Who thinks beauty pageants have no relevance in today’s society? It’s easy to prove them wrong by watching a little evening news and television…or watching some James Bond! Before Oprah Winfrey became one of the world’s wealthiest and most influential women, she was Miss Black Tennessee. Halle Berry was a “Bond girl” and won an Oscar for Monster’s Ball, but in earlier days she was Miss Ohio USA.  And long before she held one of the most important positions in evening news, ABC’s Diane Sawyer was America’s Junior Miss!

Some say that pageantry is superficial, but in reality pageant competition helps many young women prepare for successful lives by improving their posture, communications skills and self-confidence. Whether we like it or not, we make decisions daily based on first impressions, whether selecting a menu item in a restaurant, buying a new car or browsing dating sites for a possible partner.  And as an employer with more than thirty years of management and hiring experience, I can tell you that one’s personality, posture and wardrobe choices for an interview are a reflection on their future success as an employee.

Preparing for pageants is not much different that preparing for a scholarship or job interview.  You’re required to be poised, confident and well-informed, and with proper eye contact, diction and emotions you show preparedness for whatever task given. Some coaches teach exaggerated walks and posture (the “pageant” look), but I always prefer the “Audrey Hepburn” look. Graceful elegance will always trump flash, and carry you successfully throughout life! Learning to walk, one foot in front of the other, with shoulders properly rolled back is a skill that should be integrated into everyday life, not just onstage in a swimsuit or evening gown.  More importantly, proper posture gives the impression of confidence, and can improve your long term physical health by helping keep your body in proper alignment.

Effective interpersonal communication is a dying art due to texting and internet.  But successful pageant competitors and business leaders share the same skill – the ability to use both verbal and non-verbal communication as persuasive skills. Sometimes the gently lift of an eyebrow or gentle lean of the torso conveys more than flailing arms, and well-chosen words relayed in a conversational manner will disarm and convince better than overwrought, overly-rehearsed answers. Volume, rhythm and tone are all useful tools in verbal communication arsenal, and it is important to remember that both pageant judges and employers are looking for someone who is believable and real!

A well-chosen dress or wardrobe doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it should be properly fitted, appropriate for the event, and reflective of you as an individual. After all, it’s not the cost of the outfit or the decoration, but how it enhances the individual wearing it. Combined with effective poise, presence and communications training, a properly dressed pageant contestant can be successful on stage – and in life!