. Make sure you check with the official pageant rules and regulations before applying any makeup.

Solid foundation

Second, foundation is incredibly important. Foundation serves as the base for your entire makeup look. When picking out your color, your foundation must match your skin tone for pageant weekend. That means you need to account for the spray tan you might be getting and what time of the year the pageant is in.

Set your makeup

Third, make sure you foundation is solid by setting it. Using a setting spray seals your makeup look and prevents makeup meltdowns. You never know if the interview room is going to be hot or if you are going to be sweating from nerves, so it is important to be prepared. With setting spray, the weightless formula allows for a clear sealant to hold your makeup in place.

Go natural

Fourth, put yourself in the shoes of the judge for a second. When you see the queen to be for the first time, do you want to see an airbrushed, contoured, elaborately designed face of makeup or do you want to see the natural beauty the potential queen to be possesses with nice, light, and refreshing makeup?

Most judges state that they do not want to see a total “glamour girl” walk into the room. They want to see how you carry yourself in your everyday life. Interview makeup ought to be light and refreshing. Use minimal blush and keep your eye shadow very simple. Try not to be overdone.

Interview makeup is different than stage makeup. You can still wear a full face of makeup, but avoid preparing for the interview as if you are going on stage. By being simple in the interview, the judges have something to look forward to when they see you grace the stage.

Dark eye makeup should not be worn during the interview process at all. Your lips should have a more natural color that complements your skin tone and the color of your interview dress. Excessive highlight should be avoided. Your goal should be a light, dewy look.

If your budget permits and your pageant allows it, we encourage you to hire a pageant makeup consultant who can teach you how to apply your own makeup or come to your pageant to do your makeup. This will reduce your stress and allow you to have a polished look when you walk into the interview room.

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1 thoughts on “How to Succeed in Pageant Interview”

Sambala Barrow [email protected]

Do those pageant shoes above for the Ms/Mrs do they come with thicker heels for bigger women and the interview outfits?

January 24, 2020

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Angel Bridgers

Angel Bridgers

East Coast USA Virginia Jr Miss

Angel is CEO of SimplyMe, a motivational t-shirt line reminds girls to love themselves & redefine beauty in their own terms!

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