January 17, 2018

Pageants: An Endless Life Lesson

A popular question that I have been asked as Miss Wisconsin’s Outstanding Teen is, “why pageants?” I’d like to share my story of involvement in pageantry and the many skills and benefits I have received from this experience.

To begin, I’d like to answer that question: “Why pageants?” I’ve been involved with pageants for a little over 4 years now. Also 4 years ago I had one of my first major recitals as a violinist. I stood up on that stage in front of an audience of about 50 people or so and raised my violin to my shoulder. My hands were shaking as I hit my first note, producing a not-so-desired sound. Needless to say, the performance didn’t go very well. That evening I walked off that stage with an awful feeling in my gut, and a newfound determination to overcome these shakes that affected my playing so much.

After expressing my desire to perform more in order to become a better musician to my mother, I waited for her to work her magic. At the time I was only 11 years old and wasn’t offered many opportunities to perform. That’s when my mother found it: pageants. Very few didn’t include the talent portion as a phase of competition, but my mom saw the other benefits that could be reaped from pageants and encouraged me to do them. I could compete in talent as an optional competition in my first few pageants.

Funny story: my first pageant I planned on doing was supposed to be in a mall in Milwaukee. I thought on that March weekend, “what the heck am I doing?” And didn’t do it. I backed out. I let my fear overcome me. But later that year in April, I took my next opportunity to compete and boy am I happy I did. Ever since that pageant, I moved to the Miss America’s Outstanding Organization and am so happy that I did.

In the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Organization, I stopped shaking so much when performing. I began to move away from classical violin performances of standing in one spot to being an entertainer—smiling, moving around on stage, spinning—all while playing the violin. And not once have my hands shaken since I began competing within this organization.

On top of that, I learned to embrace myself for who I am. The most important thing in the interview phase of competition is letting your personality shine through. Not the most popular girl in school’s personality, not the previous winner’s personality, your personality. Each person’s individuality is unique and the judges want to get to know you. After all, they only have 8 minutes to get to know you as a person. Why would you want to be anyone else? On stage, in the fitness competition, I learned to lead a more healthy lifestyle. Ever since my first year competing at Miss Wisconsin’s Outstanding Teen, I have been actively going to the gym, hiking, and playing sports. I learned healthier eating habits. I used to have a chocolate chocolate chip muffin for breakfast, with a glass of chocolate milk. Little bit of a chocolate obsession, right? Now I make myself sausage and eggs with a glass of apple juice every morning. When it came to the evening gown portion of competition, not only did I love feeling like I was getting ready for prom, I learned how to stand up straight. As an unusually tall teenager, I always felt the need to make myself seem smaller. I would slouch and never wear heels. The evening gown phase of competition pushed me to enjoy wearing 6 inch heels, stand up straight, and be proud of my physical body in addition to feeling like I’m on the red carpet. These skills are just from competing.

In addition to these skills, I’ve earned thousands of dollars in scholarships, and have made so many lifelong friends. To read about that, check out my previous blog post: “The Sisterhood is Very Real.”

So if you’re a girl of any age, I strongly recommend competing. Whether it’s the princess program, the Outstanding Teen program, or the Miss program. The life skills that can be taken away from this are priceless. If you’re a proud parent reading this, I cannot stress the value of these skills and scholarships for your daughter’s future. Pageants have changed my life for the better, and they can change your own or your daughters’ as well.


Grace Stanke

Miss Wisconsin’s Outstanding Teen 2017