10 Lessons I learned as a 1st year pageant mom was actually a really hard list to make. Not because I had a hard time coming up with things to put on this list! The real problem was having to choose only 10 things! I learned so much last year on the pageant journey with Olivia, and I know there is so much more! Watching Olivia prepare for the preliminaries for Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen was incredible. I am so excited to watch her again starting in July, and I am so happy to share this list with you.
- A pageant is really the kid’s interest. Maybe not for a young child who is too little to make the decision to compete for themselves. In Olivia’s case though, we researched pageantry and spoke with one of my good friends who is an expert in the Miss America organization (and we are so lucky to call her Olivia’s pageant coach!). Since MAOT requires not only brains and beauty, but also talent, I really got to know my own child on a deeper level. Olivia chose to dance as her talent, she has loved dancing since she was a little tiny thing. Her best dance experiences were in Jonesboro, and I think the wonderful girls, studio, and dance moms we knew are a part of that passion she has. Her coach put us in touch with the sweetest, most talented dance choreographer in the River Valley and she and Olivia worked together to create the perfect jazz piece. The dance showcases Olivia’s super fun and playful personality, she is so comfortable performing it and she just shines like a star! Olivia had a hand in everything from the music to the dance moves to the costume and hairstyle on pageant days.
- Pageant preparation will really give you a glimpse into your child’s work ethic. Or, lack of one. I was honestly worried when we decided to try pageantry that Olivia would not put in the work once it got hard. She proved me so wrong though. I witnessed her go above and beyond. She practiced constantly at home, at the dance studio, in the school gym during PE. She walked in heels all over our house and she worked tirelessly on getting in plenty of volunteer experience around her platform (A Cause for Paws). Watching her prepare with such dedication showed me that she is capable of anything she sets her mind to!
- TIME. Be prepared to spend all.your.time. Pageantry took over our lives during the prelims that Olivia was eligible to compete in. Between shuttling her all over to choreography lessons, hair appointments, dress shopping and fittings, practice sessions with her coach, and the actual pageants themselves… we were go go going! It was exhausting but also the most fun I have ever had with my kid! She is passionate about competing and has so much fun! It is definitely worth it.
- If you think you’re spending a lot of time on pageant prep, double that and that is how much money you can spend. You don’t have to (thank goodness), but even doing it “on a budget” can still get super expensive, super quick. There are entry fees, talent rehearsals, gowns, active wear or swim suit depending on age group, shoes, accessories, hair, makeup, tanning, travel + accommodations, food.. I’m sure I’m leaving something off here! We have been super fortunate in finding sponsors for hair and make up or having Olivia’s coach available to do hair and make up for us. My super kind hair goddess lent us her spray tan machine as a form of sponsorship for Olivia as well. Going in to next pageant season, we will begin our search for sponsors again soon.
- A Support system is so, so necessary. I have a lot of fun calling our support system our entourage! My family comes out to support Olivia at every single pageant they are able to attend, and then we have our super close friends-turned-family that show up (and often travel with us) as well. At Miss Natural State Olivia had her grandparents, several great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends there to cheer her on! Having so many people that love your child there makes it a lot easier if and when they do not win. For Olivia, going in to last year with zero pageant experience, we did not expect a win at all. Last year was about learning, gathering experience and seeing if this is a road she wanted to continue down. It turns out, she fell crazy in love with competing and cannot wait to begin again in July.
- Networking is important for teens, too. I never competed in pageants. I always felt like they were kind of ditzy and silly. This isn’t true at all, though. I spent years in a networking group when we first moved here and it introduced me to so many movers and shakers in our area. Pageant life is the same, for teenagers. Olivia was able to meet and form bonds with so many sweet girls during her short stint in last year’s MAOT prelims. These girls are all driven to win, and they have to have good grades, public speaking skills, knowledge of their chosen platform, general knowledge about current events and world news/politics. These girls that compete in the Miss Arkansas and Miss America system of pageants are going to be the girls that grow up to be business moguls and women who become pillars in their communities. Being able to provide a path for Olivia to surround herself with and cultivate relationships with these kinds of young women means so much to me. I am so proud of her!
- Pageant life is not always easy. Only one girl wins the crown. There are runner ups but there are always more girls on stage without a crown at the end of the day than there are with. This is really essential to character building, being able to cope with a loss after wanting something so badly. I am useless at this, I do not deal well with losing or being told NO. So… I am so thankful for Olivia’s amazing coach who taught her that there is a time and a place to cry, which is never on stage or in the dressing room, when you don’t win. I am also so thankful for my best friend, who did not miss a single pageant, right beside me telling Olivia what a wonderful human she is and how proud she makes her. I tell her these things but it is often very important for her to hear it from someone who isn’t mom or daddy.
- Losing brings me to another point… pageant prep and the world of pageantry has definitely helped me understand how I want to parent and why. Not all pageant stereotypes are true but some definitely are. There are, unfortunately, some moms who berate their daughters for not winning or not performing “perfectly.” This is terrible, and I am sure it really causes a lot of psychological problems for those precious girls! I will never chide Olivia for losing or not winning or messing up during on stage question or talent or whatever. I would never, ever be brave enough to get on that stage and do what she is, and I will never offer her anything but praise and kind, constructive criticism where necessary.
- There is a pageant stigma. I felt pretty silly at first telling people that Olivia was competing. I guess because I didn’t really know a lot about the world of pageantry. And, not even all pageantry. Olivia is only competing (so far) in the Miss Arkansas circuit. It is a lot and it is a trusted organization and we have very trusted mentors in that arena. Sophia wants to do whatever big sister does, so I will probably let her enter a couple of small scale pageants this year… but I do make sure to let everyone know that there is a lot of work that goes in to competing for these girls! SO MUCH work and dedication. Anyone should be proud of them!
- My favorite thing I learned last year… is that by Olivia desiring to win, to compete, to be a part of this system that is so much bigger than she is… I am able to sit back and watch her flourish as a young woman, a philanthropist, and human. Olivia is compassionate, kind, loving, positive, and sometimes insecure. Like all girls. I love watching her find her place in the world, and learn that all these girls are like her- confident but also still finding out who they are and who they want to be. This is one extraordinary journey she is on, and I am so blessed to be able to walk next to her on her chosen path.
As you can tell, we really learned a lot during our first year of pageant life! I am hoping to take Olivia to watch Miss Arkansas and Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen in Little Rock, June 12-16. Then the new pageant year is upon us and Olivia’s first pageant is in July, Miss Arkansas Valley. This year Olivia has decided to change her platform to focus on health and wellness, and we are in the process of setting up a website/youtube for her! Very exciting stuff going on for her this year. If you’re interested in being a sponsor for Olivia this year on her Quest for the Crown, you can email me GraceAndJeanCollective@Gmail.com and I would love to speak with you and set up a time for you to get to know Olivia and see if the sponsorship is a good fit!
Do you enjoy pageants? Have you competed in a pageant before or your daughter? I would love to hear about your experiences!