Are you seeking to gain more career confidence and take advantage of new opportunities?
Have you ever considered pageantry as a profitable professional development opportunity?
Are you wondering how pageants can propel you in business and beyond?
You can fuel your success and live the life you have always wanted, with advice from business-savvy queens who have used pageantry to catapult their career endeavors.
I interviewed some of the most accomplished pageant queens who have started online coaching businesses, graduated from Harvard Business School, created success as lawyers, obtained PhDs, recognized as award-winning journalists, served as corporate executives, and traveled as professional speakers.
Pageants can lead to success beyond what you have imagined. That’s why I decided to ask 17 national and state pageant-winners the following question:
How can you use pageantry to propel your business and career goals?”
Tara Dawn (Holland) Christensen, Miss America 1997
People typically go to college to gain information regarding a particular industry, but pageantry gives a young woman the skills to get her foot in the door of that industry and truly become successful in her chosen career. In what other venue does a young lady practice her personal image presentation, such as a confident walk, eye contact, body language, public speaking, and proper attire, not to mention persistence and diplomacy? The interview portion of pageantry alone teaches women skills that they otherwise may never learn but are essential tools to business and career success. Participating in pageants forces the serious contestant to examine herself and realize the areas of image presentation that they need to address. Then, she goes through the painstaking process of refinement. I have never spoken with a former pageant contestant who, after learning in the areas she needed improvement in, regrets the effort she put into her personal presentation.
Tara Dawn Christensen was Miss America 1997, and thoroughly enjoys her current titles of speaker, singer, wife, and mom.
Nancy Nguyen Liles, Ms. Corporate America 2011
During my reign, I was able to meet entrepreneurs throughout the United States and share my book, “The Networking Diary.” Some of my favorite speaking engagements were at the National Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization (C.E.O.) and National MBA Associations. As a 2011 titleholder, I was in my first year of business in Raleigh, NC. The workshops I attended during the pageant helped me apply new tools to help grow Sweet T Salon.
I loved the opportunity to speak on business radio stations and to do my salon’s ribbon-cutting with the MCA title. The best part of having the MCA title is the opportunity to support dozens of charities like the SPCA, Urban Ministries, Wake Smiles, and more. As a business-owner, I think that being MCA has provided me with the friendships I have needed on my business journey.
Women around the world are watching American business women succeed in ways that may not have been possible decades ago. MCA uniquely brings together ethical business professionals and community leaders to highlight women’s professional achievements in the workplace. This pageant is forward-thinking and a wonderful platform for anyone (me or other women) in business to be inspired.
Nancy T. Nguyen, MBA is a first generation American entrepreneur, licensed cosmetologist, and the author of The Networking Diary.
Sarah Bazey, Mrs. International 2012
Pageantry has the ability to teach valuable lessons if the individual is willing to learn:
First, regardless of anyone’s opinion of pageants, it takes inner strength to enter a pageant, much like applying for a new job. Both journeys start with taking a risk.
Second, it is essential to dedicate the time and effort required to be prepared for a competition or develop the skills to land a job, as well as advance a career.
Third, in most cases, both competing for a title or a job require an interview. If a pageant participant learns nothing else, they can grow from the interview process. In fact, I would argue that a professional interview rarely gives an individual the prior training or valuable feedback received in many pageants.
Fourth, it is truly awesome to watch a young person speak in a public forum. Pageantry so often allows for public speaking, thereby giving life skills that will serve the individual well in their academic challenges, professional endeavors, and personal lives.
Finally, whether or not the crown is placed on your head or the job offer is made to you, the opportunity to connect with people is priceless.
Sarah Bazey is the Owner and President of Simplex Construction Supplies, Inc., a national award winning distributor of concrete and steel used to build our nation’s infrastructure. Her pageant career has come full circle, as she recently purchased the Miss Teen of America Pageant, which recognizes young women for scholarship and achievement.
Ocielia Gibson, Miss Black USA 2011
To experience success in your career after pageantry, you must begin with the end in mind. You should find ways to strategically align your platform, online image, and appearances with your business aspirations. Many young women miss this step — not taking into account how their pageant participation impacts their career goals. If you’re passionate about your dream career — after some soul-searching, you’ll quickly discover ways to align your activities with the end goal.
My company, More Than a Pretty Face International, was first my platform. As a platform, I organized it as a nonprofit organization with four components: 1) mentoring, 2) educational workshops, 3) social-media presence, and 4) empowerment events for girls. Due to the foundation that was laid during my years of pageantry, I established More Than a Pretty Face as a business that has now served clients with spiritual and social empowerment throughout the U.S. and Kenya. Something that was important to me as titleholder was managing my image and maximizing the relationships I developed, so I would put myself in the best position to garner positive opportunities.
Overall, I am grateful for my preparation and participation in pageants. It truly helped me to develop multifaceted beauty — impacting not just my appearance, but all the senses that make a woman shine. How this is done is something I go into with more detail in my Bible Study, More Than Pretty. Every girl and woman can use her pageant experience to propel her into success — she just needs to focus on it, make a plan, and pursue her goals!
Ocielia Gibson is a former Miss Black USA who socially and spiritually empowers young women through writing, coaching and speaking nationwide.
Laura Lawless Robertson, Miss Arizona 2002
Like any career advancement tool, you get out of pageants what you invest in them. I viewed my year of service as 365 opportunities to grow as a presenter and leader, to influence the community, and to network with business professionals. I always opted for the highest-yield appearances, choosing ones where I would substantively present on my platform over golf tournaments and parades. Those were the events where I honed my public-speaking skills and began building my Rolodex of future business colleagues. Speaking every day reassured me that I had the ability to succeed in trial advocacy, and convinced me that I had the networking tools to consider a career in a large corporate-law firm, where business generation is critical. My tip, therefore, is to squeeze every opportunity out of each day of your year of service. Never squander an opportunity to work, never wait for someone to book you an appearance, and never settle for the easy event over the one that challenges you. There shouldn’t be a single unbooked day or hour on your calendar, even if that means filling in any gaps with volunteering at soup kitchens or shelters or reading at a local public school. Each of those events should be viewed as opportunities, not only to enhance the public image of the title you represent, but for you to meet the person who will connect you to your post-pageant educational course or career opportunity.
When not attending to her primary responsibility as mother to a beautiful 7-year old daughter, Laura Lawless Robertson is a trial lawyer and partner at the international law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, where she counsels and advises employers in a broad range of employment-related disputes and represents management in labor and employment litigation.
Kyra Coffey, Ms. Corporate America 2016
As a woman of the 21st century, I am always seeking opportunities that enable me to build my wealth and protect my assets. And by wealth and assets, I am not primarily referencing financial gain but, more importantly, tools that empower personal and professional growth. Competing for the title of Ms. Corporate America 2016 was one of the top five business and personal moves that I have made in the past three years. By competing for the crown, I went back to the drawing board and enhanced my interviewing and selling/promotion skills, a skill set that is essential no matter the profession. The pageant drew skills and capabilities out of me that I did not know that I had, and in fact executed well on. I had an energizing experience of refreshed self-awareness and confidence, where I was able to clearly define my purpose for myself, my purpose in my business, and my purpose in supporting others. As an attorney who is the season of defining their business law practice and starting the firm A.C.C.E Law Group, the Ms. Corporate America Pageant drove home the idea that you perform better and get further by focusing on that which is in alignment with your core dreams and purpose.
Attorney Kyra Coffey is a business- and entertainment-managing partner of A.C.C.E. Law Group, where she focuses on helping her clients build their wealth and protect their assets with better advice, to make better decisions and obtain better results.
Andrea Bennett Xiong, Mrs. Minnesota United States 2016
In pageantry, time management is important during a competition, preparation, and when serving as a titleholder. It has served me well to keep a color-coordinated calendar (I use Google) of goals, events, and deadlines. This allows me to access my general availability wherever I go, since I can access it from my cell phone. A daily schedule (I usually write or type this out) broken into 30-minute time slots can also be used for blocking the details of each day. I use these tools to help me stay organized and prioritize in business as well.
Another skill transferable to business is the interview. Creating a picture for the judges/interviewers by telling a story to illustrate your point can solidify you in their memory. In the short time you have to connect with them, are you being mindful of projecting the energy you want them to remember about you as well? Whether you’re just walking into a room, on stage, answering a question, or giving a speech or performance, your energy or enthusiasm is what people will remember or just as easily forget when you are in and out of their presence and you’re vying for the title/job.
Andrea Bennett Xiong is a Spiritual Life, Health, and Wellness Coach and singer with the band The Brandon Projekt.
Khalena Knox, Miss Florida International 2014
Of all the skills that I have gained from knowing how to answer virtually any question without missing a beat to knowing how to apply the butt glue, there are two skills that have frequently placed me ahead of my competition in my professional life.
(1) Always Present a Polished Look.
Tennis great, Arthur Ashe, once said “One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” Once you have confidence in yourself the next battle is gaining the confidence of others. Oddly enough, people believe what they see. I learned very quickly that having an overall poised and polished presentation in some cases can be as important as experience.
(2) Strike While the Iron is Hot.
While attending a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Lupus Foundation of Florida, I was asked to speak on behalf of the organization for an on camera interview. Post the conclusion of the interview, I determined the journalist not only owned the footage that I wished to obtain but, he also owned and operated one of the most popular television shows in the area. I politely expressed my interest in journalism and shortly thereafter, was offered an on camera position on that show. Although, I could not have been certain of the outcome, I made it a point to express my interest in a field that the journalist was thriving in, if for nothing else, great advice. Because I rose to the occasion, I landed my first television -hosting job on Fox.
Television host, Model and Actress, Khalena Knox is also well versed in pageantry, winning scholarships in the Miss Universe system and being a finalist at the renowned Miss International Pageant.
Hannah Bohn, Miss Illinois 2011
Whenever I tell people that I served as Miss Illinois 2011 and finished in the Top Ten at the 2012 Miss America Pageant, it’s always entertaining to hear their “pageant theories” about what they think the experience was about. At the young age of 19, I interviewed in front of celebrity judges, I spoke at the Illinois State Capitol Building about my platform of “Distracted Driving,” and I addressed hundreds of student bodies about the dangers of texting while driving. These experiences more than prepared me for my current career and business goals. I earned over $20,000 of scholarship money with the Miss America Organization, which enabled me to go to school debt-free. The invaluable interviewing skills that I obtained have given me the confidence to walk into a room and address an audience of any kind. As a product specialist for the International Auto Show, I now travel throughout the country and make presentations in front of crowds of all sizes. Also, with my developing business as a nutrition and fitness coach, I am able to effectively relate to my clientele. I am very thankful for my pageant experiences and the valuable traits that I learned from them.
Hannah Bohn is an award-winning choreographer and dance coach, who is currently working as a traveling product specialist for the National Auto Show Circuit, while developing her own personal nutrition and fitness consultation business, Hannah Bohn Consultation.
Sonja Fisher, Ms. Corporate America 2009
I have competed in pageants my entire life. It really helped me grow both professionally and personally by learning valuable skill sets such as public-speaking, presentation, selling, confidence, poise, professionalism, networking, and relationship-building, to name a few.
Besides learning all of these valuable skills, I was able to give back to my community and make a positive difference in society, especially for women in business, entertainment, and technology. I even started my own company called Nonstop 4 the Top, which focuses on these efforts. Pageantry has helped me become the woman I am today. It has positioned me to accomplish my doctorate and MBA, as well as co-found the first national technical sorority in America and become a published author, speaker, producer, and an accomplished actress.
Pageantry has also provided lifelong friendships that have led me to a substantial support system that has truly changed my life. I have met so many amazing people through pageants. There are so many like-minded and positive women in pageants who work hard and want to promote their platform and truly make a difference. I am honored to be blessed with this title and these experiences!
Dr. Sonja Fisher is a national motivational speaker, life coach, published author, and owner/CEO of Nonstop 4 the Top, where she inspires and coaches women to reach their career aspirations of leadership, especially in technology, business and entertainment. Sonja also is a Senior Software Sales Engineer for Splunk and has extensive experience as an actress, model, and host, and she can recently be seen on General Hospital.
Alycia Darby, Miss California International 2014
I believe how you compete on stage is how you’ll compete in life. If you commit to personal development, powerful integrity, and strong branding on stage, you’ll be a massive success in the marketplace.
I train my clients to discover their unique selling proposition to best answer “What makes you stand out from the other contestants?” and strategize a marketing plan to turn their vision into their legacy. As leaders within their community, pageant women learn how to manage tasks, people, and social norms by developing skills in saying “no” and recognizing they can’t please everyone — skills many other adults will never fully develop in their lifetime. The higher up the ladder of pageantry she climbs, the brighter the limelight gets and the more opportunity she has to strengthen her personal integrity as it is challenged. The same skills that are necessary in the marketplace are necessary to win a pageant.
My clients are highly sought-after for their personal and professional skills, which are quickly developed in the socially pressurized, highly emotional, competitive environment of pageantry. Their commitment to excellence in pageantry primes them for their commitment to excellence in life.
Alycia Darby is a national pageant coach and host of WinAPageant.com, the #1 Pageant Podcast on iTunes.
MacKenzie Green, Miss DC USA 2010
The biggest thing I learned in pageantry and have carried in to business is how to embrace my competitive nature, with a feminine and graceful approach. You can have a driven and commanding presence, but you also have to know when to soften and listen to the room. It’s very easy in business to forget that the grace, poise, and stress management you learned through gracing a stage can be applied to the boardroom.
MacKenzie Green is a lifestyle blogger and rising second-year MBA at Columbia Business School, interning with Paramount Pictures in international market research.
Kylah Johnson, Mrs. Corporate America 2016
Pageantry is more than a competition based on beauty. It’s the ultimate challenge of being the best you can be from the inside-out. Competing in pageants has abundantly enriched my business skills by teaching me how to assess my strengths and seek opportunities for improvement. I gained new business skills and polished those that were underutilized, such as strategic planning, project management, communication, and marketing.
Pageantry has taught me to use lateral thinking to create innovative strategies that require excellent project management, program planning, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. As a result, I have spoken on platforms for many national organizations on topics such as: confidence, teambuilding, networking, career advancement, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
I learned how to communicate effectively and market myself in a creative, value-driven, and authentic manner so that I can stand out and be memorable. It was about making my words count with a cause, meaning, and authority, coupled with poise and grace. After competing, I was contacted by the Orange County Government to design a professional development program for women preparing for career advancement.
There is power in pageantry! All it takes a positive attitude, strategy, and the ability to take calculated risks to stand out.
Kylah Johnson is a national speaker and the founder and CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of The Confidence Boutique, LLC, a full-service empowerment and professional development company helping women advance in entrepreneurship and achieve career momentum.
Jesse Ladoue, Miss International 2013
The first step is to visualize where you want to be professionally and work backwards from there. What kind of appearances do you need to make to help establish your reputation in the public eye? What types of organizations do you need to align with?
The key to this strategy is that you are gaining trust and reliability by over-delivering on your commitments to these entities. Show up on time, stay late, and put your all into your roles while you are with these key contacts (don’t forget a thoughtful and genuine follow-up, too!). When it’s time for the next step, they will remember your work ethic and dedication.
Jesse Ladoue was crowned Miss International 2013 and has held local and state titles in various pageant systems, including Miss America Organization and Sunburst Beauty. She is currently the Queen of Coaching for The Pageant Planet, the world’s largest online resource for pageant contestants!
Amy Gregorio (Sterling), Mrs. International 2013
To be successful in business, you must be articulate, focused, and motivated. You must also think outside yourself and always strive to surpass your perceived potential. Pageantry is a terrific tool for helping to hone these attributes. Deciding to compete is applying for the job of a titleholder. Understand what they are looking for in “applicants.” Some competitions are based on the superficial; however, most need someone who is also going to promote their system. These are businesses, after all. The preparation to be the best version of yourself requires goal-setting, dedication, and hard work. That commitment is what employers want from candidates. The interview process in a pageant, such as Mrs. International, can be extensive. Judges have researched delegates and will beyond the perfections placed on paper. Therefore, know why you want the job. Be clear about what you want to accomplish if given the position. You only have a brief period to intelligently showcase the REAL you. The same goes in the business world. Putting yourself out there to be judged is scary, but taking on your nerves makes you brave! And we need more brave women in the business world.
Mrs. International 2013, Amy Gregorio, is a former award-winning television journalist currently pursuing a master’s degree at Northwestern University.
One of our favorite tips to share with our clients is to always remember that there is only one YOU. It sounds so simple, but this is often easily forgotten. In pageantry, you really are your only competition, and the same goes for the business world. Also, be prepared for your career goals just as you would be for a pageant. For example, if you want to be a professional model, make sure you have all of your materials ready before you meet with an agent. No matter what your goal is, you have only one opportunity to make a first impression, so make sure it’s a positive one.
Thanks to our past pageant experience on the Miss USA stage, we were afforded meetings with modeling and commercial agents in both NYC & L.A. We both had successful modeling and TV hosting careers that allowed us to travel all over the U.S. and across the world. Now, we own Model Makers and Sashes & Crowns LLC, and we teach young women & men how to break into the industry the right way.
Tara and Christina are the owners of Model Makers and Sashes & Crowns LLC. Tara now lives in Dallas, Texas, and is working toward to her law degree. Cristina has lived in Los Angeles, California, for 10 years and continues to work as a model & commercial actress.
Charlene Rhinehart, Ms. Corporate America 2015
If I hadn’t taken the leap to join my first pageant in 2010, I honestly don’t know where I would be in business. Pageantry gave me career confidence that allowed me to get promoted, reach out to potential sponsors for my business endeavors, and travel the world on a 6-month performing and service world tour with Up with People World. If you want to gain skills that will give you the courage to live your most desired dreams and impact others in a greater way, pageantry is a great personal development tool.
I lost four pageants before I received my crown. Pageantry taught me how to reject rejection and have an unwavering determination for achieving my goals, no matter what obstacles surround me. This is a valuable lesson for anyone who wants to advance in business or be an entrepreneur. If you are not afraid of the word “No,” there is no limit to how far you can go. Each step that I took in an unknown direction gave me the courage and confidence to start my own business.
When I work with clients, I focus on helping them to overcome their fears in order to ignite the possibilities that exist in their lives. This helps me to build trusting and rewarding relationships with clients. Pageantry has taught me how to use my personal experiences to “Communicate to Connect” in order to build meaning relationships. After all, winning a pageant is all about connecting with a panel of judges who may be different than you but have a similar drive, passion, or goal that can unite you.
Charlene Rhinehart is a LinkedIn Career Strategist, Certified Public Accountant, World Traveler, and Founder of the Career Goddess Academy, which is an online career-mentoring website for millennials who want to create career success and a lifestyle they love.
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