I want to share some thoughts about preparing and competing for Miss Arkansas since many people may not realize the extensive preparation required to compete for the title. Also, I hope to give some ideas and encouragement to contestants as they prepare for the job next summer!
With the goal of Miss Arkansas in mind, I began in August of 2009 to expand my platform so I could be prepared to promote it on a daily basis. My platform “Second Chances Through Mentoring” focuses on my work as a mentor to pregnant teenagers through the Promise House. In order to further develop this platform and give it a national connection, I chose to partner with a well-established organization focused on mentoring, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and to personally mentor a “Little Sister” each week. I also raised funds and implemented a scholarship for first-generation college students in my hometown. Finally, I outlined and worked toward perfecting my message to elementary and high school students through lots of presentations in the schools. I recognized the significance of working on my platform if I were given the opportunity to represent Arkansas at Miss America. Also, it is important to have a fully developed platform so that the year as Miss Arkansas can be marked with purpose and direction.
This past summer was not exactly an easy one because my life was drastically changing. After graduating from Ouachita Baptist University, I made plans to move to Little Rock. I leased my first apartment and prepared to enter pharmacy school in August. My best friends scattered to find jobs all over the state of Arkansas, and my boyfriend lived in Rwanda, Africa. Focused on my goal of becoming the next Miss Arkansas, I was starting to put pressure on myself. I wanted the job position so much and desired to do my very best in the pageant. Toward the end of June, I was completely emotional and second guessing every decision that I made. Finally, a good friend called to see how the preparation was going. We talked about how I was putting pressure on myself, and she said, “Just stop. Snap out of it.” As simple as her advice was, it was all I needed to hear! I finally relaxed during the next two weeks leading up to the pageant. I stopped second guessing myself and decided to enjoy the experience!
Before the arrival ceremony on Sunday, I moved my six bags into the Austin Hotel. I was so happy that arrival had finally come! Bethany Whitfield was my roommate, and we had a great week together! I really enjoyed getting to know some of the chaperones and backstage volunteers better this year. Their service is so valuable to the organization, and I appreciate their dedication and hard work!
Interview is the first phase of competition and the moment that the contestant first meets the judges. I love interview! I especially love the politically charged questions but also realize that it is my one and only chance to visit with the judges on a personal basis. Therefore, I try to respond to their questions in a way that will show them how passionate I am about my platform while, at the same time, incorporating some humor and knowledge. When preparing for interview, think about how to answer questions about the job position of Miss Arkansas and about plans for enhancing the Miss Arkansas legacy. I consider it more of a job interview and less of a pageant interview.
There are many strategies for choosing one’s competition number during the lottery in May. I chose group C so that I could start with what is, to me, the easiest phase of competition and then increase momentum during the week. My first competition phase on Wednesday was swimsuit, which is a measure of confidence in front of an audience. I also love the onstage question segment so I was pleased when it was included in the Wednesday preliminary. Thursday was evening gown, which I consider to be somewhat difficult since high heels, heavy dresses, posture, and grace make for a tricky minute of being onstage. Finally, talent preliminary on Friday night created the challenge for me to stay on top of my game throughout the week since talent counts the greatest number of points in the overall score.
Speaking of talent, I danced on a weak right ankle on Friday and Saturday. I never told anyone because I didn’t want them to worry about it. In fact, I tried to wear heels to the autograph party at the mall on Saturday afternoon but couldn’t physically walk in those shoes. Personally, I was somewhat disappointed with my Friday night performance … which served as motivation when I was given the opportunity to dance again on Saturday night after being named to the top 10.
Learning to maintain stamina until the very end was the greatest lesson I gained during my first year of competing in Miss Arkansas. The week can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Many girls get discouraged after not winning preliminary awards during the week, making it difficult to focus on what’s most important … being well-rounded in all areas with the goal of being in the top 10 on Saturday night. Some say that it is possible to predict the top 10 by who has energy and high spirits during Saturday morning rehearsal. There may be wisdom in that statement since stamina is so important.
Speaking at the press conference following the Miss Arkansas pageant!
One principle that I have sought to follow, both before and after competing in Miss Arkansas, is to NEVER compare myself to other girls. It is much more important to be true to myself and appreciate what makes me different. When I have the temptation to compare, I quickly pray that God will teach me how to focus more on serving and loving others instead of thinking about myself. It is only natural for people to compare Miss Arkansas to former titleholders. Each Miss Arkansas has different strengths, which make her unique in a special way. Therefore, our sisterhood, with its combined strengths and abilities, make the Miss Arkansas Organization stronger and diverse. During this wonderful experience of wearing the Miss Arkansas crown, I keep in mind the following phrase: “I will do my best to be my best.”