Q and A with Miss New Jersey Cierra Kaler-Jones

Maybe the Miss New Jersey Pageant is right for you, but you still have questions. We asked Cierra Kaler-Jones, Miss New Jersey 2014 to answer some commonly asked questions from new contestants. Check it out!!

IMG_0042_sr1What do I need to do to compete in my first pageant?
1. For a Miss America Organization local preliminary pageant, you will compete in various phases on competition including: Swimsuit, Evening Gown, Talent, Private Judge’s Interview, and Onstage Question. You will need either a one piece or two piece swimsuit, whichever makes you feel most comfortable and confident, nude/clear heels, and any accessories you want to use to show off your personality.You will also need an evening gown that you feel comfortable in and any costume or outfit that fits your talent for your performance. For private judge’s interview, you will need an appropriate interview dress/suit of your choice.

Each contestant will submit a fact sheet that she will receive at her local pageant orientation, which is similar to a resume and will give the judges an opportunity to get to know you better.  Each contestant will also submit a platform statement with information about her chosen platform, or passion project, and how she will commit to advancing that platform as a hopeful local or state titleholder. Contestants will also be asked to submit a headshot for the judges book.

Be sure to bring makeup and hair products for both the interview and for stage. Most contestants bring a hand mirror or floor mirror and extension cord in case the venue does not provide them.  Bring a robe, comfortable clothing, and sneakers for morning rehearsals. The most important thing to bring for a pageant is a smile, good attitude, and excitement for a new opportunity!

IMG_40192. I don’t know if pageants are for me? What are the benefits?

One of the major benefits of competing for the Miss America Organization is the scholarships that are provided. Aside from the opportunity to compete for scholarships, pageantry gives you public speaking and communication skills, the experience to share your talents with a larger audience, and the microphone to spread awareness about causes you wish to promote.

Competing also teaches you essential life skills, particularly the interview portion, which challenges you to have a working knowledge of current events and enables you to vocalize your thoughts and opinions in a professional settings. Being in pageants also surrounds you with other young women from across your state that are well-rounded, talented, intelligent, and civic-minded, which can push you to your fullest potential. Also, the Miss America Organization is known for forming life-long friendships and networks amongst contestants.

3. How much in scholarship can I actually win? Is it really worth the money I will put out for preparation and wardrobe?

The Miss America Organization is the largest provider of scholarships for young women in the world, making more than a million dollars available to young women each year. It is not a “winner-takes-all” organization, but rather each contestant that competes, even if she does not win a title, can still leave with scholarship dollars. There are talent awards, interview awards, swimsuit awards, congeniality awards, in addition to various other scholarships at each local and state pageant. I have won approximately $45,000 in scholarship dollars during the four years I competed at the local and state level and will be able to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University debt-free. Many contestants borrow wardrobe or ask for local sponsors to cover the costs of wardrobe if they are unable to splurge on wardrobe and preparation help, so the scholarship dollars are going directly to their tuition and school fees. You do not need to have the most expensive gown or interview dress to win a pageant. It is about the girl in the gown, not the gown.

IMG_00244. Do I need to have a talent? What if I can’t sing or dance? Can I still compete?

There is a talent competition which is worth 35% of your score. Many successful contestants have competed with talents other than singing and dancing, including comedic monologue, poetry recitation, instrumental performance, and acrobatic routines.

5. What is a platform?

A platform is a social issue that you, as a contestant, have decided to dedicate your year of service to highlighting.  For many women it is an issue that is close to their heart. Some platforms have discussed Breast Cancer, Autism, Drunk Driving, Adoption and Organ Donation. Remember, this is your opportunity to talk with children, policy makers and corporations throughout the state of New Jersey to really make a difference.  Be sure to be well versed on your topic as it is usually discussed at length in your interview.

6. Will someone be helping me or mentoring me along the way?

Each contestant that wins a local title will have a Local Director who volunteers to mentor and coach their titleholder throughout the year. Each Local Director will serve as your direct contact person for any questions you may have about competing at the next level, will help you with wardrobe, talent song selection, and will set up mock interviews as practice for the Miss New Jersey Pageant.

IMG_00797. Is this as competitive as it seems? Are the girls nice or not?

Every pageant is essentially a competition. Not every young woman will leave with a crown, but every woman will leave with scholarships, lifelong friendships, and the experience of a lifetime. The Miss New Jersey Education Foundation has been described as more of a family than a pageant community. The girls that compete become life-long friends and form bonds that span far longer than their years competing.

8. What questions are asked in interview? What should I wear for interview?

In the private judges interview, judges are instructed to ask contestants whatever they see fit. Generally, judges genuinely want to get to know each competitor because they are charged with choosing the best young woman for the job. Contestants should be ready to verbalize their opinions on current event topics, explain any point on their fact sheet, and answer any questions regarding their personal platforms.

Remember that no one knows you better than you know yourself and it is not about knowing all of the answers, but rather how you articulate the answers.  The private judges interview is 9 minutes and 30 seconds and the last 30 seconds you have the opportunity to give a closing statement. This 30 seconds can consist of a wrap-up of your interview or detail a point that you want the judges to know about you that you were not able to talk about during the duration of the interview. Also, practice makes perfect, so the more experience you have, the more at ease you will be when it comes to answering questions.IMG_4021

9. What is the difference between an open, closed and regional pageant?

You can find all available pageant information on the “Local Pageant” page and each pageant will be defined as either “open”, “closed” or “regional.” Each of those distinctions tell you if you are eligible to compete for that pageant. If the pageant is “open”, anyone in the State of New Jersey who lives, works or goes to school here can compete. If it’s a “closed” pageant, you must live, work or go to school in that area, town or county. Lastly, if it’s listed as “regional” you must live, work or go to school in that region. All regions are further defined each local pageant. If you have further questions regarding your eligibility you can contact the local director or State Field Director.

If you have additional questions contact the Miss New Jersey Education Foundation at info@missnewjersey.net

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