Miss America 2019: Could The Crown Fit?

“Have you thought about competing for Miss America?” surfaced more than a handful of times during and after my reigns as an Aquatennial Princess and Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Initially, I laughed at these inquiries, knowing full well I was no “beauty queen” and had little experience in the “real” pageant world. Everything I have done up to this point has been judged solely on paperwork, personality, professional poise, communication skills and interviews, all areas in which I now take great pride. Thanks to my studies and experiences, namely in scholarship/ambassador programs, my editing is razor sharp, professionalism is on point, interviews and self presentation—albeit rusty—kill, and interactions with the public easy as ABC; not trying to toot my own horn (trust me, there’s still plenty of room for improvement), rather applaud the people and programs responsible for these realizations.

I want to keep this as real as possible:

“Have I thought about competing for Miss America?” Yes. LOTS. I’m a dedicated fan. I follow state titleholders throughout their reigns and never miss a Miss America competition (Sept. 10, 2017 on ABC).

“Do I want to compete for Miss America?” Yes. How could I not want to challenge and better EVERY aspect of my life, serve others as a full-time job and *bonus* win a $50,000 scholarship??? DUH! That’s not even mentioning being a national role model and CMNH ambassador, supporting a cause of my choosing as my personal platform and representing America across the States and world. I mean, really, how could I not want to?

The impending question for me has always been, “will I compete for Miss America?” and it’s complicated. Allow me to explain:

Logistically, finding the time to compete has proven difficult mostly due to my wanderlust. If I’m constantly out-of-state or abroad, it leaves me no opportunity to commit myself to a local or state yearlong reign. The way I see it, if I’m going to do it, I’m in it 110 percent, which means devoting (at least) a full year to staying in the U.S.

Beyond timing, I hesitate to compete for a couple reasons that I’ve tried and failed to justify, rethink or approach differently.

First and foremost, I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes and unrealistic expectations, especially when it comes to appearances. I exercise at least 5 times a week, eat my veggies and whole foods (with the occasional treat), and I certainly don’t look like a preliminary swimsuit winner. I know it’s possible to challenge the stereotype, but how can one ignore the ongoing reputation that Miss Florida (the state I’d be competing in) holds of winning the swimsuit prelims with consistently trim, slim figures. On a side note, what’s there against exercise clothes rather than swimsuits? I just don’t want to be the girl that “hasn’t eaten dessert in months” or the one that exercises 3 hours a day to maintain her physique. I can’t seem to get on board with what it would cost me—mentally and physically—to look like a previous swimsuit winner.

Next, there seems to be an utter discordance between what you must do to win the Miss America crown and what you actually do in your year as Miss America. Anyone ever see Miss America in a swimsuit during an appearance? How about twirling a baton or advising the world on how to solve its problems in 30 seconds? To be fair, I see the high value in being comfortable in front of an audience, quick on your feet to answer tough questions and up-to-date on current events, but publicly sharing your opinions on culturally sensitive topics like politics in front of millions of viewers?

Finally, the scorecard breakdown:

30% – Talent

25% – Interview

20% – Onstage Question

15% – Evening Wear

10% – Lifestyle and Fitness

I know I’m not the only one that has some questions here, especially about the weight talent holds over an interview.

When all is said and done, what Miss America does outside of competition is everything I want to do, encompass and represent. I simply question if the Miss America Organization has embraced its transition from a beauty pageant (in its early years) to a scholarship program to the fullest. All scrutiny aside, I have an immense respect and admiration for all young women who compete in MAO. The dedication, determination and self-discipline this organization demands is not to be undermined or underestimated. However, to be true to myself and pinpoint my purpose should I compete, these are concerns that I must remedy to some degree in order to proceed.

With that, I openly welcome cordial discussion, comments and input surrounding the topic.

Un beso y abrazo fuerte (xoxo),

Jeni

 

How to Prepare for Candidate Week: Aquatennial Edition

It’s crunch time! That means you need to keep practicing and start planning to be the most prepared possible for your big week. At this point, you should be drilling the mock interview questions with your family and friends, start laying out your wardrobe and playing with some hair and makeup ideas. Here’s everything you should get in order before day one.

PRO TIP: Eliminate decisions (applicable to everyday life choices, too). The more you limit your selection, the more energy you can focus on what matters: being present.

Head to heels

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First impressions really do count. Make no mistake: the moment you step out of your vehicle, you are being judged. So, I strongly encourage that you step out with your best foot, best smile and best style. To prepare for Aqua week, my mom and I planned my outfits (clothes, shoes and jewelry) for everyday with little baggies of jewelry hooked around the hangers. Sticky notes for hair and makeup reminders are also great tricks!

 

Outfits

  • The style matters. If “business professional” attire is requested or required, you are wearing a suit. Be sure you don’t mix “business professional” with “business casual,” or worse, “casual.” A sundress, khakis or casual skirt does not count as “business professional.” A jacket is often an excellent choice to bring your outfit up to a “business professional” level.

PRO TIP: Don’t forget to cut the little string off your pockets and the slit of your jacket, skirt and/or dress.

  • Pay attention to length! Don’t be deceived by the “professional looking” dresses and skirts that are shorter than 3 inches above the knee. Despite the style, too short a length is a sure fire way to look extremely unprofessional. If you question it, it’s probably too short. This applies to every piece in your suitcase. I cannot stress this one enough.
  • Modest is hottest. Cheesy, I know; but, this advice works in tandem with length. Be careful with deep-cut blouses or thin straps. Especially when you’re interviewing, you want the judges to be fully focused on your words, not a bad wardrobe decision. NEVER let any undergarments show—not even a bra strap.

PRO TIP: Avoid see-through clothing. Do the bend-over in front of your mirror test with every light possible turned on.

  • Frost yourself. Think dainty and tasteful when it comes to jewelry. There’s no need to over do it. Don’t wear something you’ll play with or something that will bug you. Look to Pinterest for guidance if you’re questioning how to complement a neckline or outfit. (Shoutout to my How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days lovers!)

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  • Heels or flats? I’ve always been told heels look more professional, so I typically choose heels for work. That said, if you’re going to fall over, slip into flats. The most important thing is that they are professional looking, moderately comfortable and match your outfit!

Makeup

  • Keep it natural. Mainly, avoid gaudy glitter and excessive use. While make up can be fun and expressive, you want your words to do the talking during judging, not your looks. Keeping it fairly minimal and natural guarantees the focus won’t be directed anywhere but on ySONY DSCou. If you don’t use makeup, don’t feel like you have to. Be true to yourself!

PRO TIP: Stick to earthy tones. I like finding eye shadows and face palettes that are specific to skin tones. Sephora is my go-to for everything makeup!

  • Play with it beforehand. If you’re not accustomed to doing your makeup or doing a natural look, test it out before you leave. Again, the less you have to worry about frivolous details, the better.

Hair

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    Keep it collected. It doesn’t necessarily have to be up, but your hair should stay out of your face (without you tucking it behind your ear). If you are using hair binders and bobby pins, find and use the ones that match your hair color.

  • Look at the radar. Plan a hairstyle for a “bad weather” day. Something that won’t deflate, frizz or tangle (the infamous “Aqua bun” is a lifesaver).

Beauty sleep and beyond

Get your sleep and mentally prepare for your week. It is equally, if not more important that the week itself. Find time to relax before you leave so you can start off fresh and full of energy!

“Princess bag” essentials

During my year of reign, the ever-so-necessary “princess bag” was born thanks to our fabulous Captain, Gary. It was kindly loaded with our must-haves, some absolutely necessary (bobby pins and stain remover) and others more for comfort (cheese-itz). Bring a few “princess bag” items with you to candidate week. They will help keep you grounded and happy when you get tired.

 

Happy packing and prepping to all of the 2018 Aquatennial Ambassador candidates! Soak it all in!

Speaking for Ambassadors 101

Words matter. From your first interview to your farewell address, what comes out of your mouth has the opportunity to leave a lasting impact, positive or negative. As an ambassador, speaking is the key to a successful reign. You don’t have to be a word wizard or the next Shakespeare, but you better believe that you’ll need to put some time and effort into your words in more ways than you probably thought. Speaking is one of my favorite topics to discuss because 1) improvement comes with practice (what you put in is what you get out) and 2) this skill is arguably the most important and transferable of your year that you take and apply to the real world.

General tips

WORDS MATTER
  1. Practice, practice, practice10527885_10204347077019933_9088825874254368143_n
  2. Cut the “umm’s,” “uhh’s,” “like’s,” and “well’s”
  3. Lose the slang and jargon
  4. Practice enunciation and pronunciation
  5. Say “young women” or “ladies” instead of “girls” when referring to fellow ambassadors
  6. Never re-welcome the crowd once the host has done it (i.e.: “Good evening,” “welcome”)
  7. Avoid reintroducing yourself
HOW YOU SAY WORDS MATTERS
  1. Practice, practice, practice
  2. Energize your tone—if you aren’t excited and show you care about what you’re saying, why should your audience be?
  3. Always speak with conviction—an easy way to convince the crowd what you’re saying is legitimate
  4. Learn from yourself—review recorded interviews and speeches, and give yourself a friendly critique
BODY TALKS
  1. Practice, practice, practice
  2. Be aware of hand movements
  3. A podium is a prop, not a crutch
  4. Make eye contact
  5. Keep your chin up, shoulders back and feet planted
  6. SMILE!

Area-specific tips

SPEECHES
  1. Record and watch yourself before the real deal
  2. Take a deep breath right before beginning a speech—it slows you down
  3. If you screw up, you can start over (judges are just as human as you)
  4. Add personality to your content
  5. Make the judges laugh
  6. Think outside of the box on content and presentation
INTERVIEWS & RADIO TALKS
  1. Avoid negatives and repeating negatives
  2. Bridge, bridge, bridge—it is the key to talk about what you want to (*wink* key messages *wink*)
  3. Know your messages before you begin—especially for radio interviews
IMPROMPTUS
  1. Keep it short and sweet
  2. Outline three key talking points mentally
  3. Try to draw personal connections to your crowd

 

The bottom line: your speech, interview or conversation will never go as perfectly as planned. Practice does not make perfect because perfect does not exist. Aim for progress, not perfection. With that in mind, remember that there will always be opportunities to improve for anyone at any level and any age.

Get practicing and happy speaking!