Elite Miss Earth United States 2017 titleholders. Photo: @elitemissearthunitedstates Instagram/Southern Exposure Photography
Many pageants seem to stop at age 24, mirroring MAO. Historically, by 24 you should be married. But in today's world, 24 means going on to graduate school and furthering your career, not being a wife and mother. Additionally, the demands of the title meant that you couldn't have a career and be an MAO titleholder, but now we seem to be more open to the possibility of a career woman taking the crown. Today, we see women at Miss America who have careers and and are going on to advanced degrees in medicine and law. It's not just college students, many of whom graduate at age 21/22, leaving two years of MAO eligibility. It's quite encouraging, really, to see pageants for women beyond the quarter-life crisis mark. Some caterpillars take longer to turn into butterflies, after all.
Pageantry Beyond Age 24
Melissa Hill, 2016 International Ms. Photo courtesy of Melissa Hill.
With modern women looking beyond to careers and advanced degrees rather than down the aisle, pageantry is adapting. (Read: Why You Should Compete as a Ms Contestant)
Miss World goes to age 26. Miss Universe can not be older than age 27. Miss Earth goes to age 26. Miss United States goes to age 29. Miss International ages up to 30. Miss Earth United States even has an Elite Miss division for ages 26-32. Face of the Globe allows contestants 18+ with no upper age limit. Miss Collegiate America also doesn't have an age limit.
Miss United States offers two titles for older contestants with varying marital status. Ms. which is ages 20-29, "Must have been previously married, or had a child, or both, but be currently unmarried. Is a natural born female who is not currently pregnant." There is also Ms. Woman, which is ages 30 and above, "Currently Unmarried. May have been previously married, or had a child, or both, or never been married or never had a child. Is a natural-born female who is not currently pregnant." There is also International Ms. for ages 26-37 who are unmarried Ms. World can be age 26 or older, and of any marital status. American Elegance Pageants are for ages 20 and older, and Ms. America is for age 26+, single, married, divorced or widowed women
There are also Mrs. titles. With women getting married at all sorts of ages these days, some holding off and some not, we see a wide range of ages in even the Mrs. divisions. Mrs. International goes from ages 21-56. American Elegance Pageant Mrs. division is for girls age 25 and older. Mrs. America and Mrs. United States do not have age restrictions.
Age is a Double-Edged Sword
2016 Teen and Miss International Delegates at finals night. Age ranges between 13-30. Photo courtesy of the International Pageants Facebook page.
With age comes wisdom, but our bodies tend to go downhill. Our metabolism may be slowing, our skin may be sagging, and our hair is dyed not just because that look is in and the color is on trend, but because it's hiding grey hair. We no doubt are wearing contacts and glasses. While the older we get the more life experience we have, in pageantry, we have to hone in on what really matters. We have to limit answers to only a few seconds when we have enough information and experience with the subject to talk for hours on end.
Age Range Difficulties
We also struggle backstage in any pageant with a huge age range. Miss Earth is for ages 16-26. Miss USA is for age 18 up to age 27. Miss United States is between 20-29. Miss International is between 19-30. Almost 10 years is a big age gap and it can become difficult and frustrating during competition for the older girls. We may not be as energetic, we may be dealing with issues beyond the pageant, we may find the innocence and personalities of younger contestants annoying when we're stressed and nervous, and political and lifestyle discussions can be complicated areas to navigate. But age can be a positive if you stay cognizant of its downfalls and seize the opportunities that come with its advantages.
Mallory Hagan was 24 when she won Miss America 2013.
As we get older, we become more aware of the world around us and more knowledgeable on how things work beyond our inner circle and how things effect us personally and how that decision will affect others. Because of this, we need to hone in our answers and opinions to be able to express them coherently and concisely.
Often, the first time I do mock interviews with older contestants we average one minute and 30 seconds for an answer. If you only have 2-3 minutes for an interview, you're not going to get many questions. Treat interview just like an onstage question.
On an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Oliver was discussing the Miss America pageant and how contestants are expected to solve world issues in 20 seconds. He was then shocked when one contestant answered a question on ISIS better than many world leaders had managed at that point. You can say a lot in a short amount of time, just as we do in onstage question. You want interview to be a conversation, not a lecture. In today's world we have short attention spans, so be able to answer your questions as concisely as possible. Treat the details like sprinkles, you only need a few to brighten your answer. You don't need to douse the judge in chocolate syrup details. Instead, allow the judges to pick specific details for you to elaborate on.
Olivia was 26 when she was crowned Miss USA 2015. HO/Miss Universe Organization L.P., LLLP
The dreaded onstage question. We're probably going to be asked our opinion on something or to solve a major world issue and we only have 20 seconds.
I always say to practice not with a timer, but with a stopwatch. Ask yourself a question and then answer to the mirror or a judges panel of teddy bears (they're comforting, nonjudgmental and great for eye contact practice). Hit the start on the stopwatch as soon as you ask yourself the question, take a deep breath, and answer the question as you would normally. When you finish answering, hit stop on the stopwatch and see how long you took. Sometimes it's a shocker,"OMG, did I really just spend a minute and a half talking about that?"
Now, think about what you said. What was necessary? What was fluff? Take out the fluff. Ask yourself again, and time it. Keep working on it until you get it down to your time limit. Without the fear of a buzzer, you stay calm while you're answering and don't try to rush to fit everything in and you'll realize what it feels like to answer in 20 seconds and how much can fit in that time. It's just like an essay. You may have 500 words maximum, write 850, have to delete 350 words, and then feel like you didn't totally get your point across. You did, but you did it like a journalist with limited page space rather than a novelist.
Whitney Montgomery, Mrs. Southeast International 2016, following rehearsals. She had her platform with her the entire competition and placed in the Top 10. Photo courtesy of Whitney's Facebook page.
Just like it is hard to pick a platform at age 18, it is hard to pick just one the older you get. The more experience we have in the world, the more we realize everything that needs to be fixed. But we can't be everywhere and we can't save everyone and everything.
How do we combat this the older we get? We find organizations that either cover a lot of what we stand for, or give us an outlet that lets us change the world, even for one person, which is something that is the most important to us.
At age 26 I found my platform. While educational policy, environmental health, animal rights and healthy living are things I feel strongly about, I can't be everywhere and save everyone. But through Girl Scouts and the values that it instilled in me at 7 years old, I can do my part in all of those things and even more. The older we get, the more we have to be creative, and even sometimes selfish, with our time. Our professional and personal lives demand so much of us in the modern world that we have to find balance and sometimes that even means crossing our platforms with our professional and/or personal lives.
Working Out and Meal Prep
Morgan Bredde, Mrs. Minnesota International 2016, won Fitness and placed Top 5 at Mrs. International 2016. She also has two young kids. Photo courtesy of minnesotainternational.blogspot.com.
Eating right and working out can be difficult with the demands we face personally and professionally, but the trick is to balance, schedule and plan.
Depending on our schedules, we may have to get creative with our workout times and locations the older we get or in order to work around kids' schedules. The key is to schedule the time just as you would any other appointment or meeting.
My dad goes to the gym after work every day. He then comes home, eats dinner, and takes the puppies to the park for their walk. I joined a gym 20 minutes north of my work even though I lived 45 minutes south of work because I could get to the gym faster going that direction at rush hour. I then missed the rush hour traffic driving home. My trainer, Brian Attebery, who trains many pageant contestants, worked out a plan to work with my busy schedule. The plan also included a meal plan that worked with my 30-minute lunch and included a lot of pageant-approved options.
Unlike younger contestants who may be at the mercy of cafeteria food or parent opinions, older contestants have the liberty of making food for themselves. Mrs. contestants may have to work around picky kiddos and husbands, but this can be a great time to get your family on a healthy road and try new things.
You can find meal prep ideas and recipes on Pinterest. When I was a kid, my mom had a calendar in the kitchen and at the beginning of the month we would fill out what we wanted to eat each day for dinner. On Fridays we had Papa Johns because Mom cleaned the house after work and she wasn't going to mess up the kitchen. But other than that we rarely ever ate out. This saved my family a lot of money.
Example, I took my mom to Sam's last week. We got chicken for $1.80lb and we have three days of chicken for the family from that pack. We got 10 days worth of meat, and a few other things, and only spent $130. You don't get that going through the drive through. My former Assistant Principal spends one Saturday each month making up meals to go into the freezer that they can heat up when they get home from work. He as an Assistant Principal, his wife, a School Counselor, and three young kiddos means a busy household. But meals ready to go prevents them from going out to eat.
I used to cook chicken from frozen in my microwave grill all the time. Roughly 10 minutes in the microwave for the chicken and I could heat up some broccoli in my Sistema mug for about 6 minutes and I had dinner in about 15 minutes. Knowing this kept me from going through the drive through. While making dinner I'd make a salad or wrap for work the next day, jump on my spin bike in the dining room for some extra cardio, or dance and sing in the kitchen.
United States National Pageant 2016 Queens and Marc Defang. Photo courtesy of United States National Pageant Facebook Page.
With experience comes knowledge so don't be afraid to be the "Mom" of the pageant. If a teen is stomping on stage in their heels, show them how to walk. Odds are they are watching you anyway so help them out. Use your experience as an air of calm, not arrogance. Try not to put anyone down, especially to judges. No matter how naive you think a younger contestant is, try not to say anything. You can disagree but keep your poise.
Remember what you thought the world was like at her age and let her live in it a little longer, you know what it feels like to face the real world and how desperately we sometimes want to go back to before we were so aware of the big bad world. But with that awareness comes drive. Use it, embrace it, have a plan, stand your ground. Remember with great power comes great responsibility.
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