Becoming Miss Miss. multi-faceted process

Published 10:45 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Miss Mississippi Pageant has years of previous winners in its ranks, and each former titleholder has brought her own personality to the pageant stage.

And just as each winner has her own personality, so too does each contestant, lending variety to what it takes to become Miss Mississippi.

“Miss Mississippi is a strong woman, and she is every quality of a strong woman,” said Miss Mid-South Macken’Z Smith. “Of course, everyone here wants to be Miss Mississippi. (I want) to represent the Miss America organization, represent the state on the Miss America stage and hopefully fill the big shoes that Hannah Roberts will leave.”

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Each woman vying for the crown has the same goal as Smith, but each contestant has taken a different journey to this week’s competition, picking up different advice and using different learning techniques along the way.

While some may use pageant coaches, others rely on pageant directors, former titleholders and even YouTube for guidance.

Smith, who said she had only had two lessons with a professional, uses YouTube as her go-to.

“I just practice it on my own,” she said. “I like to be the one that figures out what I’m doing wrong, and I want to be the one to fix it.”

Smith said it allowed her to bring her own personality into the mix, a must for winning.

“Everybody’s different,” she said. “If you want to have the exact same wave as somebody, then that’s great, but just be you. If you want to throw out that big spastic wave, you do that.”

Miss Southern Grace Kaylan Frye agreed.

“They teach us a pattern—this is the layout you’re going to do for evening wear and so on—but it’s on you as to how you’re going to present yourself within that pattern,” Frye said. “The posing is on you, the smiling is on you and the hair flip is on you. You get a blueprint basically and build your pageant house from there.”

While some may come to Miss Mississippi with years of experience, others, like Frye and Miss Clinton Hannah Leflore, have only been involved in pageants for a few years.

Leflore said she had to learn how to put on makeup, wear heels and curl her own hair to prepare for pageantry.

“I actually have a scar on the shoulder from dropping a curling iron,” she said. “What I’ve learned really well is how to fall gracefully because I fall a lot.”

It’s not just technical know-how the contestants must master.

Deanna Prewett, treasurer of the Local Pageant Directors Association, and Tonya Scarbrough, a director at large for the pageant, both agreed that the title holder must possess several characteristics, including good moral character, personality, dedication, flexibility and empathy.

“It’s a job—a full time job,” Prewett said. “It’s almost like you’re always in an interview, and you’re going to come in contact with all sorts of people.”

Frye and Leflore both added that teamwork is a large part of what it takes to compete in the pageant.

“It’s really neat to me how coming in I thought that this to be a competition, (but) we’re back here helping each other and sharing hair spray and talking about current events,” Leflore said.

Frye, who is an airman first class in the U.S. Air Force, added, “I guess I had a TV perception of pageants, but it really is a sisterhood with people genuinely helping each other. They don’t put dye in your condition or chop your hair off. It doesn’t happen that way.

“This pageant prepared me for basic training. It’s a stressful environment day in and day out. Every contestant is different just as everyone in (training) is different. You have to work together to get the job done. You have to be in step, and I just think the overall teamwork (is visible) in both aspects.”

Being flexible, being able to learn quickly—whether from YouTube or other contestants—being personable, being dedicated and being a team player seem to culminate in one motto for what the contestants believe it takes to take home the crown.

“You want to polish yourself but stay who you are,” Leflore said.

“The best advice you get is to be yourself,” Frye said. “(The competition) is like taking a ring to the cleaner. It’s the same ring, but you just put a little more polish on it.”