"So...what do you actually do to prepare for pageants?"
I've been asked this questions multiple times and honestly, I would have asked the same thing before I competed. Most people know about the Miss America swimsuit, evening gown, and interviews, but there is so much more to competing in pageants than the 30 seconds on stage.
Since 6th grade, I've competed each year and learned more about myself each time. Although my parents encouraged and helped, they mainly left it up to me to follow through with paperwork, payments, and preparations. Because of my experiences with NAM and pageants in general, I'm now responsible, organized, and a creative problem-solver. So let's break it down.
- Paperwork: The not so glamorous part of pageants is all the paperwork that is necessary. From resume forms to Emcee cards, there are always a plethora of forms to fill out. From repetitive but necessary information like name, State, Age division etc. to very important resume questions like "Why should you be the next Miss MN?" each form can take awhile to perfect. NAM makes it fun with colorful magazines and packets (and to be perfectly honest, I get excited when forms come in) but it does take some time set aside to complete. This same type of process was necessary in applying for colleges. As I sat there filling out similar questions, I realized I had been doing the same thing for years now. It gave me a better idea of what to expect and because I had been doing it for so long, I was efficient and got the applications done quickly.
- Payments: Oh finances. Lovely. I'm not an Accounting or Finance major and like a lot of people, crunching numbers isn't something to look forward to. Back when I was starting out with pageants, I mainly relied on my parents and finding sponsors. Because I wasn't working in 6th grade and didn't want my parents to have to pay for everything, I set out to find sponsors...and found it wasn't as easy as I thought. To be perfectly honest, finding sponsors wasn't something I was excited about or good at. I look up to the girls who sell advertising for the program book and have an extensive list of sponsors because for me, it didn't come as easily. But I kept trying. I stay organized and followed up on calls and finally I was able to get meetings with managers of car dealerships and local businesses. That's a big step for a 7th grader! I learned how to go on meetings, sell, and write thank you notes....which is scarily similar to my current job at the Minnesota Daily. I prospect new clients, go on meetings to learn about their business and how advertising with our paper can increase their exposure, and follow through to get advertisements in the paper. I'm continually learning and refining my skills in this aspect, skills that began all the way back in 6th and 7th grade. Another aspect of finances is to figure out what funding is available for you to use. As I grew up and started working, I would save money to pay of optionals I wanted to enter and put my Christmas money towards paying for state pageants. I would work hard and make sacrifices (No, I won't get a new phone yet. I'll compete in Spokesmodel instead), each year becoming better organized with my finances. At first, I would sometimes miss important deadlines but the State office was always understanding, knowing this was a learning process for myself as well. I quickly learned about writing deadlines down and staying on top of payments, which is something that is so necessary for any stage of life. Paying for college tuition, rent expense, and sorority dues are all big investments and payments but because of NAM, I have learned a way to stay organized and not miss deadlines
- Preparations: This is the typical prep work people often guess at when it comes to pageants. "What do you do, walk around in gowns?" Well honestly, sometimes yes! Perfecting a formal wear walk is important and I even have a coach that knows the inside tips of competing. How to stand, how to walk, and how to present yourself with grace isn't something that comes naturally for most people. It's not just walking on stage, it's showing the judges how you'd wear the crown you're competing for. Personal introduction is another required competing in NAM where we talk for up to 60 seconds about what makes you stand out, what you're involved in, and who you are as a person! The writing of these is a long and laborious process. Think if you only had 60 seconds to sell a multidimensional product, where would you begin and how would you condense it to catch people's attention? I like writing and editing Personal Introductions because it requires creativity. Interview is something I think I spend the most time preparing for. I admit it: I hold whole interviews with myself in my car. But whether it's crafting just the right sentence in Personal Introduction or coming up with a creative and unique answer for interview, I've found I'm actually really creative! Some of my best and most unique work comes to me at 2am when I can't sleep and my mind won't turn off. That's when the outside the box thinking occurs, which ultimately helps me stand out in competition. I've used this same type of 2am creativity for group projects, marketing ideas, and problem solving for leadership positions I've been granted.
Needless to say, the preparations for competing in pageants has taught me more than how to stand on stage and look pretty. It's taught me responsibility, self-discipline, finances, and provided an outlet for my creativity. Because of NAM, I feel I am better equipped to face the "real world" (which believe me, as a sophomore in college is pretty scary). I've been able to transfer my talents learned from NAM into real and applicable situations and I know that learning process will never cease.