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personal advice ● crowning concepts By Susie Castillo and Shandi Finnessey Hitting a Home Run Interview As the questions get harder at the nation’s biggest competitions, it’s important to be in the right frame of mind when answering them F irst and foremost, we’d like to send a huge con- gratulations to our new Miss USA, Erin Brady, from Connecticut. Welcome to the Miss USA sisterhood, Erin! Being in the Miss USA audi- ence in Las Vegas once again was so much fun, but as we look back at the pageant, one thing stands out the most—the final questions. During our nationwide Pagean- tology TM workshops, we’re focusing on the interview ex- tensively, because, let’s be honest, it’s probably the most important part of competition. Imagine for a moment that you have just won your state title and you are preparing for your ultimate goal of win- ning a national crown. Perhaps you have dreamed of this since you were a little girl, clunking around in your mom’s high heels with a beautiful crown made of construction paper on your head, taking your first walk as “The new Miss (fill in the blank)”. Now imagine that as you keep making the cut, from Top 15... to 10... to 5..., you find your- self with your perfectly-manicured hand in the glass fish bowl, pulling out that dreaded final question. It’s your last chance to impress the panel of celebrity judges. This is your final moment to show why you should be chosen to wear the crown and represent our country for the next year. You try to swallow and realize your mouth is so dry, how will you even speak? You’ve been smiling for al- most two hours at this point, so your lip or cheek is proba- bly trembling, too, and here comes the question. A lot of pressure is on you, as your family and friends are 82 PAGEANTRY NAILED IT! Miss Connecticut Erin Brady nails the interview portion of the competi- tion, with an honest and personal answer, on her way to capturing the Miss USA crown. all watching and expecting great things. Your state director has schooled you over and over about what to say, what not to say, how to say it, how to use your hands when you say it, how to stand, where to look and just about everything else you can possibly imagine. This is running around in your nervous mind as you listen to the question and try to answer it. Whatever happens, you can’t blow it. The exact moment that we just described was what we all witnessed on stage at the Miss USA 2013 pageant when the beautiful Miss Utah USA, Marissa Powell, attempted to answer her final question. She’s a stunning young woman, had the perfect gown, her swimsuit body and walk were on point, and her confidence and stage presence were through the roof. However, as we all know, things didn’t turn out quite as she had hoped and her incoherent answer made headlines all over the world. Pressure like this dramatically impacts how you will react, and does so in a negative way. It takes you out of the pres- ent moment, of responding through true emotion and feel-