How many scholarship pageants have you participated in and what were some of the highs and lows?
I guess I have competed in a few… but this is a positive thing. I started when I was a sophomore in high school with the Miss Grays Harbor’s Outstanding Teen pageant and was first runner-up. I competed the next year after changing my talent and I was the winner and then first runner-up at state. In college, I won Miss Tahoma 2010 (Miss Washington Sweeper Pageant) and fourth runner-up to Miss Washington and then Miss Seattle 2011 and preliminary swimsuit winner and top-eight finalist at Miss Washington. I also received an academic award of $1,000 at the state level for having the highest GPA of the contestants. This might not seem like a lot, but the time management skills I’ve learned and the $18,000 in scholarships I have earned fall perfectly in line with my academic and career goals.
Some of the highs? Well, paying for a significant amount of my schooling has definitely been a high. I think some of the best highs, aside from the scholarships though, are when children tell me they want to grow up to be like me. Being a role model feels great. Nevertheless, I’m also happy that I’ve been able to improve myself by developing speaking and interview skills.
One low in particular is obvious with pageants: not winning. But, this is a huge life lesson! I won’t get every job I apply for; I’m not perfect (no one is) and I can constantly improve. These are the lessons that “losing” has taught me. There are only five judges for a pageant and it is easy to realize that with a different set of judges, the outcome could be different. Not winning is a lesson in learning to be content with myself and that my best is good enough for me. The opinions of five people should never make anyone in a pageant situation, or otherwise, feel bad about themselves. If anything, I have learned that I cannot let “losing” make me feel bad.
What sort of preparation is involved when competing in a pageant?
There is definitely a great deal of preparation. Since talent is worth 35 percent of the score, you can imagine that I practice piano constantly. Keeping up with current events, having an opinion on controversial issues, leading a healthy lifestyle, going to the gym and practicing walking are also important. Before the Miss Grays Harbor pageant, I also had 10 mock interviews. Interview is worth 30 percent of the score (5 percent for the on-stage questions and 25 percent for the private interview), so I even had my roommates help me with interviews because I think it’s one of the most important parts of the competition. But if there is one piece of preparation that is most valuable, it’s becoming confident. Confidence and a smile tend to get people far in life and I think that girls who have competed can transfer these skills to all areas of their lives. If a woman can feel confident in a swimsuit and high heels on a stage, she certainly will have the self-assurance she needs for any job interview in the future.
What sort of advice might you pass along to young women who might be considering entering a pageant. What are some of the benefits; what are some of the drawbacks?
I would encourage her to compete after thinking about how the pageant’s values and her goals align. With the Miss America Organization, there is an emphasis on education, healthy living and service, so if she shares those values, competing in Miss Grays Harbor or Miss Grays Harbor’s Outstanding Teen would be great. One huge benefit for contestants is that they gain interview skills. There comes a point in your life when you compete for positions with people that have the same qualifications as you on paper (grades, experience, references, etc.) and interview skills make a big difference. Also, if she plans to attend college (which we all know is extremely expensive), then the scholarships available from competing will help her with tuition costs. In fact, Miss America awards more than $45 million yearly. On top of this, she will learn to network, be resourceful (especially when shopping), manage her time well, be confident in everything she does and she’ll walk away with friendships. Through pageants, I’ve even met some of my roommates and traveling companions.
To be fair, there might be some drawbacks, though. To start, it is crucial to have a solid self-esteem before competing because young women are constantly being challenged to improve themselves. For some, this may be misconstrued as being asked to change, but in reality, it is a challenge to improve the woman’s confidence, speaking skills, health and dedication to her talent and her community. Mindset is essential here. Some young women may also see pageants as costly. This does not have to be the case. Many of my clothes were found on eBay or were clearance items. It is important to consider this because if a contestant spends $1,000 on clothing and only receives $700 in scholarships, she is in the red. However, she will never lose the interview skills and friendships she gained. Winning should be viewed as a bonus and not an end-all goal.
Word is that you have even competed along with your younger sister in a pageant or two. If so, what was that experience like?
Actually, I have never competed with my sister. We will compete together for the first time this summer, at the Miss Washington pageant. I’m really excited to be there with her! My sister, Paige, was selected as Miss Apple Valley in August and was awarded $1,100 in scholarships. She will be attending college in the fall. Also, as Miss Washington contestants, we are both guaranteed a minimum scholarship of $1,000, regardless of our placement. As Miss Grays Harbor, I have received $4,000 in scholarships already, so you can imagine that my sister and I competing this year is very helpful in paying for our tuition costs. I’m sure my parents would agree.
How has your college experience been at Gonzaga? What would you recommend about the school to prospective applicants?
It has been fantastic! I would strongly recommend Gonzaga to any interested student. If cost is an issue, I want potential students to know that the university offers great scholarships and through the FAFSA there is also quite a bit of funding available. I hope no one rules out Gonzaga due to the cost. Class sizes are small, professors know your name and they take a genuine interest in your success. The university focuses on educating the whole person, which comes into play through athletic involvement (I played intramural badminton and took four semesters of P.E., all of which were optional), spiritual enrichment (a variety of retreats and religious services are available to students of all faith traditions) and education, both in Spokane and through study-abroad trips. I studied abroad in Zambia, Botswana and Turkey last summer. The credits I earned matched my graduation requirements and I had the chance to travel the world with some of my classmates. Prospective students, I truly hope you study abroad. It teaches you to be open-minded, patient and to manage school work all while living each day to the fullest.
What was the atmosphere like on campus during Gonzaga’s recent basketball season and the NCAA basketball tournament?
Attending Gonzaga basketball games is an amazing experience. The energy is contagious and there is a lot of jumping involved. During the NCAA basketball games on TV, I could hear people in all the apartments around me cheering while we watched the games. Noisy would be a good way to describe the excitement. It seems like all the students have spirit and we all had our fingers crossed for Gonzaga victories. Our school is proud of its athletic success and to see a basketball squad from Spokane ranked No. 1 in the nation was a huge source of pride. There are still banners up on and around campus proclaiming our excitement. School spirit is the backbone of Gonzaga student life.
What are your future plans?
After I graduate in May, I will continue to prepare to compete for Miss Washington and organize and host a Rebuilding Together event in Grays Harbor for a homeowner in need. After the summer, I will be attending the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, where I will begin four years of study to become a doctor of Dental Medicine. Afterward, I hope to begin orthodontic specialty training at either the University of Washington or the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. By the time I am 28 or so, I will be done with school. During those years, I see myself serving as a dental volunteer abroad during breaks in my schooling. I would love to live in Washington once I finish my education, and if there is a need for an orthodontist on the Harbor, I see myself living here. Grays Harbor offers a fantastic, close-knit atmosphere for living and raising a family, so settling down here is a part of my future plan. Until then though, I’m looking forward to a great year as Miss Grays Harbor and my upcoming graduation from Gonzaga. GO ZAGS!