As competition season begins, I want to share some words of wisdom.
The best thing that you could possibly do for yourself is to relax. As the stress builds when the competition nears, it’s easy to get caught up in worrying about minor details and you may find yourself trying to control every little thing. Of course, it is a very human response to seek ways to be in control when there is so much that is out of your control at a competition like this. Take a step back and remind yourself that this isn’t life or death. Yes, it may feel like there is a lot on the line, but regardless of whether or not you win the title, you’ll carry on with your life with one more experience under your belt. So take time to breathe and reflect on the experience as a whole and what you hope to get out of it. Let yourself get out of that fight or flight mode.
I remember the final night of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in 2017 and feeling my heart sink in my chest as I didn’t hear my name called into the top 15. I was devastated, and I felt like I had let my family and friends down who’d spent so much money and time flying across the country to support me. Now I can recognize that they didn’t care whether I won the whole competition or walked away empty handed, they were just happy to be there supporting me. If I HAD won Miss America’s Outstanding Teen that night, my life would have been completely different than it is today. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have gone on to compete for Miss Alaska, which means that I would have never become Miss America.
It’s okay to be different. This is one that took me a long time to understand. You may feel like you know what the judges are looking for, and the biggest mistake you can make is to try to become that person, betraying who you truly are. I have certainly made that mistake before, and it didn’t turn out well for me. Embrace the things that make you unique, and allow the judges to see you for who YOU are. Can you imagine how boring a competition would be if every girl dressed the same, spoke the same, and acted the same?
I remember the morning of my Miss America interview and how nervous I was. I could barely eat and my stomach was in knots. I was SO scared of embarrassing myself or tripping over my words or not knowing the answer to a question. I saw the girls around me flip through their binders of interview prep and I started to panic, realizing how unprepared I was compared to them. In fact, I spent my free time that morning frantically rereading my resume and essay, and scouring the internet for possible answers to controversial questions. The few minutes I spent alone before walking into the interview room, I listened to some Doja Cat and did power poses in the mirror (though I didn’t feel very powerful). Once I sat down in front of the judges, I realized that I had the answers within me. I didn’t need to worry about how well the girl before me did in her interview, because what mattered was what would transpire between me and the judges in that 10 minutes. I reminded myself that they weren’t there to trip me up and see me fail, they just wanted to get to know me, for who I am. That day, I had the best interview of my life. I was vulnerable, which was scary, but I felt a connection to those judges. I showed them a part of me that I had never been open about before and though it was terrifying, it felt good to speak my truth. And it obviously paid off in the end!
So I leave you with this, probably the piece of advice you’ve heard the most, but can’t be emphasized enough: The other candidates are not your competition, you are. Don’t waste your energy comparing yourself to the girls on your left and your right. Use that energy to put your best foot forward and give the judges your best performance.
Here is some advice from my Miss America class:
“A quote that’s really helped me is something I made up for myself “you can be Hershey Kiss, but the judges are looking for a Kit Kat bar.” Doesn’t mean you aren’t great and likewise doesn’t mean the winner isn’t great, it just means you’re great in a different way than what the judges were looking for that day.” -Andolyn Medina Miss District of Columbia 2021
“Somedays I feel like there are so many girls who could do this job better than me. I’ve realized in some aspects that’s probably true, but the judges didn’t choose me because I was the most articulate, talented, beautiful, etc. They chose me because they loved who I was. So take off the pressure to be perfect and focus on sharing who you are, remember why you are competing, and tell yourself you are capable and worthy of this! It took me four years to win my first local title and three years to win the title of Miss Wisconsin. So take off the pressure to prove yourself in this one competition. The outcome does not determine your ability to be a local or state titleholder or even Miss America someday!” -Jennifer Schmidt Miss Wisconsin 2021
“Being surrounded by the incredible, accomplished women who compete in the Miss America Organization is definitely empowering, but it can also be easy to look around and feel like you don’t belong. This kind of imposter syndrome is something I’ve consistently dealt with, and it didn’t stop after winning my state title or after coming home from Miss America. But you were selected to compete at this level for a reason, don’t sell yourself short. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my time as a state titleholder is that I’ve consistently underestimated myself, and it wasn’t until I started giving myself the credit I deserved that I found the success and growth I was looking for. You are capable of so much more than you think – remember that when you compete. “ -Grace Lynn Keller Miss Iowa 2021
“I am no better than anyone else, and no one else is better than me.” It’s a two-sided quote that serves as a perfect reminder in competition that we are all worthy, and every one of us has strengths we bring to the job. No one is guaranteed the role, including me – “I am no better than anyone else”. At the same time, when I start to look around and get intimidated, I remember that I have just as much of a shot as any other candidate – “no one else is better than me”. -Elle Mark Miss Minnesota 2021
“Never give up!! I competed 5 times for the title of Miss Montana, and each time only got better! Sometimes it’s not a “no” it’s just “not yet!!”” -Jessica Criss Miss Montana 2021
“This consists of what I’ve found to be helpful and what I’ve learned while competing! 1. Savvy Shields said it before, but I’ve found it quite helpful: have a goal outside of winning. It could be making new friends or getting comfortable speaking on stage! But have a goal outside of competing to help you lessen the pressure you place on yourself. 2. Make peace with the possibility of not winning. The crown and sash are incredible, but they do not define you. Your true value lies in YOU first and foremost! 3. Be happy for the woman who does win, because she earned it too! One person’s hard work does not discredit or take away from another’s. You can be happy for someone else while finding ways to improve yourself! 4. Take a moment before the competition starts to have time to yourself. Backstage can get crazy busy, and the energy can be at an all time high. Take a brief moment about 20 minutes before curtain call to retreat to a quiet spot, meditate/pray, and center yourself. It really helps to find balance and peace before stepping on stage!” -Lydia Sohn Miss Maryland 2021