Happy Thanksgiving from sunny southern California. Nationals is in full swing and things couldn’t be going smoother. Tonight are the first of the pageant finales and by 2:30pm we will have our first new national queen for the year.
During the Red Carpet Awards Ceremony, Steve Mayes, my national director, asked me to say a few words to the audience. And the words couldn’t be more applicable than now. Please remember that nationals and even the pageant is about so much more than crowns, banners and trophies, it’s about letting these kids know how special we all think they are. It’s about taking every opportunity to applaud these kids..to celebrate them.
I read a great quote the other day on the internet that really brought it home for me. “Kids are the living messages that we send to a time that we will not see.” How true that is, they really are our legacy!
Wow, it’s really here, by this time next week, nationals will be in full swing! I can hardly believe that I leave this Friday for California. I am so excited that I will get to see so many of these amazing families that I meet at the state pageants and meet so many from all over the country. Stay posted to the blog once nationals starts. I will be writing a lot to keep everyone informed on what is going on!
Samantha Hundley, our 2008 National American Miss Kentucky Jr. Teen, emailed me today to let me know that she was the Prudential Spirit Award winner for her school! With this award, she is now a state finalist for the state of Kentucky and will continue on for the national award.
As her school representative, Samantha will be a guest speaker for an organization called Young Ladies Like Us who works with sixth graders stressing about the importance of abstinence and making wise choices in life.
Congratulations Samantha, we are all so proud of you!
A few years ago, while working at the National American Miss Maryland Pageant, I encountered one of the bravest young people I have ever met.
It was during the Personal Introduction portion of the competition, and this girl comes up to deliver her personal introduction, she was either a Teen or Jr. Teen. Now keep in mind public speaking is the #1 fear among Americans, above death, spider and even snakes, public speaking is #1. So the fact that these kids are up there is an accomplishment all of its own. Anyways, so you probably know, all you have to say is your name, hometown and something about yourself, like what you ambition is. This young lady starts her personal intro, “Hi my name is Suzy..” and she freezes. Now I have seen this before and more often than not they get so flustered they simple say “thank you” and walk off the stage, but not this girl. She recollected herself and started again, “Hi my name is Suzy from Baltimore…” and she freezes again. At this point in time the audience is frozen and you could hear the faintest sound. But like the champ that she is, she started over, and again after that, four times it took this young lady to get through her personal intro!
When she finally made it though her personal intro, you have never heard a crowd cheer so loud, everyone one in the ballroom was glowing with pride for this girl. After the event there was a line of people that wanted to meet her and tell her how awesome of a job that she did! The support from her friends, families, strangers, and fellow competitors was overwhelming.
It was another reminder that even if we don’t get it right the first time, we should always try our best and see things through to completion. This girl was an instant winner as a result of her perseverance!
The Debate ’08 Youth Forum was held in Nashville on Tuesday, October 7, 2008. Eight 4-H members from across the state, including the 2008 National American Miss Tennessee Jr. Teen, Jaclyn Torento, gathered at Legislative Plaza in Nashville for a state wide youth forum and debate, to have their unique voices and concerns heard. They discussed issues concerning youth including, childhood disease, military service, and education. The panel was made up of members of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.
I am so proud of all the hard work that Jaclyn is doing in her community and state.
This past fall several of the National American Miss Oregon queens took part in the Susan G. Komen walk for the cure. I am so proud of these kids! In a time when none of us have free time, these outstanding young people took time to contribute, to give back, to do something for someone else.
I encourge you to take this time to find something you are passionate about. A cause that you can get behind, something that is near and dear to your heart. Maybe its autism awareness, maybe its the make-a-wish foundation. Whatever it is, get involved, make a difference.
A friend reminded me of a quote this week that always makes me pause and think. “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ~Gandhi.
A lot of kids in our program choose to participate the optional contests. Every year its so great to see them display their talents, skills and abilities on stage. The variety of talents I have seen over the years is astounding. Every time I think I have seen it all, something surprises me. One year we had a girl do turkey calling, this year in Tennessee we had a girl skateboard on stage!
Often I am asked, do the optional contests have anything to do with who wins the overall pageant. The answer is NO. As the state director part of my job is to seat 2 separate panels of judges, one for the optionals and one for the overall pageant. The overall judges aren’t allowed in the ballroom during the optional contests, the judging is complete after the representation of the formal wear during the final show before we announce who won the optionals, they don’t even get to see a program book until after the pageant. I go to great lengths to make sure all the judges are impartial and unbiased.
Sometimes a young lady who does well in the optionals also does well in the pageant. This prompts the occasional inquiry. The simple situation is that kids that participate in alot of optionals tend to be more comfortable on stage. Maybe they have taken dance lessons for years, or have been in band for a while. As I mentioned in previous blogs, this isn’t a beauty pageant. The more confident and comfortable a contestant is on stage, the more the judges are going to see that. They are looking for the young ladywho is self-aware, proud of who she is, they are looking for the representative for their state.
Years ago while I was working as the sound tech at the Washington State Pageant a young lady approached the sound table and asked, “Can I set my batons on fire for talent?”. Of course for obvious safty reasons my response was, “no”. So she appeals to the hotel and they gave her permission to. So I was l like, “well, if they say it’s ok.” So there I am on the side of the stage with a fire extinguisher just in case, God forbid, something goes wrong, I’m prepared. I lean over and I ask her, “so how long have you been twriling fire batons?” Her response is one that still echos in my ears, “this is only my second time setting them on fire!” Holy smokes, sound the alarms…….. Luckily, nothing went wrong and everyone made it out alive. I don’t know if there’s a nugget of wisdom in there or not, but its a fun story none the less.
As pageant season approaches, I continually get asked what kind of dress should we wear for the pageant. My answer is always the same. As long as it is within the rules and guidelines, it doesn’t really matter. When I prep the judges for each event at pageant weekend, I go over the exact same information that each contestant and their family receives. These details are spelled out on page 10 of your magazine #1. I tell the judges it’s not about the dress on the girl, it’s the girl in the dress. In my opinion a dress can only hurt a contestant’s score when its not within the rules set forth in the material. When the judges look at each contestant the only weight the dress carries is whether or not it is within the rules.
Best time to buy a dress. The best time to buy a dress is the late spring, sometime after all of your area schools have had their proms. The department stores and local shops will start to mark down their stock to move what’s left of their inventory. If you do go shopping for a new dress, find the one that compliments your personality. The more confident you feel in the dress, the more confident you will be on stage in the spot light!
Now keep in mind you do not have to go out and buy a new dress. Most people already have a dress that they can wear for the pageant. For the younger ones, if she has ever been a flower girl, most of those dresses will work fine. For the teens, if you have a prom or homecoming dress, those usually work fine too.
My best advice is don’t stress about it. In the grand scheme of things the dress matters very little!
Yesterday in my blog I talked about the great comments that I get about the pageant from parents and contestants. As part of my role as the state director I consider it my responsibility to inspire these kids to strive to be their best, to set goals, and be proud of who they are, just the way they are. Every pageant weekend I go into with this mind set, but more often I find myself being the inspired, not the inspirer.
A couple of years ago in Kentucky we had a young lady participate who had cerebral palsy. She chose to compete in the optional spokesmodel competition. She delivered one of the most powerful and touching speeched I have ever heard. Now keep in mind, simply get on stage alone is a feat of heroism all on its own, but as she spoke she reached every heart in the room. She talked about how she was “abled” and not “disabled”; what an amazing outlook on life! It’s so often when I find myself disappointed but something small and meaningless, imagine suffering from this disease like this little girl, and in the mist of it all knowing that her possibilities are limitless.
Even today I was inspired. I got a call from a mom who just wanted to call and tell me what was going on in her daughter’s life. During our conversation she told me about something that her daughter did at the state pageant that made her proud to be her mother.
For those of you who have been to one of my state pageants you will remember that as the girls come out of interviews, all the parents (whether it’s their child or not) cheer for them as they are escorted into the parent waiting room. Well this particular 15 year old, who’s name was about 2/3 of the way through the interview noticed that as she came in the crowd of parents had dwindled down to just those who where still waiting for thier child. This contestant chose to stay in the waiting room to cheer for every single last one of the contestants who came out of interviews. Her mom told me that she wanted every contest to have the experience of hearing people cheer for her as she completed her interview…….wow!
Always remember, no matter how old or young you are, you have the chance to inspire!