I recently decided to run for my local County Fair Queen. This was an experience I had always dreamed about, but it was something out of my comfort zone. A lot of people know me as a quiet person, and it is hard for me to strike up a conversation with strangers, so deciding to get up on a stage in front of a crowd seemed like the impossible for me.
Two months ago, I went to an informational meeting where I learned about what would be expected of me and the other contestants. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but it was still nerve wracking. I was expected to participate in an interview, dance, swimsuit competition and give a speech the night of the pageant, and during the weeks leading up to the fair, I would meet with the other contestants, past queen and directors to practice. On that Sunday in May, I took a leap of faith, signed my intent to compete form and walked out questioning the decision I had just made.
Walking into the first practice, I did not know what to expect. I was surrounded by gorgeous girls and learned more about what I would be doing as a Fair Queen contestant. Most of the meetings after that day were fairly similar; we started off practicing our dance routine, went through the stage format and had a mock interview with our directors. These practices were spent preparing for the night of the pageant and through it all I learned what it takes to be queen.
I had my fair share of interview practice before I ever decided to be a part of the pageant — thank you FFA and 4H — but nothing was more nerve wracking than standing in front of the doors preparing to be evaluated by a set of judges. No one knew what they were going to ask us once we sat down and it scared all of us. All we were expected to do was talk to the judges for four minutes, and we would be done, and surprisingly it was the fastest four minutes of my life. They asked me about my life, my opinions and my experiences, nothing that was meant to stump me. The judges made me feel comfortable, and they helped me learn to form an opinion based off of my own experiences.
OK, to be honest, this was probably the scariest part of the entire pageant for me. I’m not coordinated and I had never taken a dance class so getting in front of a crowd to shimmy and shake was my worst nightmare. All eight of us had the dance routine down, considering we had practiced it over and over again, but being on stage made the entire dance different. We were told to have fun and let our personalities shine through, but I kept finding myself more concerned with if I was going to slip and fall in my heels. The moment the music started playing though I forgot all about my heels and focused in on making sure the crowd was having as much fun as I was. It turns out doing something I had never learned before really could be fun.
The swimsuit competition
I am not a “big girl,” but I am definitely not the skinniest and most toned, so the idea of standing in front of hundreds of people to be evaluated on what I look like in a swimsuit was not my cup of tea. The thing is fair week is blazing hot and somehow the humidity always seems to be through the roof, so who wouldn’t want to prance around in a one-piece swimsuit? Standing on the side of the stage I had to keep telling myself, “Shoulders back,” because I have horrible posture. I was not one bit concerned with how my body looked or if my thighs were touching one another, I felt confident in myself. Every practice I learned so much about myself, and that helped me so much walking down the runway in nothing but a blue swimsuit.
Practice, practice, practice, then go practice some more; this was my theory on my one-minute speech. I knew my speech front and back almost to the point where I thought I knew it too much. I was passionate about my speech because I had the the opportunity to tell the crowd what my life goal was and exactly how I wanted to accomplish it. I did not have to create some fluff story to make the judges like me; I just had to tell them what was important to me. The speech was by far my favorite part of the whole night because I got to interact with so many people to tell them how I wanted to change the world, so I guess all that practice really did pay off.
So what did I learn from two months of practice and one glorious pageant? I learned about myself and what my strengths were. I learned to appreciate myself and how I look. I learned that you can become friends with a group of girls in a small amount of time. Most importantly, I learned that even if you don’t win, you still need to treat yourself like a queen.