Pageants use several different formats to test contestants’ onstage communication skills, so you need to be aware of and prepared for each type of onstage interview that you may face:
Most pageants ask entrants to introduce themselves with a brief prepared statement mentioning their city, state, college, major, career goals, and possibly a sponsor. Remarks can be witty or formal, or share a philosophy of life, favorite quotation, or unusual hobby.
If the onstage communication segment requires a brief personal statement, take that opportunity to emphasize what is most impressive about yourself.
Consider the brief introductory remarks offered by Kaye Lani Rae Ra£ko, Miss Michigan 1987, an oncology-hematology nurse who worked with terminal cancer and AIDS patients.
Kaye Lani’s life’s dream was to open a hospice in her community and she wisely focused on the special profession she had dedicated her life to:
I am a twenty-four-year-old registered nurse working in the specialized area of oncology-hematology. I will further my education to obtain a master’s degree and continue my work with the terminally ill.”
Simple, powerful, and perfectly descriptive of the woman the judges chose to honor with the national title.
Another effective strategy is to use family adages, philosophies, or quotations as diamonds to decorate speeches. As the focus of her speech at the 1973 Miss America Pageant, Miss Colorado, Rebecca King, shared her grandmother’s philosophy:
“The character of a nation is determined by its womanhood.”
It was perfectly reflective of her style as the first contestant to openly talk of how pageant scholarships were going to help her finance law school, an uncommon aspiration for women at the time. Impressed, the panel awarded her the national title. Her father, Wylie King, later told me that judge Peter Lind Hayes remarked, “She said more in those twenty words than the rest of them did the whole length of time.”
Sharing a personal philosophy is great, provided it enhances your image. I remember a Miss Connecticut contestant who delivered this embarrassing new-age ditty:
“I am me. I am a very small part of a large universe. I am intrinsically excited. I have a bit of you and everyone else in me. And when all these things are combined, I am – if I can take one bit of pain or discontentment from this world – then I can be very proud to say, ‘I am me.’”
Every remark you utter onstage should improve your image … not spoil it. Use your personal statement to create a winning image by emphasizing what is special and admirable about you.
Pageants may also conduct onstage interviews. The Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss Universe and Miss World pageants place heavy emphasis on speaking skills with three onstage interviews: the semi-finalists’ conversation with the host, the top six’s questions from judges, and the finalists’ identical or non-identical top five questions or top three questions (formerly with use of an isolation booth).
(We have a complete section of great tips for on-stage interviews below.)
Sometimes, the emcee with surprise a contestant with a “test” based on something in her fact sheet.
During one Miss World Pageant, the emcee, noting that Miss Australia had listed astrology on her fact sheet, gave her pageant interview an unexpected twist. “If you had to guess my sign, Miss Australia, what would you say?” While many a contestant would have throttled him for putting them on the spot, the Australian simply studied him for a moment and answered him … correctly!
Perhaps she anticipated such a question and checked his birth date to be on the safe side. At any rate, she turned the unexpected to her advantage.
Refer back to our section on knowing your contestant fact sheet inside and out for tips on possible surprise lines of questioning.
Commercials or Pageant Commentaries
It never fails that the television host will ask at least one broadcasting major to ad-lib a TV commercial for the pageant. At the 1994 Miss USA Pageant, when Miss Virginia, an aspiring broadcaster, asked TV host Bob Goen, “Can I have your job?” he handed her the mike. She gave such a slick commercial on live TV that she won the interview competition and finished as first runner-up.
If you list broadcasting on your resume, prepare to nail this point-getting opportunity by practicing television plugs.
Top Five Questions
In many pageants today, the finalists (it may be the top 3, the top 5, etc.) are asked a final question on-stage. In the Mrs. America Pageant, the top five answer questions from the judges. In the Miss America Pageant, the top five are seated onstage where they chat informally with the host and then explain the social issues platform each would address if selected the winner. Their scores sometimes count as bonus points. See our tips for pageant top five questions.