Behind the Crown

Behind all of the glitz and the glamour of the pageant world… what is it really like? It’s a question very few people can answer. You see these beautiful seemingly-flawless women all competing for one crown and you have to wonder what it’s like on the other side. What is it like to walk a mile in their sky-high shoes?

I’ve walked in those pageant shoes, and I’m here to tell you what it’s really like: the good, the bad and the ugly. Here are the answers to some of my most asked questions.

 

1. How did you start doing pageants?
The summer my family moved from Florida to Ohio, we got a letter in the mail addressed to my sister asking if she wanted to be in a pageant. If anyone knows my sister and me… you know we’re complete opposites. Naturally she wasn’t interested, so my mom asked if I’d like to compete and I jumped at the opportunity. The pageant wasn’t until next summer so I had almost a whole year to get excited, to prepare and to figure out what the heck you do in a pageant. The next summer I competed in the National American Miss Ohio Junior Teen pageant and placed Top 35 out of 190 girls and had a blast making new friends… so I was hooked!

2. Why do you do pageants?
The reason varies for everyone you’ll ask… sometimes it’s because they love to get all dolled up, sometimes girls just love to compete. For me I competed because I love having a stage to perform my talent on and I love community service. As a musical theatre major I’m used to being cast as whatever character the director wants me to be… in the talent portion I can cast myself and choose any song I’d like to sing. Also, once you win a pageant your “job” includes appearing at events, shaking hands, raising money, visiting sick children, etc. which is definitely my favorite part. Sure it’s fun to get attention because I’m wearing a crown and have little kids ask if I live in a castle, but it’s so rewarding to give back to my community, and having a crown is a great way to make a difference while bringing exposure to the causes you support.

3. Are the girls mean backstage?
Yes and no… I’ve never experienced the horror stories that you hear about girls cutting up evening gowns and sabotaging their competition in a physical way, but I’ve been witness to some psychological warfare. Girls who aren’t confident enough in their interview skills, talent or other areas of competition will often lash out at a girl or girls they are envious of by trying to pull them down. I’ve seen girls openly talking badly about another contestant during rehearsal, I’ve seen groups of girls laughing during someone’s talent competition. These digs are the types of things that can really derail your pageant preparation if you’re not mentally prepared for them. On the other hand though, I’ve met some of my very best friends through pageants, it’s like anything else in life… they’ll be some good eggs and some bad ones.

4. How long does it take you to get ready?
For competition, hair and makeup usually takes anywhere from 1-2 hours. Imagine the most makeup you’ve ever applied and multiply that by like 3. For competition makeup you have to put on enough foundation so that the stage lights won’t drown you out and then enough bronzer & blush to put color back on your face. In addition to that it’s very important to put enough eye makeup on so your eyes stand out to the judges. I’m talking liquid eye liner, eye shadow, eyebrows, false eyelashes, and of course waterproof mascara just in case you cry. Put it all together with some long lasting lipstick and then it’s time to tackle your hair. There are plenty of different ways to style your hair, but curls and TONS of hairspray is the most common. You have to make sure your style will last through wardrobe changes, dance numbers and the hot lights on stage.

5. How do you get down to pageant weight?
For me I was very careful with how I slimmed down and toned up for the swimsuit competition. I got a personal trainer who also assisted me with analyzing my eating patterns. I got on a very strict diet where I had to weigh all of my food. I couldn’t go out to dinner with my friends often (or ever) I couldn’t drink alcohol often (or ever) and I ended up spending a lot of my time and energy thinking about and prepping food. I never starved myself (in fact sometimes I had to force feed myself more chicken or egg whites to get my protein count up), but food became such a huge part of my life because I was always having to monitor my food intake. Even now, sometimes I think I stress about my food intake too much because of my pageantry past. On the other hand I have seen many girls completely stop eating at certain mealtimes or only eat turkey slices and carrots… it really does vary, but it’s so important to be safe.

6. How do you stay at pageant weight?
The answer is… you don’t. I am two years out from my last pageant and I’m probably 6-8 pounds heavier than pageant weight. I’m still slender and nobody really notices too much of a difference, but I sure do. It’s still a struggle to find a balance between being healthy and fit but also living a great quality of life. I want to go out with my friends and have a good time while also feeling great about myself. It’s a struggle I believe all women deal with on a day to day basis.

7. If you have kids will you ever make your daughter do pageants?
Absolutely not. No way. I know that I will eventually talk to my kids about my time in pageants and maybe show pictures if they were curious, but I wouldn’t let my children do pageants unless they came up with the idea on their own and they were old enough to truly understand what it entails. It’s an expensive “sport” and I’m not interested in forcing my kids to do anything they don’t want to do, especially if it’s costly. It was a great experience for me and I learned a ton, but pageantry is NOT for everyone. It’s unfair to assume that just because I liked it, my kids would too.

8. Why did that girl win?
Sometimes the girl that wins the pageant is the clear winner and other times the winner makes absolutely no sense to you… that’s the nature of the industry. Especially when they pick someone over you it’s even harder to understand. What I do know is… pageant judging is very subjective. For instance, if your interview is at 11:50AM and all the judges are in a bad mood because they’re hungry, then you may have a terrible interview that will negatively affect your scores and their impression of you. Or, if the talent song you selected happens to be a song that a judge simply hates, that judge may give you a lower score. There is no science to pageant judging… the judges just go with their gut and pick the girl they think would be best. It’s very cheesy to think, “Everything happens for a reason,” but I honestly believe that to be true when it comes to pageantry. I think competing in pageantry did me a lot of favors, but I don’t believe winning Miss Ohio would have added anything truly significant to my life that I couldn’t gather elsewhere.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into what it’s really like behind the crown. It’s not all smiles and sparkles, but there are definitely merits to the crazy world of pageantry. I had a blast during my years of competing, but I am relieved that I am now “retired.” On to bigger and better things!

 

Love, Meg

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Meg Wittman

Meg Wittman is a twenty-something working downtown and living in Cleveland Hts. By day she works a corporate 9 to 5 job, but she is passionate about performing and spends her free time both on stage and screen in projects from commercials to fashion shows to film.

Meg is a former pageant queen holding titles such as "Miss Cuyahoga County," "Miss All-American City," "Miss Greater Cleveland," and competing at Miss Ohio placing in the Top 10, Top 5 and even winning the swimsuit award. Nowadays you can catch up with her by visiting her blog, "Love Meg" at blog.megwittman.com.

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