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Pageat Interview Queen

Rewind: Answer the Question, Learning from Miss Utah USA

Thank you Marissa Powell for the courage and accomplishments that brought you to wearing the crown for Miss Utah USA. You had one rough patch last night at the Miss USA pageant with your final interview question, but you still rock and a bright future awaits.

Thank you, too, for the opportunity that rough patch gives the rest of us to self-assess and grow. If you ever read this, please know that this analysis using your pageant interview question and answer situation is well-intended for a larger good, even if it might accidentally hurt you a little. I’m sure you will be resilient to all this attention you are getting and make the most of it.

In a previous post today (called Should Pageant Interview Questions be Easier? No) I started to mention how important it is to listen well to get to the core of the question. When we listen well, we are in a better position to make choices about how to answer. This is something you definitely can learn to do every day and under pressure too! Let’s rewind last night and see what we can learn.

Here’s the pageant interview question Miss Marissa got: “A recent report shows that in 40% of American families with children women are the primary earners but women continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?”

Let’s start with the components of the question:

– Size of the statistic (40%)
– Families or heads-of-household (not single people)
– Gender gap (men usually earn more)
– “Society”

Tip: If Miss Utah had picked any one of those key components and actually started her answer with a reference to that component, rather than to the non-present “education”, she’d have started off on a stronger foot. She would have grounded her answer better in reality. Even if she didn’t knock it out of the park, she’d likely not have struck out.

Tip: Don’t get overly distracted by the statistic itself if numbers tend to throw you off.

So if those are the components, what’s the core? The core is “Why do women still earn less than men? They want her opinion on the gender gap and/or on the ever-amorphous “society.” You can use or leave out certain components, but use them to help you arrive at ways of addressing the question and, hopefully, getting to the core.

A few (of many) alternate approaches to responding:

  • She could have offered an opinion: (I’m guessing, of course, on what that would be for her):
    “I think it is terrible that so many women are still paid less than men. Would you want that happening with your mom or daughter or sister? No. This gender gap is just a holdover from old ways of thinking. We’ve made some progress on this as society but hopefully we’ll each do our part to continue to correct this.”
  • She could have focused on society:
    “There’s a long history of gender bias and there were times when that gap was even bigger, and remember there was a time when women couldn’t even vote! While we’ve made good progress it’s no excuse for so many women to still make less. I’m glad we live in a society that continues to try to right this wrong and, in time, there’ll be no gap.
  • If she really wants to weave in education:
    It’s unfortunate our society still has this big of a gender gap as women certainly deserve to earn as much. I think it still may relate to our education system to some degree. There are certain areas of study and careers that tend to have more men in them and often those are better paying jobs. If young women were encouraged earlier to get excited and believe in themselves more in the math and science areas that could help close that gap.

I know, I know. Some of you might say “it’s easy to say all this because you are not on the stage and have had time to think about it.”  True. But we can also see that other contestants have handled similarly hard questions better there and over the years. And, personally, I have been in similar shoes on a national stage and brought home the crown so I do understand that pressure of that, and of personal and media appearances, etc. that follow. It’s a learning curve, sure.

And part of how we learn is to prepare best we can in advance and to review things afterward. There’s no true failure, really, if you learned something from it.

And the wise person will learn from others’ mistakes and successes as much as she does her own. So, again, none of this is meant to put Miss Powell down but to help us all do better for ourselves and for pageantry through learning what we can from ourselves and each other. Trust that any one of us, at any level of pageant experience can learn to do better to shine our brightest and improve the reputation of pageantry. Check out the Pageant Interviewing Success series of individual Kindle books on Amazon, or, better yet, Pageant Interviewing Success: The Collected Series in paperback.

There are a number of other contestant answers last night that we could learn from in terms of both things to avoid and things to imitate. Maybe if time allows in the coming days I’ll analyze a few more of the responses.

Until then, remember you are all beautiful and strong and let no set back truly set you back.



1 comment

  • Allie Brenner

    June 17, 2013

    Thanks for the shout out but I think you may have misinterpreted my point! Last night on Twitter, I noted that the question-and-answer should be more direct on the Miss USA stage (not less challenging from a mental perspective–just better structured to account for al the variables transpiring at once). I think a great question would have been, “How can we address the fact that in today’s society men still out earn women?” It’s a little less muddled in structure and more open ended for creativity. Someone who has read “Lean In” would have a dynamite answer. Question asking is as much an art as question answering. Thanks again for the follow. Allie Brenner, Pageant Professors xo

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