Life Lessons from Teen Pageants

The Miss Universe Organization crowned Miss Missouri Teen USA, Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff as Miss Teen USA 2017, today.

Yes, I know.  Normally, I don’t pay attention to pageants either. I don’t watch or root for the hometown representative – nothing.    When I became an adult, I turned up my nose at all pageants.  I was convinced they were the tools of sexist patriarchal oligarchs.

And then it happened.  For some reason, Miss Teen USA started dancing on my radar.  It wanted my attention and caught up with me on, of all things, Snapchat.    I tapped the story and before the first contestant finished her introduction I quickly swiped out.

Whew, I thought.  That was a close one.  I didn’t need my cyber footprints left on a “Miss Teen USA” snap story.   And then I thought that was the end of pondering about Miss Teen USA.

As with most things that remain buried in the subconscious, however, I got a subtle nudge to ponder some more.   There it was nudging me again this morning but I couldn’t figure out why?

Then it hit me.  There was a moment in my life that I would sooner forget.   It was a moment that only served to remind me of my first failure on the big stage.

The moment occurred when I, too, was a teenage pageant contestant.

Talent Pageant Contestant
Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens
Talent Pageant Contestant
Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens

A Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens New York State Finalist, to be exact.  At 13-1/2 years old, I began my ascent, like a moth, into the spotlight.

It was there I learned a very hard lesson and what’s worse, I had to learn it in public.   All’s well that ends well is the name of the play, but it’s not true in the life of a pageant contestant. If it were, I’d be writing a story about how I was a Hal Jackson Talented Teens International winner – instead of the story here about how I lost and with a winning talent.

I can imagine the judges scoring my performance. It’s as clear as if I were sitting at the table with them.

Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens Contestant

Mel Hopkins’s Performing Talent:

Stand-up comedy routine “Time after Time”

Contestant nailed it.

Her delivery, timing impeccable. Invited audience participation

Originality: Yes, Contestant wrote her skit.


Opening Scene: Introduction:  O points.

Contestant suffered memory loss or stage fright or she was

hypnotized by the bright lights. Or all of the above.

What we practiced for weeks in rehearsal was tossed right before the show began.  The producers made a format change to condense the show’s running time.  It was a simple change.  Instead of stating your name and mini-bio; you were to walk up to the mic; say your name, age, hometown and exit stage left.

Simple, right?

I got to the mic and drew a blank.  I looked into all those faces sitting in the seats at Avery Fisher Hall and I froze.  I finally snapped out of when I heard someone in the audience make a groaning noise.

I was prepared, maybe over prepared. That night, however, I learned one of the most important lesson in life.

Change is constant.  While preparation is the key, it’s your ability to improvise that will help you clear the hurdles and win the competition.

Normally, I wouldn’t know or care who was crowned Miss Teen USA.  Except today, Miss Teen USA made another appearance this time in my email.  It was the only news release sent out in my subscription.

It is clear, my inner 13-year-old wants to make sure I get the message.

Therefore, I release all judgment against talent and beauty pageants.

I realize for some it can be a valuable experience and learning tool on how to navigate the rough seas of life.

Especially when we become wrapped up in judgments and lose the unbridled passion of youth.

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