Georgia College & State University hosts Darlyn Davis, a local beauty pageant queen who’s on the road to Miss Georgia. Darlyn is a 20-year-old GC sophomore from Warner Robins, GA. She is a Mass Communication major who recently won Miss Flint River in Albany, GA. I wanted to learn more about her path and what it is like to live a life of pageantry, so I sat down with Darlyn to hear what it’s like from the queen’s mouth.
Her Campus: So to kick off, how did you get started? Was it your choice or a parent’s choice?
Darlyn Davis: It’s kind of funny. When I was younger, my mom says that I wanted to start pageants. My brother would win all these competitions, and I saw all these trophies he had, and I said ‘Mom, I want trophies like that.” So she kind of had this idea that I wanted to do pageants, but the fact that I wanted to win trophies solidified that. I got into them when I was young. I did them when I was five or six, but I didn’t go every weekend and try to win pageants. But I finally won one when I was five, so I kept doing them, but I always got first runner up, so I quit. Then I said ‘let’s win that middle school pageant,’ so that’s when I started getting back into it.
HC: So you also tried the Warner Robins pageant, being from there?
DD: Yea, it was what you call an open pageant, so that means anyone can come and compete in it. So what happens is all these girls who just competed in Miss Georgia and have $3000 dresses would come and win the pageant, where I would just do that one pageant every year and that was it.
My goal was to win my middle school pageant, so I did the Miss Warner Robins OT (Outstanding Teen) for preparation, but I never won the middle school pageant, and in the last year that I could do the OT, this girl came in and won, and then she ended up winning Miss America as an Outstanding Teen. So I did that, and my next goal was to win my high school pageant. And the thing is, for all these girls who compete, they go weekend to weekend to weekend traveling across the state doing pageants, and I couldn’t do that, so I just did Warner Robins. I did a prelim for Miss Georgia Forestry and won that, then I won my high school, then I won Miss Georgia Forestry, then I thought ‘you know, maybe I could do Miss Warner Robins. Maybe I could do it, just that one. I swore to myself I’d never put on a two-piece, but I can do it!’ So I did and got first runner up. So, my next goal was to make it to Miss Georgia. I did pageant after pageant, and Miss Flint River was my 8th since July.
HC: Wow, I mean, that sounds crazy to me, but like you said, a lot of people basically do this almost like a career!
DD: Yes! And it’s sad, cause I see the same girls every time. The thing is, the components are: interview, on-stage question, swimsuit, talent, and evening wear. Your interview could be great, but if you don’t have the body, they’re not gonna choose you. If you don’t have the talent, they’re not gonna choose you. But they all have to like you in the interview, so it’s like a chess game. I have to do well enough in the interview to where they like me, I have to have a somewhat decent body, I have to have a decent talent, good eveningwear dress. It’s crazy. They do Olympic scoring, but they also have a ballot, so I could have the highest score and get 5th. They literally send back a ballot and write down who they like the most, and whoever has the most #1s would be the winner.
HC: What is it like to prepare for it? Is there any research or practice? And how does the preparation for something like Miss Flint River differ from something the caliber of Miss Georgia?
DD: I would say, preparation-wise, it’s really hard. So, you obviously have to be fit; so, you’re working out every day, twice a day sometimes. You’re not only working out but writing down your calories and making sure every single meal is packed with protein. After that, you’ve got to find a dress. At the beginning of the season, we bought a couple dresses, so you’ve got that down, you’ve got to get your swimsuit. At Miss Georgia, they have a sponsor, and you have to wear their swimsuits, so this year they only have a blue one, a pink one, and a one-piece green one. Last year was raspberry, so it’s kind of hard sometimes to differentiate who you like the best. Some people’s skin tones will be completely washed out by it.
HC: Yea, everyone, despite being fit, has different shapes and bone structures, and that might not flatter them.
DD: Yea! After that, you’ve got to figure out what talent you want to do and prepare for it.
HC: Do you have a go-to talent?
DD: I sing, so I can usually sing just about anything when it comes to pop. I usually sing Christina Aguilera, but this year, I sang Christina Aguilera a bunch and kept getting first runner-up, so we decided to change it up. I changed to Jackson 5’s Who’s Loving You. That was fun! I just met with this guy, and we chose a different song that I’m super pumped about, cause it’s my favorite band.
[After the talent], then you’ve got to do the interview, and for the interview, you literally have to be up to date with every single current event, every news article, everything. Not only that, but you have to know things you can connect to. So, if someone were to ask me ‘what’s the biggest issue facing teens today,’ I could say ‘the fact that we don’t care about our environment,’ and then I’m tying that back into me by talking about bee keeping. What else about bee keeping? I could tell you I’m a businessperson, but not only that. I don’t like honey, so I don’t eat my profits. See, it’s all a structure in the fact you’re setting them up to ask you questions.
I guess that’s what the preparation is like for Miss Flint River, but then it’s five times more intense for Miss Georgia. I mean Betty Cantrell (Miss American 2016) took a semester off of college to prepare for it. I mean I would never take a semester off. My end goal is just to do the best that I can. It can be hard when you’re competing with 50 girls.
HC: Is there a cap on how many that can participate?
DD: Well the thing is, it’s really just a money thing. Every single pageant I do, I have to donate $100 to Children’s Miracle Network. After $500, you can stop. There’s also a princess program where the Miss contestants and the Teen contestants have a kid aged 6-13 be a princess, and they get all these perks, but that’s like $300. So, they want to let as many people as they can do it. But at the same time…
HC: You can’t let it get too crazy.
DD: Exactly. There’s literally a week of preliminaries. Every night there are 50 teens and 50 misses competing, but all in different sections.
HC: When is the competition?
DD: June. So it’s coming right around the corner!
HC: After winning Flint River, or any other pageant in which you’ve won, were there any sort of social appearances or things required of you?
DD: It depends. Usually our board of directors will let us know what we should do. This Sunday, I’ll be going back down to Albany to do a fashion show for one of our sponsors. It just depends on what they want us to do, but at the same time, the greatest thing about the Miss America organization is that we all have platforms. So it’s not just about ‘you look pretty.” We have a platform that determines all of our volunteer work. My platform is advocacy for Alzheimer’s. So I partner with the Alzheimer’s Association in Macon to do as much as possible.
HC: So, let’s get real, because I, alongside many others, am super interested. Beauty pageants have always had a negative social perception. Have you ever witnessed that first hand? I feel that insulting beauty pageants was trendy back in the day, but I don’t hear it a lot anymore. I was wondering what it’s like from your point of view.
DD: Well, I will say, when I was younger, it was cutthroat. It depends on what system you’re doing. But I remember girls purposefully stepping on dresses to make them rip, spilling coffee on people. People just play mind games. It’s all the time to where we’re required to wear a certain outfit. [In practices], people would go home and change so that they could have an advantage against you.
HC: Oh, to make you think you know what they’re wearing!
DD: Exactly. So that’s why they have a new rule at Miss Georgia that, at practice, you have to wear what you’re wearing at Miss Georgia; because, it used to be girls would bring 4 dresses, see what everybody else is wearing, and then change. It’s all just a mind game, but what’s the point. Then you get into it. When it did Miss OT, everybody knew everybody, and I was just kind of there by myself. Just a little 13-year-old doing her hair and make up by herself, because that’s one of the rules. You can’t have any parents back there helping you. So you have little groups of girls who just went to Miss Georgia together, all best friends. It’s not that I don’t try, but at the same time, I don’t care to be best friends with you because I’m here to compete, and I’m not here to compete against you. I’m competing with myself. At the same time, they say it’s all about friends, but it’s not when you’re out there on the stage.
I would say that the negative connotation comes from people in the media making it seem like it’s horrible. I would say that at the higher levels, like Miss Georgia and Miss America, [the contestants] become like really good friends, and I get that, but at the lower, local levels, there’s groups of girls who’ve been best friends for all their life, competing for Miss Georgia since they were 13-years old.
HC: It’s such an interesting culture.
DD: It is, and the thing is, you don’t have to spend lots of money to win. People always think you have to put so much in it, when truly it’s not about what you wear. It’s about how well you interview, how good your talent is, and the rest will follow. That’s what I’ve always prided myself in, is that we would go to a consignment shop in Atlanta and get really good dresses that’ve never been worn for $200-$300, which is pretty cheap. Then I’d go and get 3rd runner up at Miss Warner Robins against girls that paid thousands of dollars for their dresses and just came back from Miss Georgia. So I feel proud about that.
HC: I know you mentioned this a couple times earlier, but is that common that you see girls who move up the pageant ladder, not make the place they were wanting, and then come back and sweep lower levels?
DD: Yes. That’s one of the worst parts. This year, I feel like I could do well, and a lot of girls feel that same way. Then they go and they don’t even place. Then they’re crushed because they put so much time and effort and money in it thinking they were going to win when they don’t. Then you’ve got girls, I know one who won 4 years in a row getting 4th runner up, then 3rd runner up, then 2nd runner up, then 2nd runner up, and that’s it. She could never win, where Betty went 2 times and won. I feel bad for girls who go and dedicate themselves to it and change every year and do something different every year and pay so much money every single year. Then they don’t win. However, I can see why they would want to dedicate themselves to this, cause it usually ends up benefitting you.
HC: Final thoughts?
DD: I mean, I love pageants. I feel like there’s such a negative connotation about them, but yet, they’re so good for you. Put all the drama aside, me as a 13-year-old is a better me because of pageants. I’m able to interview better. I can go to any job interview and feel like 100% after I come out of it. I’m so up to date on all current events. I can go and perform a talent out at the fountain any day I want. I feel like I would encourage all people to do it, simply because it could help you in so many different ways.