At the ripe and impressionable age of 17, I was thrown into my first ever pageant. It was my senior year of high school at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy and pageants were the least of my concerns unless you caught me binging Toddlers & Tiaras.
Up until that point, that show, Miss USA, and Miss America were all the exposure I’d ever had of pageants. I didn’t have friends, family, or even acquaintances who competed in them. This narrow viewpoint of pageants left me with the impression that they were superficial and were for super girly, rich, and mean girls. So when my mom told me she’d signed me up to compete at USA National Miss Georgia, I almost immediately insisted she get her money back. Nonetheless I still competed and felt awful after because of how out of place I felt. This feeling of displacement and insecurity, I found, was due to a lack of preparation and not knowing what to expect from the pageant, not because the girls were mean or catty. This was back in 2017. Now, five years later, I am about to complete my reign of my second pageant title, months after placing Top 16 in the nation at only my second national pageant while working with some of the most prestigious designer and coaching names in the industry. So, what changed? After gathering some resources and seeing the way that USA National Miss specifically has changed the lives of the state and national queens, I decided to challenge myself and compete again. If I had the same knowledge I have now, my experience would have been completely different and less humbling. Here are the things I wish I had known before competing five years ago.
It’s always best to get a second, third, and maybe a fourth opinion.
This goes for everything. In 2018 I competed at the pageant again with the guidance of a pageant coach. She began helping me shape my on-stage presence, my confidence and articulation when answering questions, and reassured me when I had doubts. Four years later, I am still with the same coach and have added on two to really help sharpen my skills for competition. Without guidance from those who are knowledgeable about the industry, I’m not sure I would have made it this far in my growth. It is always best to get a second opinion on your ideas for interview, your walk, hair and makeup, and your wardrobe. The creativity and support from other people will encourage you to think outside of the box and make more thought out, competitive decisions. You need a support system.
There should be a purpose behind everything you do.
When I was 17, my reason for competing in the pageant was because my mom signed me up, not because I asked her or I wanted to be there. That was a problem. In 2018, when I went back, my reason was to challenge myself and add a new layer to my personal growth. That mindset is the one that got me third runner-up on my second try. If you are going to sign-up for a pageant you have to determine your purpose; your what, your who, and your why. What are you doing? Who are you doing it for/Who will this benefit? Why are you doing it? Once you can honestly answer those three questions, you have your purpose. You’re far more likely to be disciplined in your preparation and competition if you have a set purpose or goal that you feel must be sought through. If I didn’t have a purpose behind competing, there’s no way I would have made it this far. I would have quit before I ever got a crown. My purpose is to grow personally so that I may inspire young black girls to reach for their goals no matter how big or crazy they sound. What’s yours?
Presence is everything.
From the way you dress, to the way you walk, all the way down to the way you talk, your presence matters. One of my favorite sayings reads “Determine the woman you want to be and start showing up as her.” When I started competing, I wish I had known the importance of wearing clothing that fits your style and exudes your personality, with hair and makeup that compliments. Your appearance plays into your presence which all ties into showing up as the queen, rather than hoping to become her. The level of confidence you have in the interview room is a prime example of your presence; being authentically you with confidence. Early on, I would search for dresses that I thought the judges would like or that were on brand with what past winners had worn rather than searching for a wardrobe that would help me express my personality without me having to say a word. Finding your purpose and owning your presence are the keys to successful growth when you are competing.
If I had to tell you one thing I wish I had told myself before my first pageant competition, it would be “You’ve got this.” No matter what happens, your worth isn’t determined by the outcome, but your growth is determined by the lessons you will learn. So, go for it. You’ve got this.