You Can Develop a Great Pageant Talent!
Even in talent pageants, lack of a stage talent needn’t prevent a girl from competing… and winning
According to Sam Haskell, senior vice-president of the William Morris Talent Agency, who ran the Miss America Organization for a decade, many young women who initially lacked talent developed stage talents in order to pursue the crown. “Talent has to be nurtured and acquired if it is not something you already have. A lot of girls who wanted to be Miss America had no talent when they first entered, but they found something they could do and worked at it, and worked at it, and worked at it.” The skills they developed were simply tools to help them achieve their goals.
Miss America 1983, Debra Maffett, now a recording artist, is a classic example of a “croak-to-crown” talent competition transformation saga. Debra Maffett won the 1983 Miss America talent competition — and the crown — despite having started with “no talent” when she entered her first competition. After being convinced by friends to enter her university’s pageant, Debbie learned talent was required. She almost backed out at the last minute, but decided to try singing, although she had never sung for an audience. “I got up on stage and my worst fears were realized,” she recalls. “I froze. My mind went blank. The words just didn’t come out-in front of a thousand people!” When the pianist kept playing, Debbie hummed along, throwing in an occasional word. “I don’t think I scored any talent points,” she quips.
Such a fiasco would have quickly ended other beginners’ pageant aspirations. Yet rather than quitting because she “didn’t have talent,” Maffett decided to build on her seemingly limited raw talent … at an age when other contestants were retiring from pageants. “Debbie had her first vocal lessons at age twenty-one,” recalls her mother, Nonnie. “When she decided this was what she wanted, she just started doing it. During college, she would drive hundreds of miles to take voice lessons.” Her determination paid off handsomely four years later. Debbie won a talent award and the Miss America title, proving to future contestants that lack of talent is not necessarily the end of the dream. Sometimes it’s just the beginning. (Read more about developing a pageant talent late in the game)
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