Use Your Body Language to Look Like the Winner
From the moment a contestant enters the pageant interview, judges scrutinize her, asking themselves, “Does this young lady have what it takes to be our winner?”
How the candidate performs in those first moments is critical of her interview with the judges. “What kind of impact does she make on me visually when she walks in that door?” asks Donna Axum, a former Miss America who judges extensively on the state and national levels. “Is she genuine? Can I see her heart through her eyes?” A woman possessing the confidence and outgoing personality to reign as a titleholder immediately radiates those qualities to the panel.
When you make your entrance, remember:
- Smile! Your face sets the tone for the judges.
- Make eye contact with the judges immediately.
- Let your walk convey both grace and energy.
- Greet the judge(s) enthusiastically.
- Take your position (seated or standing) gracefully.
- Keep smiling, but in a natural, friendly manner.
- Discreetly take a deep breath before answering.
- And have fun!
A contestant must also demonstrate the body language of a winner throughout her pageant interview to convince judges she is their winner. Few contestants understand that in any life situation, including pageants, a grading process takes place subconsciously whenever people are introduced. The mind mentally picks up on subtle nonverbal clues that reveal how a person feels about herself: posture, walk, seated position, level of energy, eye contact, facial expressions, and hand gestures.
Negative body language such as slumped posture, poor eye contact, a wilted handshake, an uncertain voice, or nervous mannerisms like drumming fingers or kicking one foot, indicates low self-esteem. Body language can also reveal temperament: Is she confident or timid, introverted or extroverted, high-strung or placid?
Judges, who are usually pros at reading people, realize that such “body language” will speak volumes about how each girl would function as the titleholder. As a result, they can often sum up a contestant as a potential winner or non-contender based to a large degree on nonverbal communication. In other words, judges have a gut opinion about her chances of winning even before she utters a word!
Correct Pageant Interview Body Language
Fortunately, the “wrong” body language can be corrected with awareness and practice. Compare examples of body language:
- look nervous
- look too serious
- dart your eyes around the room
- twist your rings
- pick at fingernails
- kick foot nervously
- cross arms across chest
- clench fists (unconsciously)
- point a finger at judges (Looks bossy. Use up-turned palm to gesture instead)
- cross legs at knee with one leg swinging (Looks too sexy and unprofessional)
- slouch or lean back in chair
- Allow knees to drift apart giving judges a view of unmentionables (Yes, it’s happened!)
- smile frequently
- maintain steady eye contact
- rest hands calmly in lap
- keep feet together and still
- keep arms by sides, hands in lap
- keep hands open and relaxed
- sit erect and confident
- cross legs at ankle with both knees slightly turned to left or right
- wear underpants!
Nonverbal communication has the power to instantly “tell” judges “I’m your titleholder.”
Rod McKuen, a judge for the 1982 Miss America Pageant, was skeptical that body language could reveal their eventual winner . . . until Debra Maffett walked in the interview room. “The first time I saw Miss California, I knew she was Miss America,” he later admitted. “There was a way she walked-it was almost even before she spoke. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, ‘Holy smoke!’ There was a certain amount of assurance she seemed to radiate.”
That commanding presence is an actual judging criteria and the recognized sign of a winner. “We tell our judges, ‘Look, when the girl walks in the room, she could be wearing a paper bag and make an impression,” explains Warren Alexander, of the Miss Teen of America Pageant. “Does she command your attention? Does she get your respect? Does she present herself physically before she even speaks, in a manner that suggests, yes, this indeed could be our titleholder?”
A winner’s body language makes her stand out the moment she enters a room.
Body language can make or break a contestant’s image. Understand how judges read nonverbal communication and make sure your body language sends one message: I’m a winner!