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.
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?
9 Ways to Prepare for Your State Competition Now!
This one is super important, even if it’s just a few texts here or there! Your Local Director is there to help you get ready for the state competition and make the most of your year. Find out their expectations and let them know your goals as their titleholder. This makes it easier to collaborate with them and come up with new ideas! Also, always check with them before you make appearances, speak, fundraise, or do anything with the name of your title. Your directors are your best resources, especially if you are new. So work with them!
2. Arrange speaking opportunities.
Find every opportunity to get in front of a group of people to speak. Your local committee might even be able to arrange something for you. Schools, Rotary Clubs, and other similar civic organizations are great places to speak about your Social Impact Initiative. By practicing speaking, you’ll start to develop and refine talking points for interview and onstage question.
You’ve most likely noticed how much social media has expanded over the past few years. Now is the time to start using platforms like Instagram, IGTV, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to brand yourself. This is also a great way to advocate for your Social Impact Initiative and update people on what you are doing! Some easy ways to get started are to create accounts for your title and develop hashtags unique to you and your initiative. Use Facebook and Instagram stories and highlights to help people get to know you. Give your judges lots of social media to sift through so they can get to know you better before you meet them in interview!
>>> Side note <<<<<<
EDIT YOUR PHOTOS.
No one needs to see a photo of you on a stage where you are the size of the ant and you see more of the floor and ceiling. Edit your photos so people can see YOU. Watch what is behind you in the photo and look for good lighting. If you post a photo, it should look good and you should look good in it!
Talent is now the highest scored competition, but don’t let that scare you! If you want to gain points in this area I suggest you find places to perform and improve your talent. For me, I found a great group of jazz musicians that I did gigs with which really helped me refine my talent abilities for state. I took every opportunity I could to get on a stage and sing to help me improve!
Part of your involvement with Miss America includes volunteering and fundraising for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Now, this does not mean simply asking your family and friends for donations. You can work with your local committee to develop a creative fundraising event. I have always fundraised by selling my handmade earrings and other crafts at different church events or craft sales. Other ideas would be selling candy bars at your school during sporting events; have pancake breakfast at your church; a walk; a bake sale; sometimes you can partner with a restaurant to donate proceeds to CMN if you set a date with them and get people to their restaurant. The ideas are endless if you take time to be creative.
Attending local competitions is so valuable! You meet women in the sisterhood, learn more about competing by watching others, and it can even be a chance for a fun road trip! For more on this subject of the benefits of attending local competitions, read my blog here!
7. Start paperwork now.
While paperwork isn’t due until closer to the state competition, you don’t want to be writing your Resume and Social Impact Statement the night before you turn them in! This isn’t like a college essay where you start at 7pm before it’s due at midnight (though we’ve all been there!) One way to get started is to keep a file on your computer desktop dedicated to all of your ideas. Focus on editing and adding a little at a time, sending different versions of your paperwork to your committee for reviewing, and then editing again. If you stay at this process and work a little at a time, paperwork will be done before you know it! The key is to start now!
8. Start wardrobe preparation now.
Personally, my wardrobe is one of the first things I take care of. I work to have all of my competition clothing selected, accessorized, and altered months before the competition. Part of this is due to the stories I’ve heard of people trying to find a tailor to fix a dress two days before competition... No one needs that last minute stress! Plus, once you have your state wardrobe together you can start working on the important stuff like service work, finalizing paperwork, or fundraising! Believe me, picking out your wardrobe early is a huge stress reliever!
If you earn your state title, your year of service will be much more than a full time job. There are expectations, deadlines, sponsorship responsibilities, and paperwork. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of the fun stuff, too! One way to prepare yourself for a state title is to take your local title seriously. Commit to trying some of the things above like speaking, fundraising, and working with your local director to grow your Social Impact Initiative. It's important to develop the mindset that your service, social impact, social media, preparation, talent, speaking, and fundraising should be well formed before you win. This way, you will be ready to hit the ground running with that state title!
20 Things You May Not Know About Me
State competitions and stress pretty much go hand in hand. I asked fellow titleholders what things helped them survive state competition week and they had some wonderful tips! Here is a compilation of what we all agreed could come in handy during your state competition week. I hope these help you navigate a less stressful state pageant experience.
Surviving Your State Competition Week: 8 Things to Expect
- Label everything with your name or your headshot.
- Bring extra of everything: Extra makeup essentials, underwear, pair of shoes, socks; if you have two of something at home, bring the extra one!!!
Expect random mishaps.
Inevitably, you or someone will need these in an emergency at some point during the week!
Bring Epsom salts for sore feet!
- Bring healthy (or unhealthy!) snacks for your hotel room and for backstage during competition just in case they aren’t provided.
Expect you might be on your own for breakfast.
- Bring something you can grab and go with (fruit, granola or protein bars) or even juice and yogurt in the event you have access to a refrigerator.
Expect to need more talent prep time than the “official” on stage talent rehearsal.
The official on-stage talent rehearsal is to make sure the technical aspects of your talent are working properly for the show. This is actually NOT a rehearsal. It’s a tech run through. You should be rehearsing before and after this time. Expect this on-stage rehearsal to move very quickly (because it will!)
The official talent rehearsal allows you to:
- Bring extra!!! Have one for backstage and one for the hotel. You would be shocked at the number of women who needed to use my deodorant!
Look Book (noun): A “book” (or binder) with every item listed you will need for each day of the state competition week. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Rehearsal outfits for each day. After sweating, dancing, and power-napping, you probably don’t want to wear those leggings the next day.
- Appearance outfits for each day. Your entire outfit, shoes, and jewelry.
- Competition Clothing. Make sure to have every phase of competition included: Interview outfit, Opening Number; Talent; Evening Wear; Ramp Gown. You could include your shoes, jewelry, props (if applicable); you could list undergarments, and how you plan to wear your hair.
- For my fellow OCD friends: Include undergarments, jewelry and shoes for appearances and rehearsal attire as well.
- For my fellow clumsy friends: Prepare for at least one wardrobe mishap and bring an extra pair of shoes, shirt, pants, etc. Rips happen, zippers break, and coffee stains don’t come out easily when you need them to!
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
- Miss America awards only scholarships. There are no cash prizes, TV, or modeling contracts. Women compete for scholarships to help them succeed in their educational and career pursuits.
- Miss America is service based. Each candidate advocates for a platform or Social Impact Initiative of her choosing.
- Miss America must be talented. Each candidate performs a talent of her own choosing.
- Miss America must be able to communicate. Each candidate will have a 10-minute private interview with the judges; she will be asked an on-stage question during the competition; and she will be asked to speak on stage about her Social Impact Initiative during evening wear competition.
- To compete for Miss America, you must first enter and win a local competition in your state. Your local title is your ‘ticket’ to compete for your state title. If you win your state title you then compete for Miss America! As Miss Coon Rapids, I will compete for Miss Minnesota in June!
- Miss America retired the swimsuit competition. In 2018 after Gretchen Carlson became the new Chairwoman of the Miss America Organization, one of the first actions taken by the Board was to eliminate this phase of competition. With emphasis being service and scholarship, the Board believed women should not have to model swimsuits to win a scholarship.
- Miss America is NOT winner takes all. Miss America wins a $50,000 scholarship; the top 15 finalists win scholarships; there are preliminary talent and interview scholarships, STEM, academic achievement, and community service scholarships. Scholarships are awarded at every local and state competition, and of course the national competition!
- Miss America is a Sisterhood. Once you enter a local competition you become connected to the Miss America 'sisterhood.' This sisterhood spans previous generations and connects future generations with like-minded women who are passionate, motivated, talented, and want to make an impact in their communities.
- Miss America is run by volunteers. The backbone of this organization is the countless numbers of volunteers who fundraise, present their annual competitions (and all that it entails), prepare the candidates, garner sponsors, and so much more. There would be no Miss America without these selfless, dedicated individuals.
- You will know a Miss America candidate by their 4-point crowns. You will know a Miss America candidate by her beautiful, unique crown. The crown worn by local, state, and the national titleholder has 4 points, and each point stands for a Miss America trait: service, style, scholarship and success.
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.
If you have seen the Miss America competition on TV or if you are considering competing, you may have heard of the required Miss America platform, or what has now been more suitably named, the Miss America 2.0 Social Impact Initiative. Because titleholders work to make a social impact during their year of service, this is a wonderful change! But other than the paperwork instructions provided to contestants, most of what is known about the Miss America Social Impact Initiative is learned by word of mouth.
In this blog, I would like to share with you a culmination of what I’ve learned for all you beginners, and even those of you who are curious. If you are thinking of competing, here are some key things to help you start!
5 Things to Know About the Miss America 2.0 Social Impact Initiative
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.
2. Your Social Impact Initiative should be easy to make appearances with.
You will be encouraged to make appearances related to your SII, like giving talks in schools; running a 5K for your cause; or organizing a group of people to volunteer (like Feed My Starving Children). The point is that you find opportunities for public appearances to advocate or educate. Make sure you have an idea of what you can do with your SII before you dive to it!
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.
4. You need to have a hand in writing your Social Impact Statement
The Social Impact Statement is a one page paper explaining your initiative; why you chose it; why it matters; and what you will do or have done for it. If you haven't written one before (or even if you have) it's always a good idea to get help or have someone start you off with a first draft. Make sure at the end of the day your Impact Statement reflects you!
5. A bad Social Impact Initiative won’t break you, but a great one can make you.
You aren’t judged on your SII, but the judges will ask you about it! It’s a great way to showcase your personality and motivation. This is why it’s vital that your Social Impact Statement is unique and means something to you. A judge will remember an engaging platform, and that will make you stand out.
Good Luck creating a fantastic Social Impact Initiative. The world is waiting to hear from you!
5 Things to Know About Miss America 2.0
1. New Verbiage
With any change, comes new terminology that more accurately describe the new elements of the Miss America competition. Here are some of the changes:
Contestants are now Candidates; Pageant is referred to as Competition (this change was actually made a few years back.) The Platform Statement is more descriptively called the Social Impact Initiative; and the Evening Gown Competition is now referred to as Evening Wear with Social Impact Statement.
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!
Nia Franklin, Miss America 2019
These are five new changes of Miss America 2.0. There is also more emphasis on the fact that winning a state or the national title will be considered a job. All of these changes are geared to make Miss America more relevant to today's young woman. The changes also allow the judges to get to know the contestant much better since there is much more focus on interview and speaking ability. Those who have competed in 2.0 have reported they love this new format. You should find a local and give it a try as well!
7 Reasons Why Titleholders Should Attend Local Pageants
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
Miss America Snapchat filter!
Every Miss America began her journey in a ‘local’ pageant. Open and closed local pageants are scattered throughout your state. An open pageant requires you to live, work, or go to school in the state, and a closed pageant requires you to live, work, or go to school in that community. I recommend entering a local pageant near you as you will be asked to make appearances during your year. Being in or close to your community will ensure you are able to attend events frequently. Here are two links to guide you to the right place!
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!
Kathryn Rose Kueppers, Author