Sometimes you have to walk through the mud... order to get to solid ground.

We all have had things happen in our lives that shake our very foundation. Sometimes they are unfortunate twists of fate and others are a result of our own poor decision making. Often, the cause of our struggles are beyond our control and it's how we deal with the aftermath that will define our future and the person we will become. From failed relationships and addiction to life threatening disease and the sudden loss of a loved one, everyone has a story to tell.  

Many people say, "everything happens for a reason." Though I understand their sentiment, these are words you will never hear me say. I don't believe bad things happen to people in order to deliberately alter their lives and teach them lessons. However, I do believe we are defined by how we choose to live our lives after major life disruptions and hardships. We can create a sense of purpose in the midst of chaos that allows us to repair our own spirits and help others trudge through similar muddy pathways. As we help others rebuild their lives, we begin to recognize our rise from the ashes.

When we are willing to share our personal stories, we can be blessed with a greater calling to help make the lives of others better. As a pageant coach and mentor, I've worked with countless women  who have found their message by gaining the courage to share their personal stories of tragedy and triumph. Their platforms have championed issues like cancer prevention, domestic violence, suicide awareness, divorce recovery, understanding learning disabilities, anti-bullying, women's rights, mental health and so much more. 

We can all walk this muddy walk to more solid ground, empowering one another to be whole again and live empowered, enriched lives. You may find your message in the mud. Dig deep to find the courage to share your untold story. There are people out there who need to hear it.

Pageant Interview Questions 

1. Recently, the World Health Organization determined that processed meats like ham and bacon do indeed cause cancer and labeled them as "carcinogens." Will this change your eating habits?

2. What do you believe are the top three women's issues worldwide?

3. What happens if the U.S. government doesn't have enough money to pay it's bills?

4. Do you believe the U.S. is doing enough to help with the refugee crisis in Europe?

5. What woman do you think of when you hear the word feminist?  Is feminist a dirty word?

6. YouTube will be adding a subscription fee to their service for those who wish to view content advertisement free. Do you think this is fair to established YouTube personalities who make their living off of the ads that play during their original content?

7. Do you think carving pumpkins for Halloween is a waste of an otherwise edible fruit?

8. What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

9. What words would your mother use to describe you?

10. If you could create your own app, what problem would it solve for those who download it?

When someone says you aren't good enough...'s a reflection of them, not you!
Ego is a pesky little intruder. It can turn otherwise encouraging, agreeable individuals into bullies who intimidate and demoralize their target. I speak from personal experience when I say I've seen many coaches, teachers, and directors act from their ego rather than their heart. I've even been the victim of such destructive so called instruction. They say, "opinions are like belly buttons, everybody has one." The key to thriving through your pageant prep and personal development journey is taking the adjustments that work for you, and knowing when to censor the ones that don't. Any time your gut is telling you it's time to move on, you should probably listen. You're instincts are usually right. Learn to listen to that inner voice. It will serve you well, long after your pageant career.
Now, this doesn't mean reject constructive criticism. There is a great deal of value in being able to make adjustments based on thoughtful, personalized instruction. The red flag presents itself when someone gives you criticism with the intent to intimidate. Intimidation leads to a hostile environment that makes you the student throw up your walls and retreat inward to a guarded place. I believe in creating an environment where students can be open and free to express themselves without reservations. So when someone lays on the scare tactics in order to undermine your confidence, it's time to politely move on to a more positive, productive environment. 
Surround yourself with people who believe in you. There is no time to be bogged down by people who don't.

Practice Makes Permanent 

If I had a nickle for every time a student said to me, "I will do it when I have an audience," or "I was too busy to practice," well...I'd have a lot of nickles!

In my opinion there is no such thing as perfection, but we can build strong, permanent habits that help us perform at our best. This includes mental preparation as well. Many people forget to prepare mentally for the endurance race competition imposes upon contestants. Practice each phase of competition to the fullest, as if hundreds of people are watching. If you usually rely on receiving energy from the audience to fuel your performance, see how you can create energy by using your imagination and unleashing your spirit and personality free from inhibitions and judgement. You have to rehearse positive thinking and a winning attitude every single day. Always remember "Practice Makes Makes Permanent," so practice in a manner deserving of a crown.

Don't wait until game day to put your game face on. 



Are you pageant material? 

Pageant girls and their parents ask me all the time if I think they have what it takes to win a pageant. They place all hope in my response. Here's the thing. I believe every person should do what brings them joy. I believe success can be found in any range of activities, but if a young girl chooses pageantry I commend her because pageants are one of the greatest self-improvement programs on the planet for young women. I have seen young women transform from timid, shy, and awkward, into elegant, outgoing, leaders among their peers. Many of them have won pageants, and some of them haven't. Additionally, many of those women were also told at one time or another, "You don't have what it takes." My parents were never parents who asked that question, regardless of the goal we set for ourselves. From playing college football (my brothers, not me), performing on Broadway, and of course competing on the Miss America stage, my parents simply told my brothers and I, "never let anyone steal your dream."

Many of the pageant women I know, have also gone on to attend their dream colleges and work their dreams jobs. Some get married and have their pageant sisters stand beside them as they say their vows. Having found some of the best friends they will ever have, they stand by each other through disappointment and triumph, tragedy and life's greatest joys. I can't predict if a girl is going to win a pageant. But every girl can develop into a more well-rounded, confident, enriched version of who she is when she begins her pageant journey.

So what do I say when people ask me that question? Be in it to win it. But don't miss all the good stuff along the way. See the big picture and recognize how much you are growing and learning. By placing your hopes and dreams in someone else's hands, you relinquish your power. Hold on to your power. Believe in yourself and NEVER let anyone steal your dream.

Have you looked back lately? 


I know people are always saying, never look back. But, I actually think it's a very important part of personal growth. We need to look back in order to see how far we've come. Take stock of what you've learned and appreciate the person you have become. Never be ashamed of where you come from or the bad choices you've made. They are a part of who you are and you wouldn't be the person you are today without them. There is so much knowledge in our pasts. Some of the most inspiring people I've ever met have over come great obstacles and endured great disappointments, tragedies and pain. And maybe it didn't happen over night, but they always took the next right step. One foot in front of the other, they moved towards the life they dreamed of. You are the sum of all your experiences and what you do with the collective bumps in the road make you powerfully, beautifully, undoubtedly you.

When Talent Competition Is NOT Your Forte 

Having trouble developing a pageant talent? Sure, you ace the interview, you are a fashionista, and you are killing it at the gym, but TALENT COMPETITION?!

Here is my advice! First, determine what form of artisitc expression you love and admire. What makes you feel excited, inspired and free. Even if it's in private, behind closed doors, wailing Pat Benatar with your hairbrush! (WE ARE YOUNG...ok, I'm old). Maybe you can't stop the beat and dance your way through making Sunday night dinner. Or maybe during that Sunday night dinner, you are the center of attention as you keep everyone in stitches. Whatever it is, identify it, and own it.

Second, don't be afraid to think outside the mic stand. Talent competition doesn't have to be reserved for singers, piano players and lyrical dancers en pointe. Ultimately, those judges want to be entertained, so tell me a joke, tell me a story, show me your culture, play me some Saxophone...BE YOU.

Finally, I encourage you to immerse yourself in your chosen artistic expression. Go to dance concerts, plays, musicals, improv shows, comedy clubs, recitals, piano bars, or jazz clubs. Do research and take lessons and classes regularly. A talent routine is not something that you should expect to throw together a month or weeks or days before your pageant. If you haven't started studying your chosen talent like it's the Wall Street Journal, than the time is now my friend. You ARE a star!

Pageant Interview Questions 

Everybody loves a challenge, right?! Here are some hot button questions to help you study!

1. This year's gay marriage ruling was a major milestone, however LGBT discrimination is wide-spread and legal. Would you support a federal anti-discrimination law?

2. Online harassment is prevalent but rarely prosecuted. Do you believe law enforcement along with our justice system are equipped to handle the breadth of this issue?

3 Do you think sex education in schools should be standardized to ensure all students are taught the same medically accurate information? Should this be mandated and regulated by the federal government?

4. What do you believe it would take to shrink or eliminate income inequality?

5. Do you find Caitlyn Jenner to be an inspiration?

6. Given our dependence on foreign oil, do you agree with environmental groups opposition to drilling for oil in Alaska or off our shores?

7. Do you believe transgender people should be allowed to compete in pageants meant for females?

8. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being perfect, how would you rate your beauty?

9. What is the most difficult feedback you have received whilst competing in pageants, and how did you handle the criticism?

10. Are you concerned about your personal student debt?

Tips for Pageant Vocalists 

Today I want to focus on 3 main tips for preparing your vocal talent routine. Whether talent is optional or a required phase of competition, it is important to find a professional backing track, that helps you present a polished and entertaining routine. Here are today's tips!

1. Vocalists should always use a track when presenting their talent. There a several reasons for this. A talent routine does not feel complete and polished when a contestant sings a cappella. Your presentation will appear very thrown together. This is not an "American Idol" audition! It is your ONLY chance to showcase your talent so make it count. It is also important to note that some singers, especially young singers, have trouble singing in tune. Singing a cappella often enhances that weakness since there is nothing to help the performer stay in the key.

2. Have your track edited to the time limit required by the pageant or purchase a track that has already been arranged to the desired length. I have seen many contestants lately perform their talent and rely on the pageant sound technician to fade their music when their time limit is reached. This is often mid phrase. Even though this may not be against the rules, it is better to edit the track to include a very definite ending that makes sense musically as well as dramatically. 

3. Read pageant rules carefully. Every pageant is different and some do not allow background vocals on the track. Using a recording of the original artist singing the song and having the contestant sing along, is not an acceptable.  The contestants voice should be live and the only voice we hear!

If you search for Karaoke tracks online you will find a wealth of affordable options to choose from. Depending on your budget, there are many professionals who specialize in making custom tracks to suit your specific needs.  Musical Creations online store is a very affordable and accessible place to start!

How to Cope With Stress During Pageant Week 

Pageant week is an endurance race and coping with the stress is half the battle. Learning to adapt to your surroundings and remain emotionally neutral during times of stress will help you perform at your best free. Try these helpful tips!

1. Meditate: No matter how jam packed your events calendar is, set aside some time for reflection, prayer and gratitude.

2. Surround yourself with positive people: It's important to be selective when it comes to communication with the outside world. You need to stay focused and pageant week is no time for negativity from the peanut gallery. Stay off of internet forums and any other social network where people are discussing their opinions of the competition.

3. Set realistic goals: I believe every contestant should play to win. However, it is also important to set smaller goals along the way. Whether it is winning a swimsuit award, making the top ten or simply feeling more confident than you did in your last pageant, remember that this is your journey. Make it what you want it to be. Be mindful that pageant results are based on the opinion of just a few judges. On a different night, with a different set of judges, you could have a completely different outcome.

4. Leave the past in the past: Past performance has little to do with how you perform today. I have seen many girls sabotage their own confidence due to fears of past outcomes and expectations. Remember you are a sum of all your experiences. Learn from the past but don't let it define you.

5. Lean on your support system: Take time to check in with those people who have the ability to comfort and empower you. You have the power to create your dream team. From parents and friends to coaches and directors, you are a direct reflection of those closest to you.

6. Visualize positive results: We achieve what we believe we can achieve. If you expect yourself to fail, you will likely fail. Rest in your authenticity, and you will thrive as the best version of yourself.

7. Plan ahead: Organize study tools, wardrobe, accessories, appearance attire and other necessities so you can enjoy pageant week free from the stress that stems from disarray. Plan for a few extra outfits and a back-up gown to avoid crisis in the event of a dreaded wardrobe malfunction.

8. Recognize the big picture: A pageant is merely one exercise in goal setting in the greater scheme of your life. At this time in your life, you are working on every aspect of who you are. You are performing at your absolute best physically, mentally and emotionally. Whether you win a crown or not, carry these skills with you through ever challenge, dream and goal. It will serve you well, and may lead you to something far greater than you ever imagined. 

You are in control of your mindset. Make a conscious effort to prepare mentally and emotionally for your pageant. This will help you handle the unexpected and shine as you hoped you would. Stay positive and enjoy your experience!