Pageants are extremely difficult to explain to your average non-pageant type. Years of bad reality shows have muddied the waters of what pageantry is, sometimes beyond the point of recognition. So when I meet someone and they ask I usually find myself reciting this elevator speech:
The pageants that I participate in are primarily scholarship based and/or provide a platform for me to share my voice and talents. Much like your child who plays hockey or basketball it is my venue for participating in an activity that I can grow in and become better. I am a communicator and the stage is my comfort zone. It gives me the opportunity to represent other young women and my community on a broad scale. And much like your child I have to invest time and energy into honing my skills. And yes, I have a coach who helps me to do that. Someday, I aspire to be Miss Universe, similar to if your child were to make it into the NHL. There is only one Miss Universe, however, so it requires a great deal of practice and a little bit of help along the way. Any questions?
There are usually a million questions, but the one I will address in this post is one that is a point of contention, even among pageant people. Coaches: Do you need them? What do they do? Why would you pay someone to help you walk and talk differently?
When I started in pageantry I was most definitely in the ‘no coach’ camp. I had this weird assumption that girls who hired coaches couldn’t be successful being themselves so they hired someone to give them all the answers and turn them into what my mother calls a “Pageant Patty”, the cookie-cutter girl. My opinion on both that front and my opinion on coaching has changed, rather significantly over the years.
A pageant coach isn’t someone you pay to teach you to be a different person, it’s someone who helps you present YOURSELF to the best of YOUR ability.
I started working with a coach primarily on my walk. You may think walking in 6 inch heels is just something you can learn to do, I am here to tell you that it truly is an art. The way you face your body to the judges, how to walk with your hands looking natural, how to smile and still walk with confidence at the same time. As silly as it sounds, it is so difficult to do without someone who can watch you and help you understand how those little things can make all of the difference. It takes a lot to get in front of an auditorium of people in a bikini and 6 inch heels, but my coach has helped me to build confidence and make that frightening task seem like an everyday occurrence. Seriously I don’t even flinch at the thought anymore.
I have always been a strong communicator, it’s why I began pageants in the first place. I wanted a space where I could connect with like-minded people and have the opportunity to have my passions heard. It is the interview portion that many girls struggle with the idea of a coach, they don’t want to sound rehearsed, or unnatural. The right coach will do none of those things. Never once has my coach given me an answer for a question, or told me this is how you need to say this. He simply asks the tough questions and gets me thinking about things that hadn’t crossed my mind. It’s practice and it’s practice with someone experienced who knows that when you’re using your hands to talk constantly, it becomes distracting. Or that if you have a platform you are passionate about there are ways to talk about it in an eloquent and well thought out way.
One of the best things my coach has helped me to do is to convey very complex thoughts in a very short amount of time. Sometimes you have 2 minutes to tell and sell your story. You are interviewing for a job and you better be able to prove you are the best person for the job. When I started coaching two minutes would have been one single answer to one single question. I mean if they start with, “If you were a fruit, what kind of fruit would you be?” that would never give a group of judges any idea what Skylar Witte is really about. (It’s a strawberry, I would be a strawberry. Mostly sweet but occasionally a little sour.) See there is more important stuff about me that I really want to make sure people know.
I am thankful I decided to work with a coach for my pageant career. And I can honestly say I would not be where I was today if it wasn’t from the guidance of my coach, Jimmy Lee Langhoff and that isn’t just a pageant statement that is a life statement. I have the confidence to be the best Skylar Witte I can be (and I can do so without waving my hands around like a goofball)
Dream Big, Skylar