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  • Writer's pictureKatina Stephens

5 Tips for a Killer Pageant Interview

Let me clue you in on a little secret: Pageants are won in the interview room.

It doesn't matter if you have the best talent if you can't win over the judges in the interview room. It doesn't matter if you have the best gown if you can't win over the judges in the interview room. It doesn't matter if you have the most social media followers if you can't win over the judges in the interview room.

My name is Katina Stephens, and I have been a member of the pageant world since 2012 when I competed in my first local city pageant, and got hooked. Over the years I've been a runner-up, queen, state finalist, judges coordinator, local pageant director, hair & makeup artist/sponsor, and coach.

I have seen first hand how an entire pageant can be won, or lost, in the interview room. The importance of nailing your interview cannot be overstated. Have you started to feel a little nervous wondering if you interview is "good enough" to win over the judges? It can be so hard to prep for interviews, because you can never know the exact questions the judges are going to ask you, so you can practice 10,000 times and never come up with the exact same questions in the exact same order as what will ultimately happen in that private judge.

But, take a deep breath. Because I have 5 tips that you CAN control to make a positive impact on the judges, and help win them over so you can be the one walking home with the crown!

  1. The number one commandment for pageant interviews is: Thou must look like thy headshot. When a pageant contestant walks into the room, and she looks different in person than what the judges have been studying in the headshot they were given, even if it's unconscious, they are going to have the reaction of: "Oh, she's lied to us. What else has she lied about?" You never want to walk into the interview room and have to start from a place of deception. It makes you have to start the interview at the bottom of the hill instead of the top. When selecting your headshot, pick the photo that looks like YOU the best, which may not necessarily be the BEST photo from the batch. And then, your hair/makeup/overall look in the interview room needs to match what's on that headshot, so that the judges instantly recognize who you are when you walk in the room.

  2. Pick an interview outfit that highlights your personality and style the best. Rachel Zoe said: "Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak." You have such a limited time to convince the judges that you are the best and most deserving choice for the crown, so every wardrobe moment and first impression matters. Pick an interview outfit that will tell the judges who you are before you even have the chance to open your mouth, and choose a color that will be the most flattering on you in the room you will be interviewing in. Do you need help picking colors and styles that look good on you and match your personality? We now offer Color Analysis consultations for the low, low, price of $30 here on our website. We will highlight what your best colors are for any and all phases of competition, and show you real examples of those colors being used on real wardrobe options!

  3. You need to work up your "elevator pitch" for the generic questions that are commonly asked in interviews. If elevator pitch is a new phrase for you: imagine you step on an elevator with someone and they ask you a question. You only have the length of the elevator ride to speak your answer, because then they will then exit the elevator and walk away forever. You want your answer to be short, sweet, and to the point, so that your elevator companion doesn't walk away with more questions than answers. Typical "pitches" that you want to be prepared for are answers to questions like: "Tell us about yourself", "What's your platform about", "Why do you want the title of Teen/Miss/Mrs _______", "Why should we pick you over the other contestants", etc. Your pitch should be roughly 30 secs, and should contain enough information that a follow-up question from a judge is not necessary.

  4. You need to know what's on your paperwork. Pageant systems vary widely in the paperwork you are expected to turn in before/during the pageant. Some systems will have you turn in more formal resumes or essays. Some systems have you turn more casual/short bios or intros. No matter what you turn in for your chosen pageant system, you need to be an expert in what's on your paperwork. Nothing is more embarrassing than having a judge ask: "So I see here that you keep an active quote book, what's a favorite quote of yours?" Only, you forgot you had put that in there so many years ago, and you can't think of a quote off the top of your head. I recommend printing out a physical copy of whatever has been turned in to the judges, and studying it in the days leading up to the competition, and especially during those few minutes you are waiting to walk into your interview. Which leads us into our next tip...

  5. If you blank on a question, just come up with an answer and stick with it. Now, this does NOT mean to lie to a judge, or pretend you know an answer when you don't. But, if a judge asks: "What's your favorite quote?", and you blank, just answer with the first decent one that comes to mind. A judge isn't going to fact check you on questions like this, and a judge probably doesn't really care if "You are the artist of your own life, so don't hand the paintbrush to somebody else" isn't really your most favorite quote of all time. A fellow pageant friend of mine once told me that she was asked: "If you could choose an influential woman to be the new face of the US $10 bill, who would you choose?" She blanked. For whatever reason, she was thrown off by the question, and couldn't remember who her role models were in the moment. The first American woman who came to mind was: Ellen DeGeneres. Now, Ellen is not necessarily a bad choice, but she was not ultimately who this pageant girl would like to see on the US $10 bill. But, instead of backtracking and giving another name, or sitting around in silence for an awkward length of time thinking of someone else, this friend pushed ahead. She gave some reasons why Ellen would be an awesome choice in her mind, and she even made the judges laugh. There is very rarely a wrong answer in a pageant interview room. Instead, judges are looking to get to know your personality, and judge how you might react and hold yourself as a titleholder. So, just come up with an answer and stick with it!

What tip do you think will help you the most? Leave a comment below with your favorite tip, and let me know if there's an area of interview that you still need help with - maybe I'll answer you with a blog post all about answering your question! Let's level up your interview TOGETHER!


Katina Stephens


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