The pageant is now done and I am continuing to muse over the lessons I learned in the Miss BC Pageant. Because so many women and girls want to enter pageantry, I’m going to continue to share as many of my lessons as I can. These are important and I wish I had known them before. Some are mental. Some are physical. Some are informational. All of them are the things I think contestants need to know!
- In the days after the pageant, other pageants (two now) reached out to me and asked me to be a contestant. This is amazing and flattering and frankly I want to say yes to everything that comes my way. BUT. You can only win one title in a year, so you have to choose your pageants carefully. When you win a title, you become that pageant’s spokesperson for the upcoming year. Right now I’m in a learning phase of pageantry, so I could enter every single pageant and continue to focus on learning, but since there are two pageants that have my eye right now, one is the Miss BC Pageant in 2020, I am mindful that flying around the continent to enter just for fun is a questionable use of my time and resources. So, lesson number one: Pick your pageants carefully.
- If you didn’t win a title, ask yourself honestly why you didn’t. It would be easy to say the judges were biased or the pageant was rigged, and maybe in some cases that’s true. But take the time to be introspective anyway. What do you need to work on as a contestant? Even if you don’t plan to compete again, there are valuable lessons to be learned about yourself if you are open to learning them. Lesson number two: be introspective and be open to learning both before and after the pageant.
- Pageantry is a place where femininity thrives and it may be one of the few places where it co-exists with feminism. This is a difficult pill to swallow for some forms of feminism, which in turn, for me anyway, made it a difficult place to shine as a feminist. Feminism is a dark pool of ideologies and I cannot say which version of feminism is the correct one. What I do know is that femininity does not have to the be the vapid cousin of feminism. If you are a strong woman of value, putting on a ball gown and walking a stage will not change your value. It’s just another tool in the tool belt. Lesson number three: acknowledge that feminism is not a one-size-fits-all dogma.
- Pageants are a marathon, not a sprint. I did not really know this until I went through three fifteen-hour days that included approximately 24,000 steps each days. Had I known this, I would have trained. Yes, seriously. I would have trained. I consider myself successful when I complete my 10,000 steps each day, but even when I do those, they aren’t choreographed or time pressured. I just do them. A little walk before work. A little lunch break walk. A little walk in the evening. And we’re done. But the walking we did at the pageant – up the hallway, down the hallway, on the stage, across the stage, back and forth across the stage – was fast-paced and non-stop. Lesson number four: train so you are comfortable doing 24,000 steps each day.
- During the pageant, eat everything you can lay your hands on. Yes, that’s what I just said. You need your focus to be sharp and your body to be capable of doing a really long day. Sure, you dieted before the pageant and you lived off carrot sticks, chicken breast, and rice cakes. But during the actual pageant training and on pageant day, this is no time to dive into your body’s sparse energy stores and hope you have enough to keep going. Eat the bagel. Eat the pasta. Carbs are your friend. Lesson number five: eat the food.
- Drink water and lots of it. This is self-explanatory and really I probably don’t need to include it, but I’m going to anyway. You can’t afford to get sick or dehydrated. You need to be in peak performance at all times. I personally got a one-litre container with a metal straw so I always had water with me and I could drink it without messing my lipstick. Lesson number six: stay hydrated.
- Before the pageant, I read and re-read the organizer’s emails telling us what outfits to pack and what to bring. Then I neatly folded everything into gigantic ziplock bags, wrote the name of the outfit across the bag in sharpie (sponsor’s outfit, athletic outfit, etc.), and sealed it. Then I packed a series of ziplock bags into my suitcase with full knowledge that everything I needed, including the jewelry, was sealed into that bag. On dress rehearsal day, I packed all the ziplock bags into my pageant bag and was ready to go in minutes because of my pre-organization. Then as we changed, I put everything back into the correct bag, which meant I was still ready for the second dress rehearsal. While other contestants were running around trying to find missing items, I took a power nap. Lesson number seven: get organized and stay that way.
- I read a lot about pageant kits before I went. These are just little emergency supplies that keep you together in case of wardrobe malfunctions. Mine included safety pins, needle and thread the same colour as my gown, spare lip balm, aspirin, bandaids, and tweezers. Most girls also brought double-sided tape and initially I borrowed some to keep my sash in place. (Later I discarded this in favour of pinning my sash because my hair kept getting tangled in the tape.) Like my pageant clothes, this went into a clear ziplock bag so I could see the contents quickly. I kept this in my purse. Lesson number eight: be prepared for emergencies.
- In the six weeks leading up to the pageant, I cut out all junk food. I mean all junk food. I had a goal, which was to have clear skin, something that cannot be achieved only by using good skincare. Some cyclic pimples are unavoidable but you can mitigate these by not having refined sugar, extra fat, and alcohol triggering your body. The result when I walked on stage was that my skin was in excellent shape – and I had an added bonus of losing just over ten pounds. Speaking of good skincare, I have been exclusively using only one skincare line for the last ten years (Arbonne.) Whatever you use, if you are getting good results, do not be tempted to change things up at the last minute. This is no time to discover you have an allergy to a product. I say this because our pageant included an evening of healthy living and a free facial the night before the pageant. As wonderful as it looked to have all my make up off before we practised choreography, I did not want to find out if another make up line was going to cause skin irritation. I watched and was deeply envious because getting clean skin early in the evening was an amazing gift to the contestants. I didn’t participate though. The risk was too high. Lesson number nine: make your skin your main priority.
- This last piece is so obvious it shouldn’t have to be said, and yet I’m saying it: create a sleep schedule and stick to it, especially during the pageant. I’m terrible for this. I can get lured onto social media in the middle of the night like there’s a contest for “most tweets read.” But if you aren’t rested, you aren’t going to be fully able to participate. If your schedule looked like ours at Miss BC – back at the hotel by 10:30pm and out the door by 7:30am – then do whatever it takes to get rest. Walk in the door. Take off your make up. Drink some water. Go to bed. If you need a cup of camomile tea or a podcast or whatever to fall asleep, do it. Be mindful of sleep medication though because if you don’t get the hours you need, you’ll wake up groggy and you might not be able to shake that grogginess. Your body needs recovery time and your brain will benefit. Lesson number 10: get enough sleep.
Pageantry is a lot of fun and I hope I conveyed that. While I didn’t include this in the lessons, I hope you already know this: have fun. Really. This entire process is about learning yourself and some skills you never knew you had. You will meet amazing and exciting people and you’ll make new friends. Enjoy the process. The crown and sash mean a lot, but they don’t mean everything.
I’m already looking at the next pageants in my future and I cannot wait to do more! Good luck to you!