I think the biggest myth in pageantry is that in order to win you must fit a certain mold. You have to wear a white dress, or have perfect pageant curls. The girl who spends the most has the best chances or you must give the judges the answer that you think that want to hear. If I have learned anything in my preparation for Miss Wisconsin USA and now Miss USA it’s that the one way to take yourself out of the running for the crown is to try and be something you are not.
When I was preparing for the Miss Wisconsin USA competition I had lots of input on lots of different things. What colors to wear, how to wear my hair and do my makeup, which swimsuit fit my body the best, and strangely enough…how to answer questions about myself. Weird! I loved that input and I listened to that input and it helped me sort through what I was and what I wasn’t, but at the end of the day I took it for what is was, someone else’s thoughts on pageantry, life and me.
It would have been so easy to fall into a trap of comparison. What did the top 5 wear last year? What have the past 5 winners done with their hair? What “story” has been most compelling in the past? What did someone else answer in their top 5 that sealed the deal? And I think it happens all the time, in all sorts of industries, that women start to play the comparison game and feel they need to become somebody else in order to find success. NEVER NEVER NEVER!
Let’s be perfectly frank, creating a fake version of yourself is a game you will have to continue to play. I have literally watched women create versions of themselves so outlandish that they become lost in their own creation. So focused on maintaining the façade they no longer remember who they are, what matters to them and what they really have a passion for.
I decided very early on in my preparation that the way I was going to win was to be completely sure of who I was, and if it wasn’t this year it would happen when it was supposed to happen. I needed to know myself inside and out. As I’m sure you all know at this point, I love to write and that’s exactly what I did. I wrote about myself, what I loved, what I didn’t necessarily love, how I felt about issues in my life, how I felt about issues in the world and when I walked into the interview room I knew Skylar Witte from head-to-toe. (Novel about the minutiae of my life forthcoming)
When it came to being on stage, knowing who I was gave me the confidence I needed to rock my secondhand bikini with my six inch heels. I did not spend thousands of dollars on a gown or an opening number outfit. I was fortunate that my wardrobe was sponsored by designers and fellow pageant friends. (That’s the blessings of relationships and a whole different blog) It worked for me because I loved every piece of it, just look at my face, this coral spoke to me. Not because anything was custom or the fact I wore red gown or because I wore a coral jumpsuit with gold accents to interview.
People often ask me, “what was going through your head when you were walking on stage?” As goofy as it sounds, I just kept saying over and over “I am Skylar Witte, I am Skylar Witte”, and I was so excited to let the judges see ME.
So to break some pageant myths. White doesn’t always win, the color, price and style of the gown doesn’t make a difference, it’s the woman in the gown and how she graces the stage. You don’t need to ever be someone different in an interview. You don’t need to always be pushing a created agenda. Sometimes the judges ask the questions you have rehearsed in your head a million times, but often they simply do not. My state interview was filled with laughs about my distaste for kale (for real, not a fan) and how my dad and I do a mean rendition of “Fergilicious”! When I walked out of that room I felt so confident that those 6 strangers now knew who I was, and that was because I knew who I was.
I want to take some time to tell every young woman out there who feels she needs to be someone else, that the very best person you could ever be in this world is YOU!! When you find confidence in who you are, it changes your world. There isn’t a secret to ‘winning’ a pageant or ‘winning’ at life. Life is all about constantly learning and growing, but when you choose to start learning more about you everything and everyone that surrounds you will gain clarity.