True Story: I Compete In Pageants

This is part of our True Story interview series in which we talk to fascinating people about interesting/amazing things that they’ve done. This is Ashley’s story of her experiences with pageants.


How did you get into doing pageants?
Growing up, I loved watching Miss America and wanted to compete in pageants, but I didn’t compete in my first pageant until I was a senior in college. After watching Miss Congeniality one too many times, I decided I wanted to see how the movie compared to real life.The first pageant I entered was a state pageant in the Miss USA system, and I learned so much from watching the girls who had been competing in pageants their whole lives. It was a surreal experience (you really can use hairspray as butt glue!), but it was, also, fun and very interesting, so I decided to try some more.

How many did you take part in?
I have competed in four pageants so far: one state, one local, and two national.

Can you tell us what the other contestants were like?
Pageant girls come from all walks of life, and I am always impressed by the other contestants’ confidence and intelligence. I’ve met some wonderful people including a baton twirler, a Special Olympics spokeswoman, and a marine biology student. The last few years pageant girls have been getting bad press, and I think it is so unfortunate that they are stereotyped as one type of person. Contrary to popular opinion, every contestant isn’t like Drop Dead Gorgeous.

At a pageant a few years ago, my family could not afford to attend any of the events. I met a girl who was competing to help pay for law school, and we bonded over having no one in the audience to cheer for us. Her parents had not been able to make the trip, but when she learned that my family was with me but couldn’t afford the tickets, she bought two tickets for them so that we could have someone in the audience cheering for us. It was a sweet and unexpected gesture, and her thoughtfulness still means so much to me.

What are some common misconceptions about pageants?
1. Miss America is the only American pageant. – Miss America is one of the largest pageant organizations, but there are lots of other systems such as, Miss USA, Miss International, Miss Galaxy…

2. Miss America fell down at the Miss Universe pageant. – Both years it was actually Miss USA; Miss America does compete at Miss Universe because it is a different system. It’s surprising how many legitimate media outlets reported it wrong.

3. You have to have a talent to compete in pageants. – Not all pageants have a talent competition. Miss America does require a talent, but Miss USA and many others do not.

What kind of questions are you asked in the interview?
All kinds. There are books out there with questions to help you train for the interview, but the actual questions I’ve been asked in competition have been pretty random, covering a wide range of topics. I’ve been asked:

How would you describe the color blue to a blind person?
Who is your role model?
If you were a makeup brand, what brand would you be?
If you could ask the President one question, what would it be?
If you could be on the cover of a magazine, what magazine would it be?
Do you think the glass ceiling still exists for women?
What’s your greatest accomplishment?
If your friends described you as a verb, what verb would it be?

What’s the most challenging aspect of doing pageants?
For me, the most challenging part of competing in pageants is raising the money to compete. A lot of girls get sponsors, usually financed by friends and family-run businesses, but I don’t usually have sponsors because most businesses in my area are corporate run and do not contribute to individuals. So, I typically pay most of my expenses myself. Pageant entry fees, program ads, hotel, travel, and competition wardrobe all add up, so you can end up spending a couple thousand dollars (or more).

What sorts of things have you won in pageants?
Pageant goodie bags are wonders to behold – makeup, clothes, jewelry, bags, water bottles, coupons, toiletries… Gift bags are my weakness, but I end up giving a lot of it to friends and family because it doesn’t fit or I have doubles, etc.

How did people react when you told them that you were doing pageants?
People were very surprised. To be fair, I am nowhere near six feet tall and rarely go swimming because it means people will see me in a swimsuit ☺ However, I am a very determined person, so their disbelief made me want to compete even more.

Would you recommend the pageant world?
Yes… and no. I’ve learned a lot about myself from competing in pageants, but I haven’t always found it to be the best confidence booster. While pageants are supposed to build self-esteem, they can, also, have the opposite effect – you are being judged on your body after all – so I think it is important to be confident in who you are before you compete. A sense of humor, also, helps because all of a sudden walking becomes a big deal, and you start thinking things like, “What if I fall walking down the stairs?”

Do you still do pageants?
Last year I took time off to pursue other interests, but I would like to compete in more. I enjoy the drama, making new friends, and having an excuse to dress up. I hope to raise money to compete in another pageant in the near future.

Any advice for ladies interested in doing pageants?
If you are under 24, I recommend competing in a Miss America local because they offer mock interviews, basic pageant training, and the fee is only $100, which I believe still goes to the Children’s Miracle Network. There are a lot of pageants out there (Mrs., Ms., Miss, Teen, Petite, Plus, Heritage, Mail-in…), so with a little research, you can find one that suits you. Do check references to make sure the pageant is legitimate and find out if past contestants enjoyed their experience.

Have any of you ever competed in pageants? Any questions for Amy?

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  1. QM

    WHOA, this is so cool. I used to watch beauty pageants when I was younger and I thought: No way. These people can't be real. They are too beautiful

    I really admire some of them who went up and fight for women rights & help out charities.

    If only I was taller enough, *sigh*

  2. Sarah

    A few girls in my sorority have been in the pageant world and we always joke in recruitment that you can tell a pageant girl by the way she stands. But it's true! Its a good thing though! They have really good posture and they seem to be very sure of themselves.

  3. Tegan

    Its nice to see such a positive and down-to-earth look at pageants. Many people only know what the media tells them about it, which is stereotyped movies and Carrie Prejean.

    • Anonymous

      Butt glue is almost like a hair spray. You buy it in a can like hair spray and it is to spray on your butt so that your bikini does not move while you are onstage. The stuff works like super glue.

  4. Anonymous

    I have always wanted to be in a pegnant, but I'm too short!


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