On Friday I had the pleasure of speaking with Miss California, Leah Cecil and Miss Florida, Laura McKeeman who competed in the Miss America pageant on Saturday, January 12th. If you’ve always held the impression that the Miss America pageant is merely a beauty contest or swimsuit competition, you will be pleasantly surprised to hear what it’s “all about”, why these inspiring young women compete in the pageant, and insider scoop on what really goes on behind the scenes of “one of the nation’s leading achievement programs and the world’s largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women.”
Candace Rose: Why did you choose to compete in the Miss America pageant and was this something you’d always aspired to do?
Miss Florida, Laura McKeeman: “No. If you’d told me I’d be doing this, I would have thought that was really funny. About three years ago I had some friends in college who knew I needed some scholarship money to pay for some summer classes and they suggested I look into the Miss America organization and compete on a local level. I thought it was pretty funny at the time; I ended up doing it and it was an amazing experience.
It’s been something that I’ve truly loved and now we’re talking about a massive amount of scholarship money that you win at this level. Amway’s providing $50,000 in scholarship to Miss America, as well as $300,000 (*$25,000 to the first runner-up) to the rest of us. So everybody wins something and you can use it towards your education.”
Candace Rose: And speaking of scholarship, what will you do with your scholarship?
Miss California, Leah Cecil: “As for me, I would use the money to get a Master’s degree. I just graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Music. I was a music major for the last four years at California State Fullerton; I play the harp and that’s something that I perform in the Miss America organization. In order for me to continue my education, to use that money to get a master’s in business, so I can promote the arts, so I can promote myself as a musician. Or I can get a master’s in music as well, learning more beautiful pieces of music on the harp, it would be a wonderful roller coaster ride to be on.
It’s just a wonderful opportunity to get scholarship money and to use that to further my education, especially since college tuition is skyrocketing every single year, and every single semester (of every year in college in California).”
Candace Rose: What does it take to compete in such a large pageant?
Miss Florida, Laura McKeeman: “Confidence. I think confidence is the biggest thing, and it’s something that I can’t say that I had a whole lot of before I went into this, but you’re kind of forced into the realm of learning how to become confident. If you’re doing this regularly, you realize that you may not have the best swimsuit on the stage, you may not have the best interview, the best talent; but if you approach everything from a level of quiet confidence and just feeling good about yourself, and feeling comfortable in your own skin, you can really succeed at it.
And it’s something that’s taught me a lot about how to succeed at regular life, because you can go out there and be like ‘Hey, I am what I am, and I like it some times. Most of the times.”
Candace Rose: That’s great! Can you give us the inside scoop on how you’re preparing for the big day?
Miss California, Leah Cecil: “There’s a lot involved in this competition. We have five different aspects of this competition. We have swimsuit, we have evening gown, interview, on-stage question, and talent- which is a big part of it too. So we have to find different gowns, we have to find different dresses to wear, so that’s a lot of things that we have to prepare for. But luckily when it comes to ‘backstage secrets’, I guess you could say, we have Artistry by Amway that provides us with wonderful products like eye creams to keep our face vibrant; I love the Renewing Peel that has the mushroom enzyme that keeps your face vibrant. It’s a wonderful company that’s able to provide us with very valuable products in order to make us look the best on stage, because that’s very important when you’re on stage, is to look your best.”
Candace Rose: Absolutely. Can you give us the inside scoops on the beauty tricks you’ll be using *pageant night?
Miss Florida, Laura McKeeman: “Lots of tanning creams. I have like the orange rim here. My normal skin color is right here (palm of hand) and I’ve got the orange thing going on, so I’m just an Oompa-Loompa walking around in life! There’s a lot of things like that going on.
But also just a lot of things that we do with our swimsuits, you have to use a little adhesive spray to make sure that your swimsuit stays in place and where it’s supposed to go.
Miss California, Leah Cecil: “It’s really for production, it’s a lot of things we learn about. It’s not for us, it’s nothing you’d do normally in normal life, but especially on stage it’s important to look your best and have the right makeup and cosmetic products. Luckily we have Artistry to do that for us. There’s different little tricks that we learn. It may sound bizarre to an outsider, but they really help for stage and especially live television.
Miss Florida, Laura McKeeman: “Lots of water, and eating. People think ‘Oh, they must not be eating’, but we’re eating a lot today. I think that’s important, being healthy and feeling strong is really crucial because it’s tiring. It’s a lot of work that we put in, and if you’re not fueled, if you’re not taking care of your body you’re not going to be able to perform to the best of your ability.”
Candace Rose: What advice do you have for young women who would like to participate in the Miss America program?
Miss California, Leah Cecil: “It may sound really scary to take that leap of faith and put yourself out there on stage, but I challenge you to just go for it. If you’re watching this and you’re feeling any self doubt or you’re self-conscious about anything, just to go for it. Find a friend that’s been part of the organization. If you don’t know a lot about it you can go to MissAmerica.org or you can go on Amway.com, you can find more on Miss America that way.
But you can learn so much about yourself, and just take that leap of faith. I started as an awkward 14 year old girl, and here I am eight years later a successful 22-year old college graduate who is debt free. And that’s a huge thing for me, especially in California where we have such high tuition hikes. It’s such a blessing to know that I can do my best on stage and put my myself out there and get scholarship money. My life has changed for the best, and it’ll be changed forever.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Miss Florida, Laura McKeeman: “I think the biggest thing for people out there if you’re kind of confused on what Miss America is and you think it’s just a swimsuit competition, I would just challenge you to *watch us on Saturday night and see what we’re all about. I think you’ll be really impressed by the young women that represent different states from around the country, and are so intelligent, are so talented, and are so community service driven. I’ve been so impressed by learning so much by all this different people from around the country. I’m just really excited to see who **wins, because I think there are so many great candidates that we’ve got here.”
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information?
*Interview was conducted prior to the Miss America pageant on Saturday, January 12, 2013.
** Congratulations to Miss New York who won the Miss America pageant