Many pageant girls have aspirations to get into the entertainment industry at some level and many will use pageantry as a spring board into that life. Since moving to LA I have had many current and former titleholders reach out and ask for advice about making the transition. Much like every blog I compose I can only speak to my own personal experience ( which is just in its infancy) so, take it for what it is worth:
Don’t lie about your pageant past: I mean let’s be real, you shouldn’t lie on a resume ever for any job, modeling, acting or otherwise. Remember the modeling agency visit when I thought I was 5’8″ and I’m only 5’7″, even unintentional lies bite you! But that said, I can not tell you how many people suggested I never mention I was Miss Wisconsin USA when I was moving to Hollywood. I was told over and over and over again that pageant girls are not taken seriously, they are frowned upon. Many said it would actually hurt my chances of ever getting work. Here has been my reality. Every single time it comes up and it does a LOT (I mean Miss Wisconsin USA 2017 is still in my insta bio) it has become a wonderful topic of conversation and actually in many, many instances been a connection I needed. Maybe it is because by the time the subject comes up I have already proven my worth, professionalism and talent or maybe it is because a lot less negative connotations than people imagine are associated with Miss USA or maybe they don’t exist and it’s all a fallacy. I am not one to wager on the whys and hows, but Gal Gadot and Olivia Culpo have really helped to pave a pretty clear path. Suddenly pageant girls are cool. I’ll take it. If you aren’t comfortable, you don’t have to include it anywhere, that is completely your choice. For me it was worth promoting because I’m proud of that piece of my personal history. And people are always intrigued by the words “Butt Glue” and want to know more.
Big leaps and moves are necessary: So even years after I myself first realized it, I repeat myself but, market matters. I once wrote a whole blog about making sure you were in a market that supplies enough work. It doesn’t have to be LA, although I will tell you this place is great, it can be any major entertainment market. If you want to dabble in the entertainment industry and don’t want to make the move it can be done but know the limits of your market. Landing roles that will move you progressively up a scale might not happen if you are living in well, Wausau, Wisconsin, which is where I lived. If you are really serious know you can not commit to one home and plan to settle. I was just submitted for a film that would shoot for three months in Barcelona. Many TV shows film in Toronto, New York, Georgia. So even if you move, when that break happens you best be prepped and ready to uproot on a few days notice. I just chose to leave every piece of clothing I own in my car, just in case 🙂 This also helps when I’m on set and the wardrobe person asks if I have shorter shoes, or taller shoes. Yes and yes, I have ALL the shoes.
Don’t make that move empty handed: What I would suggest is building your career well before you make any major moves. If you are a model and don’t have a great portfolio or an actress who doesn’t have a solid reel stay put and work a little longer. One; it is easier to do trade work with photographers and get local commercial work in a smaller market. Unfortunately the top notch fashion photographers in LA aren’t looking to do a quick shoot at the beach with an unknown when they can be shooting with Bella and Gigi and getting paid the big bucks. Two; you will learn the industry enough to be comfortable on set and taking direction. This goes for models and actors. Pageant headshots are not the same as shooting for a commercial brand. No photographer or director is going to stop and teach you what you need to know, you just better know. Acting on camera is different than performing on stage. If you are a musical theatre kid, like I was, or college theatre major get some commercial work first even if it is for the local television market. Something is better than nothing. The biggest mistake others who have come and gone have shared is that they made the move completely unprepared. Never having worked in any capacity in the industry, without materials and without a financial plan. The triple whammy that will lead to massive disappointment.
Money$$$: Be realistic, understand how much everything and I mean everything costs. Can you stop working all together to pursue your dream? Can your family help you? Do you have a money genie? If the answer to all of these is no, make sure you have a really, really, really, solid plan. I have worked consistently on industry jobs since I moved, not full-time, not every day and sometimes I go weeks at a time. I honestly right now make $1,000 a month average in the industry. My rent is $1,200 a month. So clearly without a full-time job outside of the industry I would be packed up and moved back to Wisconsin and in debt. I also take weekly acting classes and just got new headshots. Ching, ching, ching. Oh and I just became eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild. That SAG card is great but the initiation fee alone is $1,500. Before I made the move I saved every single penny for months and months. Do not make the big move until you have the honest to goodness cash to get established. It’s a lot, but trust me you will be so thankful you have a start.
NETWORK LIKE CRAZY: The great news about pageant girls in the industry is there are quite a few of us. My first contacts were pageant folks and many are still willing to give me advice and connections. But in the industry every single person you meet is a connection. That photographer you did an TFP shoot with back in Chicago, the cameraman who also graduated from UW-Madison. Networking is how I started this crazy ride and it’s how I will continue it.
Not all advice is good advice, mine included: To the above point one of the greatest connections I have made here is with an amazing Director/Producer/Actor couple. I met them because I randomly submitted to do some background work. It also is the set upon which I met my greatest friends here in LA. The piece of advice I didn’t take, “Doing background work will discredit you as a serious actor.” A few days on the set as an extra have literally changed my life out here…all for the better. Do I want to be in the background of movies and TV shows forever? Nah! But the best things that have happened so far happened because I wasn’t too proud to do what I had to do. Also I happenstance landed on a huge movie set in the background with one of the biggest actors in recent history so that was a bonus. Stay tuned full details on that one coming June 2020! But by then I hope to have my first role working a little closer to the cameras. The point is, this industry is not much different than the pageant industry, every former and every coach thinks they know the formula for success and your path will not be the same as another persons. Do what works for you!!
Hone the pageant skills because you will need them all: Make-up and hair, be able to do your own. This will come in handy on every level. The first real make-up artist I worked with was hired to do touch-ups and you were to arrive camera ready. She couldn’t get over my technique and didn’t have to do a thing. I quickly became her favorite person on set. Interview skills are a must and those 2 minute interviews you prep for in pageant land, well you have even less time to impress a potential agent or casting director so you are practicing every single time you do one. Walking in heels, comfy in a bikini, can rock a gown…..all essentials. Granted I have been a high school student, scientist and ‘hipster’ girl in my last three jobs so glam is not a real go to necessity for many jobs, but the confidence to work any look helps. Your pageant training is going to help you.
Finally, in true #skysthelimit fashion that I preached to thousands of middle school children throughout my reign as Miss Wisconsin USA. Set a goal and then set and accomplish smaller goals to reach that dream. Here are my 10 best:
1) Make the decision to be a model/actor/stuntwoman/writer/singer/producer whatever it is and fully commit to it. 2)Pick your market 3) Research and set you budget 4)Build your arsenal of work to get you started 5) Find others doing what you want to do and reach out 6)Save those pennies 7)Surround yourself with people who believe in your dream as much as you do and lose anyone who is holding you back 8)Let go of the fear and self-doubt before you set foot on your first real job. You can be your biggest set-back. Enough people in this industry will tell you “no” and you “aren’t good enough”, do NOT make yourself one of them. 9)Know what you are willing to sacrifice and where your boundaries lay, these will be tested. Write down when something is over that line (for me it was an offer to do a wacky commercial for a religious sect and a modeling gig for a rope bondage magazine called Knotty-can’t make this stuff up people) strange things will arise 10)Persist, persist and persist. It might not move at the pace you hoped for so when you stall out – reassess, tweak, learn and move forward.
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