The Miss America Social Impact Initiative (SII) is each titleholder’s unique way of connecting to a broader audience during her year of service. How one effectively makes an impact is another matter. Each Initiative has different messages and goals so there is not one easy formula for all! However, there is a level of dedication to the cause you chose to advocate for that will make all the difference in the world. Simply stated, to have a impactful SII, you should live it every day and make it a part of your life.
3 Simple Steps to Live Your Social Impact Initiative Every Day
~ by Kathryn Kueppers
The best way I have found to live your Initiative every day, is to simply do that: do one thing every day. Most titleholders hope to have made an impact by the time their 366th day rolls around, so let’s get started. Here are three steps to help you do ONE thing every day:
3. Every day thereafter: Do one thing, big or small, every day for that impact.
One day you could develop a 20 minute speech on your initiative. This will help you articulate it throughout your year. One day you could make plans to run a social media campaign. One day you could spend an hour researching your initiative; contact an organization to have you speak; have a good conversation with someone, even a friend, about your impact and what they can do to be a part of it. How about starting a blog? Another day you could create a logo for your initiative. Even posting photos that show you in the community with your impact can make a difference! The possibilities are endless.
If you have never watched the Miss America competition, or if you've only seen it once and awhile, here are 10 facts for newcomers that you might not be aware of!
10 Facts About Miss America for Newcomers
By Kathryn Kueppers
Miss America was the original national pageant.
Founded in 1921, Miss America will celebrate its milestone 100th anniversary with the crowning of Miss America 2021. The Miss America Competition is sometimes confused with the Miss USA Pageant, which was at one time owned by Donald Trump. The Miss USA Pageant is a beauty pageant and the winner competes for Miss Universe. There is no talent competition in the Miss USA Pageant.
5 Things to Know About the Miss America 2.0 Social Impact Initiative
By Kathryn Kueppers
1. Your Social Impact Initiative (SII) should be about something you have real passion for.
This may seem obvious, however there is a fine line between simply caring about an issue and actually being passionate about it. You need to be able to speak from the heart about your SII. My brother told me, “your initiative should be about Miss America, because you never stop talking about it!” Gotta love brothers, because he did have a good point! One test for your social impact initiative is that your family and friends already know why you chose it before you even have to explain it to them.
3. Discover a way to make your Social Impact Initiative unique to YOU.
This is your initiative. You can advocate for an existing organization like The Autism Society, The America Heart Association, Alzheimers Association etc., if you have personal experiences or a deep passion for that issue. A friend of mine created her own platform on Advocacy for the Arts. She is an opera singer and she adapted her love of opera to create her initiative 'Reviving Classics in Our Youth.' This was a creative and personal way for her to make a general social impact initiative her own.
In September of 2018, the Miss America Organization debuted its new competition: Miss America 2.0. Local and state pageants have been transitioning to this new format so that by the 2020 Miss America Competition, each program will use the 2.0 format as they crown their new titleholders. So what is new? Let's take a look!
5 Things to Know About Miss America 2.0
By Kathryn Kueppers
2. Swimsuit competition has been retired.
Women will no longer be judged while wearing a swimsuit and heels. This has been a welcome change as women are pleased not to have to model a swimsuit to be awarded scholarships.
3. Evening Wear with Social Impact Statement.
This elegant phase of the competition has been improved in two ways: Each candidate now wears anything she would like as if walking the red carpet - pants, cape, gown, dress, whatever it is that makes you thrilled to step onto the stage. In addition, Candidates make an 8-second Social Impact Statement in their evening wear. What do you say? Take key points of your Social Impact Statement and condense them into 2-3 sentences. This is your moment to articulate what you will do as Miss America OR share the impact you hope to make as a titleholder.
4. Talent Competition is now worth 50% of your scoring.*
Talent has been a cornerstone of the Miss America Competition. The only change is that now the scoring percentage has increased to 50% at the state and national levels, and 40% at the local level. Your talent presentation cannot be longer than 90-seconds and should reflect who you are. Consider challenging yourself as you prepare for this exciting phase of competition.
5. Private Interview 25% and On Stage Question 15%.*
Both of these phases of competition combined just got a whole lot more important, totaling 40% of your score! They are meant to focus on who you are authentically and whether you are that person confidently in front of people. The private interview is 10 minutes long with your judges. The on stage question is an extension of the judges interview, and you have 20 seconds to answer one question. It would certainly come in handy to start practicing answering questions in 20 second bites!
*For the complete list of scoring percentages and judging criteria, follow this link
One of the hallmarks of the Miss America Organization are local pageants. To be eligible to compete in your state competition, you must first compete and win a 'local' title. Once you attain a local title, attending other 'locals' is a great way to kick off your year. In fact, there are several very good reasons to attend local pageants.
7 Reasons Why Titleholders Should Attend Local Pageants
By Kathryn Kueppers
1. INTRODUCES YOU TO YOUR STATE.
I have had so many adventures traveling the state to attend local pageants! You learn some pretty random history at small town diners, and you get to know the state you come from and that you one day may represent.
2. PROVIDES THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET THE WOMEN YOU WILL COMPETE WITH.
Going to local pageants promotes camaraderie among competitors. It helps foster friendships before you even get to your state orientation weekend. Also, it means a lot to the girls competing when they see you took the time to show your support.
3. PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES TO RECRUIT.
Any time you wear your crown is a recruitment opportunity. There are always little girls and young women at local pageants, whether they are there to support a contestant or to learn more about the program. You are a representative of MISS AMERICA and you have the ability to encourage these people to get involved. Why not take this chance?
4. PROVIDES MORAL SUPPORT.
The volunteers who pour their hearts into this program are what make Miss America tick. Attending local pageants supports these dedicated individuals. They love it when titleholders come to see their program.
5. PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTICE YOUR 'LOOK.'
Each local is a chance to get dressed up and go out. This becomes helpful because you learn what looks best on you and also what you are most comfortable in. Plus, you get good at getting ready quickly.
6. YOU WILL GET TO KNOW YOUR AWESOME STATE TITLEHOLDER.
More often than not, our Miss Minnesota makes an official appearance at every local pageant. She speaks about her platform, the Miss America Organization, and performs her talent. Attending local pageants gives you more opportunities to meet your state representative and get to know her better. After all, you would like to have her job someday.
7. IT'S PART OF THE EXPERIENCE.
The local level is the first step and the heart and soul of the Miss America experience. Just think, by attending local pageants, you could be meeting, or actually be, the next Miss America. Remember this: the journey to Miss America begins on a small stage somewhere with a local pageant.
I am often asked by potential contestants, “what do I need to do to compete?” If you are new to pageants, I will do my best to answer this question. Here are 7 steps to set you on the road to Miss America.
7 Steps To Enter a Miss America Local Pageant
2. Choose A Social Impact Initiative
The Social Impact Initiative (SII) is a cause for which you will advocate during your year. Examples can be: childhood cancer awareness; anti-bullying; advocacy for the arts; healthy eating, etc. The best SII is one you have experience with and are passionate about. You should be able to speak spontaneously on the subject if asked, and you will be!
Your paperwork will be the first thing the judges see before they meet you in the interview. Your Resume should showcase your education, personality and accomplishments. Your Social Impact Statement is an essay about why you chose your initiative; why your initiative is relevant; and what you intend to do or what you have done to advocate your initiative. Remember, choose a social impact initiative you are passionate about. You can check out my blog about the Miss America Social Impact Initiative for more detailed information. You will also need a color photo of yourself for the program book and social media. Be sure to select a nice picture for the judges which represents who you are.
4. Prepare A 90-Second Talent
The talent competition is like “America’s Got Talent” for women and is a hallmark of the Miss America competition. You can sing, dance, play an instrument, recite a monologue, demonstrate a skill (yoga, painting, baton twirling) or even conduct a science experiment! You have 1 minute and 30 seconds to wow the judges. The most important thing to keep in mind is to be entertaining!
There are many pieces of advice I could share about wardrobe and what you should wear. I’ll leave you with this: what you wear should fit you well and make you feel great when you are on stage. It should reflect your personality and make you feel awesome! And, you do not have to spend a lot. I have found great dresses on pageant & prom resale sites, eBay, Amazon, and have borrowed clothing. Remember that you are competing to win scholarship money, and you don’t want to spend more than you can win.
NEW WITH 2.0
During Evening Gown Competition for MISS competitions, candidates will make an 8-second statement about their Social Impact Initiative in their evening gown. Watch for an upcoming video about the new Evening Gown competition.
6. Create Your Personal CMN (Children’s Miracle Network) Page
Miss America’s National Platform is the Children’s Miracle Network. Every contestant must set up her personal profile at and raise a minimum of $100 for CMN before competing in her first local pageant. Instructions can be found at Miss America 4 Kids. Once you have created your personal profile, you can email and post this link to friends and family to make a tax deductible contribution to CMN, or you can find creative ways to fundraise. You also can raise more than the minimum amount required for this very worthy cause.
This sometimes is the most overlooked part of preparation for new contestants. You will have a 10-minute interview with the judges, of which the last 30 seconds you may give a prepared (not memorized) closing statement. (NOTE: Teen Contestant interviews are shorter, so check with your local pageant. There is no closing statement for Teens.) What is the best way to prepare for this? First, read, re-read, and then re-re-read your paperwork! Do service work in your community. Stay up to date on current events. Practice answering questions with family and friends. You need to know everything that you have written in your paperwork and be prepared to talk about it. For keeping up on current events, I recommend theskimm.com which is an online news service providing an overview of current political issues. Have conversations with friends and family so you are able to articulate your views. The most important thing to know about the interview is to BE YOURSELF. Don’t answer questions based on what you think the judges want to hear. They are there to get to know you, so show them your heart! You can watch my video to learn more about the 10-minute judges interview!
Now that you have your to-do list, it’s time to final a local pageant and enter!
Those of us who have become titleholders in the Miss America system would agree that this experience changes us. But when our competition years are over, do we simply tuck away the rhinestone crown and never look back? No, we continue to move forward and empower other women along the way; and we do this while still wearing our Invisible Crowns. Even though we didn't attain the national crown, we understand that Miss America is more than just one woman. It is about all of us who continue to make a difference in our communities, our work place, and in the lives of our families, long after we have passed on our own crowns. This is what ignites my love for Miss America, inspires my platform, and motivates me to revitalize interest in Miss America for future generations. I would love you to be a part of it. But in the mean time, here are 3 things you need to know about my platform, the Invisible Crown! #missamericamovement
3 Things to Know About the Invisible Crown
1. The Invisible Crown is the LEGACY of Miss America
2. The Invisible Crown is INSPIRED by the women of Miss America
3. The Invisible Crown is about RECRUITMENT & spreading AWARENESS
Won't you join me?
Very soon I’ll be taking part in a 75-year-old tradition: the National Sweetheart Pageant, taking place every year during the National Sweetcorn Festival. I’ve been looking forward to this all summer and since many of you have been asking about Sweetheart, I thought I’d introduce you to this wonderful program held in the charming community of Hoopeston, Illinois.
7 Things to Know about the National Sweetheart Pageant
2. National Sweetheart is held every year over Labor Day weekend, right before Miss America. There are 2 days of competition with the crowning of the new National Sweetheart on Sunday night before Labor Day. The current Miss Hoopeston is the hostess each year for the pageant.
3. Contestants stay with host families during the week. I’ll be in a house with 2 other fellow contestants. I can’t wait to meet my host family!
4. The judges for National Sweetheart are former Miss America state directors, local directors, volunteers, and titleholders from around the country, all veterans of MAO! They know the ins and outs of Miss America and provide contestants with top notch national judging experience.
5. Sweetheart follows all the same phases of competition as Miss America. They will be following Miss America 1.0 rules for this year, so I’ll compete in “Lifestyle and Fitness." However, there is one additional area of competition at Sweetheart: the parade costume. The Sweetheart parade is on Saturday. Each contestant creates a parade costume which reflects something about her state or her community, much like the “Show Us Your Show” parade in Atlantic City. Scoring is 5%. I can't wait to show off my costume!
6. Scholarships are awarded to the top 5 along with many other awards presented to the contestants!
7. In the 75 years since National Sweetheart was started, there have been many young ladies who entered and went on to win their state titles in subsequent years. In fact, 9 women who competed at Sweetheart have won the title of Miss America.
See you in Hoopeston!
Your Minnesota Sweetheart,
10 Random Truths About Pageant Girls
1. Having a title is like having a full-time job.
Between appearances, platform work, practicing talent, interview preparation, wardrobe selection, blogging, keeping fit, perfecting your look, meetings with directors, and balancing it all with school and work, you are constantly on the go. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, so you might as well embrace it!
2. It’s us, hipsters, and moms that keep coffee houses alive.
Caffeine has officially achieved “source of life” status among pageant girls.
Having a sparkling crown and sash on in public places is like being a Disney Princess to little ones. They are simply in awe of that sparkly thing on your head! Some tykes want to follow you around while others hide behind their moms and peak at you through their fingers. You get questions like “where’s your castle” or “are you a real princess?” Often any fear goes away the moment you take off you crown and offer them to try it on. It's crazy cute!
McDonalds, Culvers, DQ, Cherry Berry, Subway, Burger King, you name it! Nothing like a pre or post-pageant quick change or pick me up at one of your favorite rest stops!
Many of us from the midwest generally started participating pageants in our late teens or early adulthood years. However, sometimes people think our moms signed us up early on and had us wear make-up and poofy dresses before we could recite our ABC’s, which could not be farther from the truth.
6. Pageant day is the ultimate “girl’s night out.”
The day of a pageant you get to hang out with amazing women who have similar interests. It’s a full day of trying on your dresses, practicing dance steps, snacking, getting all dolled up, and having dance parties in crowded dressing rooms. It’s insanely fun!
©2014 Sarah Morreim Photography
It’s not uncommon to have less than an hour to get stage-ready for a competition if you’ve been rehearsing all day. On top of that, we go through full wardrobe changes about 3 times during the pageant and are given probably 8 minutes on average to do so. And if you’re like me, you just leave your heels on the whole time (factor in balancing abilities, or lack there-of!) But after surviving the pace of a pageant, we can be ready for any appearance in no time flat, complete with the crown on our heads and our lipstick in the perfect matching shade.
I have fond memories of hording the bag of gummy bears and swiping the last slice of pizza by the end of the night. Sometimes the nerves make you less hungry, but by half-way through a pageant, it’s worth ruining your lipstick for some sugary goodness.
9. Miss America pageant girls have a cause for which we advocate.
I can’t speak for those in other pageant systems, but if you meet a Miss America girl, she has a “platform.” A platform is a cause or purpose she promotes during her year of service that has the potential to become her legacy. Contestants make numerous personal appearances with their platforms, giving them the opportunity to effect positive change in the world.
10. No girl is alone.
We all have a tremendous support system to help us. Our support system usually consists of our directors, our local or state committee, our family, and friends. These people guide and mentor us, and set us in the right direction. These awesome people are the reason we can do what we do.
Last year I began training for the swimsuit competition in the Miss America Program. This is complex topic right now in the world of pageants, most specifically Miss America. There is a new Board in place and the national conversation about the future of this competition is everywhere. Admittedly, I was hesitant about walking out on a stage in a bikini (I actually won my first local pageant wearing a one-piece.) However, in preparing physically and mentally for this phase of competition I learned several things about myself that I didn’t anticipate.
5 Things I Learned from Swimsuit Competition
1. The Importance of Re-Constructing My Personal Body Image.
You change, your body changes, and so your view on your body will also change. There is something to be said for re-assessing what you expect yourself to be able to do and what you want to look like. These things can change day-to-day.
I learned this between being a Culinary Student and preparing for the swimsuit competition. When I started both, I was proud of doing just a few, rather weak, push-ups. I also was complacent asking for help lifting heavy trays out of the oven. I was more concerned with being thin than fit.
Now, I’m much more proud of being independent, of not needing help, and of accomplishing 50-100 push-ups in a day. That’s the change only a year has brought me. However, what happens when I have kids? When I grow older? The things that my grandma’s body can still do that make her proud are very different from the things my body can do that make me proud. Nonetheless, we both can do great things with what our bodies can handle.
Working out, taking my strength more seriously, and preparing myself mentally to walk on a stage in a swimsuit caused me to look for healthy ways to view my body. Re-constructing my body image was one of those changes in view.
2. How to Work Out.
I never took working out seriously until I started preparing for swimsuit. I would go on long walks, do sit-ups here and there, and eventually I learned how to do a push-up. I was content being weak and was convinced I had no athletic abilities. Deciding to take this phase of competition seriously was one of the best things I ever did because I was finally motivated to see what limits I could push myself to. Thank you Melissa Paakh for stepping into my life and showing me what the heck to do! I practiced working out and would do the same routine until I was proficient at it before moving on to a new one. This included warming up and stretching properly before and afterwards. This ensured that I understood what I was asking my body to do. I was able to rise to each challenge before I moved to the next one.
3. No Body Is Truly Perfect.
What you see on social media is just the tip of the ice-berg. See Body Reality for a reference. When I started working out, of course I wanted to look perfect and have my body change in just a few weeks. I saw plenty of gorgeous fitness gurus and models looking flawless and wanted to be like them. I realized pretty quickly how bad this was for me and how easily it was tearing down my self-esteem when all I wanted was to look confident on-stage. So, I started noticing just how perfect these photos were due to the lighting, the camera angle and the model's pose.
As an experiment I’d try taking photos of myself. I’d lounge around, sit comfortably, slouch, and snap a photo. Then I’d pose and adjust lighting and snap another one. After looking at both photos of myself, it finally hit me how unrealistic my standards were. Shortly after, I saw articles like the one above coming out.
No one will always look 100% perfect. What I started looking forward to in working out was how good I felt and how much more energy I had. I also noted how excited I got when I thought of competing for swimsuit with real muscle tone. I stopped checking the scale and staring in the mirror so much.
4. That Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder.
I had heard this saying before, but it started to stick with me as I was making my previous revelations. Obviously, pageants have a subjective side. I’m not going to perfectly please every judge out there. What does tend to “please people” or make people notice is you is confidence, more than anything. Confidence comes from within. So, revelation #4 was that the only “beholding eye” I needed approval from was my own. It doesn’t always come easy, but I ultimately know that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” (thanks for that one, Eleanor Roosevelt!) I’ve taken that to mean that if I give other people the power to determine how good I’m doing or how secure I should feel, I will probably never be whole. It has to come from within.
5. The Value of Being Strong Over Being Skinny.
I’ll just say it: I have always been incredibly weak. This is probably why working out has made me so deep and emotional (please note sarcasm.) Once upon a time, little Kathryn couldn’t do a single push-up (even on my knees) and even avoided eating cereal in the morning because a full milk jug was too heavy to handle. Early on, I decided to accept that I would always be a physically weak person. The swimsuit competition shook that ideal to the core. When I started working out and really trying, the first revelation I had was that I hated being weak. I didn’t want to be the girl who always needed help lifting things, I just resigned myself to it. So, I worked at it. I became emboldened to push myself more in the kitchen, stock the freezer by myself or try to lift the mixing bowl that I could easily crawl into. I turned out to be stronger than I believed. Today, I’m significantly more independent in the kitchen and progressively more-so in life. I’m stronger, happier and healthier, and these are the traits I want to “flaunt” more than anything. Not just for two seconds in the swimsuit competition, but going forward in life.
Photo by Emily Stock, Tiger Lily Photography
Kathryn Rose Kueppers, Author