What to Expect During Your Pageant Interview

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In a typical pageant, interviews with the judges behind the scenes come first. Contestants have a few scarce minutes to make an impression and wow the judge or judges. Interviews are most often the first time the judges see and interact with the contestants; therefore, an excellent impression is a must. The winner, after all, must be a spokesperson in the community and interact with a variety of people. Poise, polish, and the ability to answer questions thoughtfully and immediately are sought after qualities for any titleholder.

There are two main formats for interviews: a panel interview or one-on-one. A panel interview is when a contestant is seated before a table with multiple judges who fire questions her way. Another standard format is a one-on-one interview with each judge. Directors may make a decision on the type of interview based on how many contestants are participating.

Overall appearance is the first thing the judges will see as the contestants enter the designated interview area. When choosing an interview outfit, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you would be comfortable wearing said outfit if Donald Trump were to enter the room. Zach Efron? Your grandpa? The ensemble should be professional, stylish, smart, sophisticated, fun, and a bit sassy. Hair should be polished and make-up should be flawless as the judges will be seeing contestants up close. Interview make-up is a slightly toned down version of stage make-up. For more in-depth advice on how to choose the perfect interview outfit and accessories, be sure to watch our video, Pageant Interview 101.

Another part of overall appearance during interview is posture. Walk in like you own the room. Be confident. Stand tall. Say hello and introduce yourself with confidence and gusto. If there is a chair for you, be sure to sit up straight on the front edge of the chair with ankles crossed. While sitting in a chair, contestants should remember to cross their ankles and sit with their hands in their lap except when gesticulating during a response. A podium can be used in lieu of a chair. In that case, is important to remember to stand beside the podium and interact with the judges as opposed to hiding behind it.

For both types of interviews, eye contact is imperative. During a panel interview, it is important to make eye contact with every single judge in the room. It is best to begin eye contact with the judge who is asking the question, travel to the others during the response, and end making eye contact with the initial inquiring judge. A loud, clear, confident voice should be used. A good trick is to act as though the panel of judges is a group of mentors and friends that you’ve known for years.

Directors will typically give contestants a list of mock questions that the judges may ask. Judges often pull information from a contestant’s bio sheet for questions such as “Tell me about the time you volunteered at the local homeless shelter,” or “Do you like attending an all girls school?” The weirdest question I ever got was “If you were the opposite sex, would you date yourself?” Take a moment to think about the question and answer it honestly. If it is a controversial question (think of Miss California USA 2009), try to answer it diplomatically and tactfully while still being true to yourself. Study up a bit on your state before the pageant. Know the major politicians, issues, and news so that you can comment on them intelligently if asked.

The judges have to sit through many, many interviews. Making a lasting impression by adding humor, an interesting anecdote, or talking about a memorable cause can increase your score and the odds that you’ll be remembered long before you hit the stage. The best advice for interview is to be yourself; there is no wrong way to be you. Be true to who you are at your very best and you will nail it.

What questions were you asked during interview? Sound off below in the comment section.

  • Emily

    I always get asked why I want to be Miss (insert title) and I STILL don’t really know what to say. I don’t want to sound fake or corny…HELP! Lol

  • Von Gretchen McAlpin

    What advice do you have for contestants when they are required to give a 60 second speech during interview about who they are and why they should be selected as the new titlist.