Mention the Miss America pageant and most people will envision a stage full of beautiful women in glittering gowns introduced by cheery announcers and reviewed by critical judges. What they don’t see, however, is the practice, the behind-the-scenes preparation and intense interviews the contestants must endure as they vie for the tiara and sash.
The Miss America pageant, organizers say, goes far deeper than just the bright smiles and beautiful faces of the women who train so earnestly for a chance to win. And Miss Missouri Sarah French, who will be among those competing in the nationwide pageant on Monday night in Las Vegas, is no exception.
French said a lot of people don’t realize that promoting scholarship, personal and professional improvement, leadership and volunteerism are the primary goals of the pageant.
French, an MU broadcast journalism student who won the Miss Mid-Missouri pageant in February and then became Miss Missouri in June, said all the interviewing and public speaking involved in pageant competition will improve her broadcast skills and boost her career.
“I’m making connections,” French said, “and building my communications skills and my speech-giving skills.”
Her father, David French, of Hot Springs, Ark., said competing “opens a lot of doors, exposing her to situations she might not normally be exposed to.”
That’s why French took a full year off from school to compete for the title of Miss America. MU granted her leave with the understanding that the contest would help refine her skills and give her real-life experience, said Judy Dye, French’s business manager and a member of the board of directors for Miss Missouri.
Professional experience and academic opportunity are cited in the Miss America Organization’s purpose statement, which says that the pageant strives to help “young women to achieve their personal and professional goals, while providing a forum in which to express their opinions, talent and intelligence.”
Contestants not only practice speaking, interviewing and public service as ambassadors to their states, but they also win college scholarships. This year’s overall winner will get a $50,000 scholarship that comes from fundraising, corporate partnerships and sponsors, Miss America spokeswoman Sharon Pearce said.
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