Editor’s note: be sure to read “The Crown & Beyond: My Journey to a Local Pageant (pt.1)” before reading pt.2.
Friday, 7:45 p.m.: I stand under the stage lights and think: perhaps I’m all parts writer and no part queen.
But the morning of, I’m full of optimism.
8:30 a.m.: I wake up early, eat breakfast (oatmeal) and head to the store for last-minute makeup, shoe, and Spanx purchases. My evening heels shimmer with gold sparkles and my interview dress is crabapple red – wardrobe ready, even if I’m not.
After an unforeseen denim crisis and two trips between the hotel and location of the pageant, interviews unfold.
3:30 p.m.: I’m first. Breath shaking in the base of my throat, zipper crooked, fake nails leaving imprints in my clenched fists. I think I’ve done well, despite an answer to a political question, but when I leave the room I’m still uncertain. I pace back and forth before practicing my talent, thinking, it could be over, or it could be everything.
I haul my things into the same dressing room as last year, for good luck. The show is being held on the same stage, for the same pageant, so I found it fitting to hold onto a bit of that nostalgia. This time around, though, it’s a very different show; the moment I stood inside the dressing room it reminded me of how far I had come.
6:00 p.m.: The show starts. I try to walk like I’ve practiced: spine straight, shoulders back, stomach tight. When I’m nervous it feels like my whole body is wobbling, off-balance.
6:30 p.m.: We have to restart because the judges haven’t arrived yet. I jump through the first round hoop and I’m off and running through my quick changes for talent. The next two rounds – talent and onstage question – are a blur. My question has something to do with social media; I blurt out a few sentences about Twitter and networking and I’m offstage, slightly crestfallen.
It wasn’t quite perfect; it wasn’t quite enough.
But when the show winds down and I walk out in my evening gown – it’s a warm-glow kind of feeling, a “Miss America” kind of feeling.
7:30 p.m.: Earrings, train and shoes full of sparkle. While it wasn’t my first-choice dress, I’m glad it worked out, in the end, because I feel like it concludes my night well.
I haven’t given a lot of thought to winning or losing, not today. I’ve been too focused on walking right, talking right, performing right. Applying and reapplying lipstick with trembling fingers. It’s silly, looking back, to think it meant so much to me, but – it did, and I can’t apologize for it.
7:45 p.m.: We’re done! The completion phase is over and crowning awaits. The contestants mingle around, chatting, fixing hair and makeup, adjusting or stepping out of shoes. No one speaks about the results, because it feels taboo. I hold my breath until dizziness sinks in.
8:00 p.m.: Nine of us step out on stage for the last time.
The curtains open.
The lights go bright.
We’re golden for the next phase: results.