It was a moment I visualized over and over, the host announcing my name as the winner, "and your new Miss America is.." and I imagined what it would feel like to have a crown placed on my head, and a sash across my chest, as I walked down the runway as the new titleholder, waving to the audience & the cameras. Thrilled to be in such a place of influence, I knew this kind of platform was the opportunity I had been waiting for.
Excited by the prospect of being able to have a platform through which I could positively influence the next generation, opportunities to network with some high-brow people and companies, and the chance to win a good-sized scholarship, I found myself training to compete in a pageant. Knowing nothing about this new world of glitz, gowns and crowns, I found coaching and began the journey.
"Ok so you'll strut down the stage and do two Dior turns, remember to hit your stance when you're in the middle...Now don't do this when you're in dress rehearsal because you don't want them to know what you're going to do, but let's practice the full walk for now. Remember, for the state pageant, there's some big steps you'll have to go down first, but keep your gaze up as much as possible, the judges want to connect with you. Think shoulders back, chest up, and big smile..let's go!" The latest pop song played as I rehearsed for the swimsuit portion of the competition. Pivot, pose, flash a big smile.. I loved to perform, so this was so much fun! There were new workout routines to do, diet plans to begin, and swimsuits to choose.
"You'll need to have a piece ready for talent. The judges always love lots of turns, jumps and more of the tricks-type of showy pieces. That floor is like dancing on glass, so you'll need special fabric put on your pointe shoes to keep you from slipping." I listened to clips upon clips of music, searching for just the right piece that in a minute and 30 seconds could capture the attention and hearts of my judging panel & audience. Talk of custom costumes, music mixing and choreography was the focus of the day, and I began to daydream what it would feel like to hear the thunderous applause of thousands upon finishing my piece.
Next on the agenda was a day spent feeling like Cinderella, trying on bejeweled gowns of silk, taffeta, chiffon, and satin in every color imaginable, each exquisite in it's construction. Feathers, gems, and ruffles swirled about as I practiced walking in the gowns and glass slipper-like pageant heels up and down the store. I fell in love with every dress I slipped into, each a gorgeous work of art, and made me feel like a queen. "Ooh, the silver fabric will be knockout under the lights. We'll need to do a fitting in a few weeks, and she'll need another gown for the onstage question." I practiced the evening gown walking pattern for a few hours, gliding across the floor, cool, calm and collected. Why yes, I do in fact, wear these gorgeous evening gowns everyday.
Hair and makeup was next. In went the hot rollers, creating those big, beautiful flowing locks. "You'll need to change the color though, your styling is going to be similar to this one girl who just won.." So, off to the new stylist I went, and left the salon with a totally different look. Hm, I've always wondered what I'd look like with dark hair...well, now I know. Spray tans, talk of hair extensions, a set of false eyelashes and a lot of mascara later, I was looking like a Barbie doll, and stage ready.
We moved onto preparation for the most important part of the entire competition, interview. This category counted for the majority of your overall score, and is the actual way they choose the next winner. To get to know each contestant, a private interview is held behind closed doors, away from the cameras and public eye. Personal platform and current world issues are discussed, almost as if one is applying to become the next senator. To prepare for such an intensive process, I began to study the news as though it held the secrets of the universe.
We held mock versions of the real thing, my coach firing question after question at me as I was asked about everything from favorite songs to my platform of youth development & teen leadership programs, national and statewide unemployment rates, my thoughts on trade embargoes, education, the situation in the Middle East, prayer in schools, gay rights, and other major issues involving our country. Give your opinion, my coach requested, but instead I found that wasn't what they wanted to hear at all.."So Candice, what's your thought on..." I breezed through question after question, until it came to one.. "You know you can't say that and win, you'll have to change your answer.." But that isn't my opinion.
"Do you want to win?" I left coaching that day realizing this whole thing wasn't what I had thought it was at all..
to be continued...
Read Part 2
Read Part 2