“I bet if you asked the judges what they look for, they’d say something different each time” — Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, Miss America 1988
While you should reflect the overall image of the pageant you enter, blatantly “cloning” the reigning queen or a previous winner can backfire.
A winner must achieve a balance, projecting the image of that pageant but also standing out from the crowd by being herself and being an original.
“A winner is not a copy,” asserts Kathleen Munson, adviser to Gretchen Carlson, the Miss America who won despite being everything that “couldn’t win.” “A winner is absolutely not a copy,” she insists.
A winner fits the image of the title she is seeking while remaining an individual. “Don’t have preconceived ideas about winning or losing based on stereotypes. When Gretchen came to me, she said, ‘Can I win? I’m five foot three and a hundred forty pounds.’ But she won.
Don’t eliminate yourself from pageants because you’re ‘too short,’ ‘too fat,’ you don’t have the right ‘look,’ you don’t have the right talent.
Girls will say, ‘But you have to be tall to win.’ Look at Kelli McCarty, Miss USA 1991. She wasn’t. Look at Gretchen. She wasn’t. Or they’ll say, ‘But you have to have a talent in the traditional performing arts.’ Look at Kaye Lani (Rafko). Her Tahitian dancing wasn’t the typical dance performance. But she won. You have to break those stereotypes. Sure there’s a definite image for each pageant. But a winner is not a copy! A winner is absolutely not a copy.”
Unfortunately, contestants who lack self-confidence are afraid to be themselves and instead try to repeat a past winner’s success by cloning her. What they fail to understand is that judges find such sales pitch images annoying.
“You have to look through her eyes and ask, ‘Can this woman stand in her own name-or is she trying to be someone else?'” says Richard Guy, who coached six women to the Miss USA throne, and now runs GuyRex’s Miss United States. “Is she trying to copy last year’s winner? If she’s copying, I don’t want her. I don’t want a copycat!”
While each pageant does have a certain overall image, there is no one exact “winning look” that is guaranteed to succeed. Each pageant’s image is a general quality. Once a contestant understands the general image of the pageant, she can – and should display a great degree of individuality. “I bet if you asked the judges what they look for, they’d say something different each time,” says Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, “because none of us are exactly the same. We may have similar qualities – but each girl is unique.”