National All-American Miss Princess 2017-2018 Landry Piller before her interview at Nationals. Photo: National All American Miss Princess Facebook page
It has been said a thousand times but it bears repeating. The interview is the most important area of competition. As harsh as it may be, the fact is if a contestant bombs interview, she is not walking away with the crown. The pressure to do well in interview brings images of tough mock panels grilling contestants as they prepare to compete for their dream title. There are hours spent pouring over current events and social issues as contestants carefully craft their opinions. Not to mention, the hours spent on small details like how to stand and what to wear. This sounds intense, but it is the work and dedication that goes into the chase for the crown. (Read: How to Prepare Your Judges For Your Mock Interview)
At least for a Miss contestant... While you may hope one day your favorite Princess will grace the stages of Miss USA and Miss World, there is still a long time before interview preparation becomes this intense. (Read: What Pageant Questions Are Asked in Interview at Miss World?)
Princess contestants usually range from 4 to 9 years old. Given the young age, their interviews are going to be very different from a Miss contestant's, and how you prepare for that interview should be different as well.
Understand the etiquette
You cannot teach something you do not know! In order to teach your Princess about her etiquette in the interview room, you have to know the etiquette yourself. "She needs to introduce herself, her title and have a seat and make eye contact during interview," said Wendi Russo, founder and owner of Crowing Success. Some of her clients include National America Miss 2016 Maddie Helget, National American Miss New York 2017 Amanda Torchia (first runner-up at National American Miss 2017) and Mikayla Holmgren, the first contestant with Down's Syndrome to compete for Miss Minnesota USA. (Read: Contestant with Down's Syndrome Competes at Miss Minnesota USA) "Small children sometimes have a difficult time making eye contact and sitting still, so those are crucial in the interview process as well as a pleasant smile on her face and a positive energy and personality," Russo said. "The judges are looking for personality, poise and an ability to speak with strangers and be polite. She should thank each judge after she interviews with them."
Once you understand the etiquette, do not forget to explain it to your Princess. Once she understands what she is being judged on, she will be more natural. The more natural she is in the interview room the better!
Wendi Russo poses with her client National American Miss New York 2017 Amanda Torchia. Photo: Wendi Russo
Use prep questions
Prep questions make everything easier. A clear list will help you stay on track during practices. Check out this list and use it to help your Princess prepare! (Read: Top 10 Pageant Interview Questions for the Princess Division)
Keep it short and sweet
Children have short attention spans. This can make long practice sessions difficult. Practicing in small blocks keeps pageant prep enjoyable and positive. (Read: Top 10 Tips to Succeed at National American Miss) Russo's daughter, Chloe, is a longtime competitor of National American Miss and started in the Princess division. Russo used this technique when preparing her own daughter. "The biggest challenge was teaching her how to sit still during the interview," Russo said. "I suggest you work with your daughter only a few minutes at a time. Short spurts of practice are all you need."
National American Miss Princess 2017-2018 Bailey Sheridan with National American Miss Princess 2016-2017 Terri Lynlee Staggs before interview at National American Miss Florida. Photo: National American Miss Princess Facebook page
Learn to be sociable
When your daughter walks into the interview room, she will be talking to a panel of judges she has never met. This can be nerve-wracking as an adult. For a child that may not be very outgoing, this can be overwhelming, to say the least. Practicing with others, like a coach or pageant friend, will teach your child how to interact with the judges she is meeting for the first time. "Every child develops at a different rate, so the main issue is to get her comfortable speaking with strangers," Russo said. "So if she is only coaching with her mother, she may have a more difficult time when it comes to actually meeting strangers in the interview room. If your daughter is not very talkative, it’s time to get her to open up and share a story or two. If your daughter loves to talk, make sure that she stays on topic and answers the question without rambling on."
Let them have a say, but be firm
One of the most valuable skills pageants can teach contestants of any age is independence. During your many etiquette lessons, let your Princess contestant have a say in how she will present herself in the interview but do not be afraid to draw a line when her imagination runs wild. Since a huge part of etiquette is understanding how to dress, one of the best ways you can do this is through the interview outfit. (Read: How Much Say Should Your Princess Contestant Have in Her Wardrobe?)
"What you like and what you should wear sometimes are two different things," Russo said. "I always made sure that my daughter was able to tell me if she’d like something or not. My advice is you need to show her only appropriate outfits and then she can say if she likes it or not."
National All-American Miss Princess 2017-2018 Landry Piller and National American Miss Minnesota Jr. Preteen 2017 Caleigh Proulx before their interviews at Nationals. Photo: National All American Miss Princess Facebook page
Interview is one of the hardest parts of the competition. Luckily, for Princess contestants, the most important rule is to have fun! What etiquette tips do you have for this division? Comment below!
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