Examples of How to Handle Serious or Tragic Personal Experiences
Sometimes during a pageant’s on0stage interview competition, the emcee will ask you to discuss an obstacle you’ve had to overcome in your life… on live television or before a live audience.
If you have survived an unusual experience, don’t be afraid to share that in a positive manner with the audience and judges. Your background and experiences have made you who you are. If it is a subject that can be discussed on family television, express yourself honestly.
During the Miss 1992 Miss World-America Pageant, the eventual winner, Florida’s Sharon Beldon, was asked how she had handled growing up as an orphan. She neither sugar-coated her experiences nor manipulated for sympathy votes:
“From a very young age, I had to be very independent and I am a very strong person. I just knew that I had to deal with things and that if I was going to be anything in my life, it was up to me. I am a firm believer that your attitude determines your altitude. I know that I wouldn’t be the person that I am today unless I went through what I’ve been through.”
Likewise, Dick Clark asked Miss Teen-Vermont, Charlotte Lopez, a foster child who had lived with six different families over thirteen years, how those experiences had affected her life. She described how she was being adopted as a near-adult and was writing a book, Lost in the System, about the failings of the U.S. foster-care system. “It’s always easier for me to understand my life if I write it down. I’m lost in the system and I think there are a lot of kids that are.”
When she won the 1993 Miss Teen USA title, there wasn’t a dry eye in the auditorium.
Balancing “Sob Stories” Versus Genuinely Important Personal Experiences
But isn’t that playing on the judges’ sympathy? If the young lady deliberately presents it as a sob story, the judges may feel sorry for her but they’re not going to see her as the winner. On the other hand, judges expect a young woman to express who she is as an individual. The experiences and hardships of any girl who has survived cancer, a near-fatal accident, the loss of her parents, or being thrust into foster care, are legitimate parts of her life. Sharing that background is merely expressing what she is about as an individual.
Remember, Be Diplomatic. Children May be Listening!
If the emcee asks about your life, don’t be afraid to mention the experiences that have made you who you are (within good taste; some subjects are too graphic for children who might be watching). Yet, don’t force that information into the conversation or attempt to manipulate the judges into sympathy votes.
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