Hello everyone! It’s Sasha, back with another blog post!
At the end of February, we will be celebrating another Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen competition! The MUOT program is very close to my heart. I competed twice as a teen, and even though I didn’t win either time, the experience brought me lifelong friends and instilled a passion for the growth opportunities offered by participation in the Miss America Organization (MAO). Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen is somewhat of a “little sister” program to Miss Utah, offering the same leadership opportunities and a similar competition format as the Miss program. Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen competes at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen – this year, I got to travel to Florida to cheer on my teen as she placed in the Top 10 at MAOT!! (Can I get a GO TEAM UTAH??)
I need to pause to take a moment to brag about my Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen, Charlee Sorensen. Some of my favorite memories from my Miss Utah year have been with this lovely lady – from doing Penguin impressions at the aquarium, to cheering her on at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen (Yes, I screamed my lungs out when she won the Talent award), to speaking side by side about important topics like human trafficking and bullying, I have loved the chance to watch Charlee shine this year. Charlee is intelligent, talented, classy and kind – this girl is the real deal!
To celebrate the upcoming teen competition (and to start thinking about the next Miss Utah competition in June), I thought it would be fun to do a blog series sharing my tips and tricks for each area of the Miss America competition! To kick things off, we’ll start with my favorite portion of the competition: interview.
Interviews are important for a number of reasons. It’s the longest stretch of face-to-face time that you’re allowed with the judges (10 minutes) and since the interview is first, it sets the tone for the rest of your performance. A local or state interview in the Miss America Organization could include questions about your resume, social impact essay, social media posts, and any range of current event or political questions. That’s a lot of breadth to prepare! To make sure you stay calm, cool and collected, you’ll need to put in the work beforehand. Here are my tips to make sure that you ace every Miss America interview:
Don’t skimp on your paperwork preparation! An MAO title is a job, and plenty of jobs have been won from the application paperwork alone. Having strong paperwork means that you can walk into the competition week feeling calm and confident. Take your time with crafting your resume and social impact essay, and do multiple rounds of revisions. A pro tip would be to utilize your network to get multiple eyes on your paperwork. During my preparation for Miss Utah, I sat down with my local board and Mom and plugged a laptop into a projector so that we could all work together on polishing each line and phrase. If this setup isn’t feasible for you, don’t stress – just revise it yourself, and give yourself time to review it for typos a few different times with fresh eyes.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you’re stressing about what to wear to your interview, this advice might be mind blowing – don’t worry about it. Your interview outfit should fade into the background behind your fabulous interview itself! For years, I wore the same blue dress to every interview that I got on clearance at Ross. If you’re still wanting advice on what to pick, I’d recommend something classy, sleek and simple; don’t wear anything that you feel skimpy or frumpy in, and make sure it’s well-fitted to your body. A small earring is fine. What’s most important is that your style reflects you. A good prompt for picking your outfit: if I was interviewing to be an executive at my favorite company, what would I wear?
Learn by watching Miss America interviews. I’d highly recommend watching the interviews of the state titleholders at the Miss America competition. I learned so much from studying these tapes, including the winning interviews of Savvy Shields, Nia Franklin and Camille Shrier. I liked to use a preparation method where I would pause the program to write down each question they were asked and bullet point my own answer before listening to how they responded – that way I could practice thinking critically about each question. You can find some interviews on YouTube for free, some here on the Miss America store website, or on WatchMissAmerica.com you can purchase a pass to view the Top 10 interviews from this year’s Miss America competition – including mine!
Use a journal/binder. My favorite tool to prepare for the interview competition is an 8.5 x 11 journal. Journaling is a tried and true method of improving your mental health and improving your structural thinking. Plus, it can be a lot of fun! During the stressful moments of a competition, I like putting in headphones and writing in my journal to center myself. Some of the things I use my journal for include:
- Writing down possible questions and bullet point answers – avoid writing out any answers word for word, as this can lead to sounding too memorized.
- Writing down current events with 2-3 bullet points to summarize. I prefer to do my current events research in a topical manner. For example, I might decide one day to do a deep dive into Health Care questions. I’d pick several relevant sub-topics related to healthcare, write them in my journal, and list out 2-3 points guiding my opinion on each topic. Here’s an example of what that might look like:
3. Documenting my day and life. I find that I sleep easier when I journal before bed, because it gives my brain a chance to offload all the thoughts and anxiety bouncing around!
4. Writing out positive manifestations to improve my headspace. This includes things like “I am confident. I am healthy”, etc. Sometimes I get really specific about manifesting things I want…. “I am walking the red carpet at the Oscar. I am friends with Harry Styles… (You get the picture). I’m a big believer that you can write things into existence. There’s value in taking time every day to write down your dreams, goals, and ideal reality to recenter yourself in the life you’re hoping to create.
5. Drawing pictures of my dreams and goals. This might sound so silly – and you might be thinking, I’m not an artist! – but I firmly believe that sketching a picture of something makes it more likely to become real. As proof, here’s a little sketch I drew years ago of what was then my dream gown at Miss America… I found this right before leaving for Miss America, and even though I had forgotten all about it, I was floored to see how close the first sketch had been to what I actually wore!
Pick “5 Main Things” to discuss. A proven way to succeed in your interview is to ensure that you are the one steering the conversation – not the judges panel. Ten minutes goes by in the blink of an eye, and you need to know exactly what information you want to present! This is your opportunity to pitch yourself for the job, and I recommend summarizing your 5 best arguments. You should be able to discuss each point neatly in 30 seconds. During your interview, you should aim to discuss all 5 points; if you only hit ⅘, you can use the last 30 seconds afforded to discuss that point and conclude. My bullet points for Miss America were something like this:
Learn by practicing in mock interviews. I love mock interviews! I personally benefited tremendously. I think it’s important to simulate an environment as close to the real interview as possible – that means dressing up in a professional outfit, using a panel of people that might make you slightly nervous (I’d recommend recruiting your parent’s or sibling’s friends). Time each mock interview, and my expert tip is to film yourself each time and watch it back later – preferably with your journal in front of you to take notes.
Be kind to yourself. This might sound hokey, but I am a huge believer that your thoughts determine your reality. If you’re hoping to secure a dream job, you need to start NOW with telling yourself that you are a fabulous interviewee. If you catch yourself panicking, thinking, “I’ll never be good enough,” or “What if they ask me something I don’t know?” — stop that line of thought and flip a u-turn. The way that you talk to yourself matters!
Don’t stress. This is a lot of information, so just a reminder– judges or panelists in an MAO competition (or any interview) are not looking for perfection. You don’t have to be the White House Press Secretary; you need to be real. Just do your best, and try to give honest, thoughtful answers to the questions provided. You don’t need to dazzle them with your intellect; you just need to demonstrate that you have the maturity and people skills to do the job. If you get asked a question that you can’t answer? No biggie. Just simply say, “I’d have to do more research before I could answer that.”
My headshot at Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen, competing as Miss Salt Lake Valley’s Outstanding Teen vs. my headshot at Miss Utah, competing as Miss Greater Salt Lake.