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The Competitive Touch - Megan Alexander

Not too many five-year-olds are typically honing their crafts as radio personalities, nor are they usually given the opportunity to crack some jokes on air. But on one fateful day, Megan Alexander received that chance, and it provided just a glimpse of where her personality and charm would take her.

An entertainer from the start, Megan and her mother decided to give pageants a shot when she was 12-years old by entering the American Coed Pageant, then run by Steve and Kathleen Mayes of current National American Miss recognition. Through a lifetime of devotion to the performing arts, student councils, speech and debate classes and teams, and a variety of important charitable associations, Megan paid her dues on the way to becoming a broadcast journalist with Inside Edition, the longest-running newsmagazine show in television history.

A member of the Inside Edition team since 2008, Megan shared with Pageantry magazine what it took for her to break into the entertainment industry and become a successful broadcast journalist, while also holding onto her roots and core beliefs in the strength of the pageant and competition systems.

Planet Hollywood resort and casino

Hammer Time: Megan Alexander is a regular guest panelist on the CNN Headline News entertainment show, Showbiz Tonight. Hosted by A.J. Hammer (L), the guests give their opinions on the day’s hottest celebrity news and gossip.

Pageantry magazine: In reading your bio, and knowing you from pageantry and Inside Edition, you’re a wonderful and positive role model and you have a unique perspective on the glamour lifestyle industry, especially in pageantry.
Megan Alexander:
I think I do, it’s where I got my start, so I’m always happy to chat about that. And my family’s connected to it, too.

PM: You were introduced to the public at an early age. How old were you when you first realized that you wanted to pursue a career in show business?
MA:
It’s kind of funny—my mom tells a cute story of when I was five-years old. My kindergarten class was taking a tour of a radio station. She says that the DJ asked who wanted to be interviewed on air, and supposedly the teacher volunteered me. And there I was on the radio at age five, cracking people up and working like I was very comfortable. And my family is very musical, my sister and I play the piano, guitar and violin. We started lessons at a very early age. I grew up watching the Barbara Mandrell and Dolly Parton Christmas specials, so I knew at some point that I wanted to pursue a career in the arts, but I wasn’t sure exactly what. But I was a child that loved to get involved in everything, and loved to sing and perform at church. That was when I really started learning about the entertainment industry.

PM: And you were in a singing group as a young person?
MA:
Yes I was! I went to a small Christian high school and we had a singing group called Living Faith, which I was a part of. It was about 20 people and it was a pop group, and I had the great opportunity to perform on the weekends—at fairs, churches, other schools. We took a trip to South Korea twice in high school. All through high school I was performing, speaking, and singing. It was a bunch of my friends my age and it was a great way for us to get involved in the industry.

PM: You also competed in pageants as a young person. How did that come about?
MA:
As I mentioned, I was a child that liked to be involved in a little bit of everything. I was on sports teams—I played volleyball, basketball, tennis, and music. In 1992, my mom got a flyer in the mail, and an invitation to compete in the American Coed Pageant system. Steve and Kathleen Mayes were my state directors, and they now run National American Miss, and my mom said, “Meg, do you think this is something you’d be interested in doing?” I remember collecting information on the pageant, and we were very impressed with the fact that there was a no makeup and no swimsuit rule. Especially for a 12-year old, that was so important for my family. We said, “You know what? Let’s give this a try.” And it was really Steve and Kathleen who sealed the deal once I met them, got to know them, and got to be around the pageant atmosphere and see that it’s very natural. There was a heavy emphasis on community service and good grades, and I thought, I’d like to give this a try. And I’m proud to say that the night I won Miss Washington Pre-Teen Coed, I curled my hair, put on my dress, and put on Chapstick, and it was just totally natural, something my family really came to appreciate.

 

Planting the Seeds

Planting the Seeds: (Left) Megan Alexander is crowned Miss Washington American Pre-Teen, a title that she says helped her to build many of her talents and characteristics needed to fulfill her dream of becoming a broadcast journalist (above). Megan pays tribute to her pageant roots by regularly contributing to the National American Miss pageant system (below).

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PM: Today, you’re still actively involved in pageantry.
MA:
Again, Steve and Kathleen made a real impression on me. I went on to have a regular high school experience—sports, plays, student government—but in the summers I would love to go back and help out as summer staff for Steve’s and Kathleen’s summer state pageants. They saw that I had a gift for public speaking and they asked me to start emceeing their shows and working on their staff. It was a great summer job for high school and then as a college student, and I’m very proud to say that I got to emcee their very first pageant for National American Miss in 2003. They gave me an opportunity to keep sharpening my skills in public speaking and help out with a pageant that I really appreciate. Even with my career as a broadcast journalist I try to help out whenever my schedule allows, and I also try to support other pageants. I’ve judged the Miss Texas USA Pageant and a few others.

PM: What do you feel is the most positive attribute of the various competitions available?
MA:
One thing that I still think about, that really impressed me, was the atmosphere, in terms of girls caring that they were student council president and talking about all of the activities they were involved in. Pageants can really attract a neat group of young people who can really motivate each other. We hear the expression that iron sharpens iron, and I remember thinking that I’d like to go back and run for student body president. I was inspired by my fellow contestants. The one thing that pageants do that I think is really neat is the community service, like Miss America with the platform being very important and in National American Miss your community service counts for 10 percent of the contestants’ score. That’s tapping into our core belief as American’s—helping our neighbors and our communities. I’ve become familiar with so many different organizations just through the pageants. The other day I became aware of a National American Miss Queen who was the top fundraiser at a cancer walk in Seattle. She had raised thousands of dollars for cancer research and to me that is so awesome. I’m blown away by the hundreds of volunteer service hours that the pageant contestants log.

PM: You’re still active in community service. Is there a cause or causes that are important to you?
MA:
I really believe in encouraging the next generation. I became familiar with an organization called Girls, Inc. Their motto is teaching all girls to be strong, smart and bold. When I was a news anchor in San Antonio, Texas I served on their board locally and I still try to help out their New York branch when I can, here in Manhattan. They have a great web site—girlsinc.org—and I just try to help out any way I can, whether it’s emceeing a fundraiser for an animal shelter or a gala, we can all do our part. My husband Brian and I recently helped build a house for Habitat for Humanity. We can all do our part and it’s just inspiring to see what these young people are doing.

PM: As they develop at young ages, and they grow and become the leaders of tomorrow, what are your views on the opportunities for personal development and how they affected you personally and professionally?
MA:
No matter what career you go into or what your career ambition is, everybody can benefit from some type of an interview or speech competition at a pageant. We’re all going to need to interview someday, and continue to interview to further our careers, and we’re all going to need to make presentations, whether to a small group at work or a large ballroom filled with people, or maybe it’s just a special meeting at work that you’re going to be involved with. Those core skills that you can gain at a pageant or a competition are just invaluable. As a 12- or 13-year old, interviewing and beginning to formulate my thoughts about what I’d like to be in my career when I grow up, it’s just so valuable, because that’s really a crucial age, going into high school and thinking about the activities you want to be involved in and what path you’re going to take. I can see in my life, obviously as a broadcast journalist with being on camera and needing to work fast under pressure, those are skills that you can learn in competition, and they’re skills that I see every day.

PM: So you’re confident that it’s helped you in your career as a broadcast journalist?
MA:
Absolutely.

 

Megan Alexander of Inside Edition

PM: Many of the young people look up to our industry celebrities, such as yourself and a lot of former titleholders that are in broadcast journalism. How did your career develop?
MA:
As I mentioned, I was involved in all types of different activities in high school. I attended Westmont College, which is a small liberal arts college in Santa Barbara (California). I majored in political science with an emphasis in international relations, and I just got involved in so many different types of activities in college—student council, speech and debate, I spent a semester in Washington D.C. interning for a U.S. Senator. Any way that you can get involved in business, communications—for me it was political science, which is very big for my career now. Obviously politics is a very big deal for television news. If anyone wants to get involved in my industry, I would stress internships, internships, internships. I did seven internships before I got my first job. I did internships in radio, television, newspaper, and PR. After I graduated college, I moved to Nashville and got involved with the country music industry, and I appeared in a few music videos, including Josh Turner’s video for “What It Ain’t,” which is one of my favorites. Eventually I became a part-time radio reporter and that led to a position as a television reporter for a morning show, and then I moved to San Antonio, Texas to become the host of a morning show called Great Day, San Antonio and that was a wonderful experience. I worked in San Antonio for three years, also as a morning traffic reporter, and then Inside Edition came calling. I moved to New York in the fall of 2008 and have been here ever since.

Planet Hollywood resort and casino

Award Tour: Megan’s role on Inside Edition, as well as her roots in the entertainment industry, have her as a regular fixture at a wide variety of red carpet events including the Inspirational Country Music Awards where she was also a presenter seen here with gospel group 'Point of Grace.'

PM: As a nightly correspondent for Inside Edition, what does a day in the life of Megan Alexander entail?
MA:
It’s such a hard question to answer, because every day is different. A typical day, if there is one, begins with reading the newspapers and several different news web sites that we go to, and watching television—I always have CNN Headline News on. I have to figure out what the top stories of the day are, then I’ll go into hair and makeup, and then more research and more writing. I’m writing out my questions and figuring out who my interviews are going to be for the day. I’ll do interviews and reports late into the afternoon, as Inside Edition tapes in the late afternoon, so we have to have all of our stories in by about two or three o’clock. Then we edit and fine tune for about an hour for our 30-minute show. It’s a little bit of entertainment, it’s a little bit politics, and a little bit of feature stories about American heroes. Sometimes in the afternoon—about two times per week—I head over to CNN Headline News to be a panelist for a program called Showbiz Tonight. That’s when we talk about the entertainment stories of the day and all give an opinion on them. In the late evenings, a lot of times I’ll go to a red carpet to cover a movie premiere or an awards show, or maybe there’s a late night interview to cover. Somewhere in there I squeeze in working out, walking my dog and eating, and somehow I try to get some sleep before I get up and start it all over again the next day.

PM: You’ve conducted countless interviews with well-known celebrities. What is one of your most memorable interviews?
MA:
One thing that is really neat about my job is that we really get a backstage pass to a lot of major moments and major events for celebrities. I’m really lucky to be in the same room as some pretty incredible events are unfolding. Covering the presidential race in 2008 and being on the campaign trail, and I’ve had the opportunity to have two great one-on-one interviews with Sir Anthony Hopkins—probably one of the greatest actors of all-time—and I got to see him in a regular setting as he was talking about his artwork. He’s a painter, which not a lot of people know. I was backstage at the Country Music Awards and got to grab Taylor Swift for an interview right after she won CMA Entertainer of the Year. Those are fun moments to be right there and report on them for our audience to give them a backstage pass into those moments. And oftentimes after Miss America wins, they’ll fly them on a red eye flight right to New York City and they’ll make the rounds and come do an interview at Inside Edition. It’s neat to be able to interview the next Miss America or Miss USA a day or two after they just won.

 

Megan Alexander with Lady An

It’s Her Country: As an entertainment reporter, Megan has been able to interview world famous music artists like Lady Antebellum (above) and Taylor Swift (right) at events like the Country Music Awards.

PM: What is your personal insight into how this lifestyle impacts a young person, who competes in pageants, modeling and dance competitions, etc.?
MA:
Any type of competition is healthy. It teaches teamwork, good sportsmanship, hopefully good manners, and it teaches them to be good role models. A lot of the kids involved in competitions and activities through school, studies tend to show that they’re more motivated and excited about life. We just mentioned that it’s a fast-paced society and you need to think quick on your feet in television or any type of show business. You need to be prepared and formulate your thoughts quickly, and sometimes I need to formulate questions in a matter of minutes, and sometimes in a matter of seconds. Any type of competition—whether speech or debate competition or that on-stage interview at a pageant—being able to think quickly and have an opinion on something, in the way that I interview people, you get that in pageants.

PM: What advice would you give to a young person who dreams of following in your footsteps?
MA:
My dad gave me the best advice when I graduated college, when he said, “Meg, the finals are never over.” In other words, you’ll never stop learning in life. At the time I thought I was done with all my finals, but what he really meant is “always be a student, observe and learn.” To kids I would say to get involved with something that you’re passionate about. Find others who share the same passions—other teammates, other contestants—because life is just so much more fun when you have a friend right there with you. Reading and writing is very critical to my job, so be a good student, graduate from a good college and choose something that you’re passionate about, and realize that it’s so much more fun to do something with other people who care about it. I still keep in touch with some of my fellow contestants from the Coed pageant back in 1992. Two of them were bridesmaids in my weddings just a few years ago. Developing those friendships with people that can motivate you along the way, that’s just wonderful. I would also say to get involved in a variety of things and realize that it’s the experience that matters the most. Obviously some times you’re going to win and sometimes you won’t win, but being able to take a valuable nugget of wisdom from every experience, competition and pageant—that’s when you can really make the most of life.

PM: What advice would you give to a parent?
MA:
I would really encourage any parent to research the activities they’re interested in getting their child involved in. My parents did this—check with the Better Business Bureau, ask for referrals and references. I’m thankful that my parents said, “Let’s give this a try for fun, but when it stops being fun we won’t do it anymore.” Especially at a young age, kids need to be kids. Do it for the experience, because your child will learn valuable life lessons in communication and performing arts skills. I also tell parents that pageants are not just for kids who want to get involved in show biz. Any type of child can benefit from a good pageant and a good program, no matter what their career ambition is. We can all benefit from interview and communication skills. Your child may not even be interested in the show biz industry, but if your child is just a little bit shy and wants to gain a bit more confidence then that may be what they take away from the pageant. They may go on to be an animal trainer or a lawyer or a mom or a teacher, so realize that all careers can benefit from experience in pageants.

PM: And there are a lot more of us behind the camera than there are in front of the camera.
MA:
It takes so many people to put together a television show or something in the entertainment industry. Producers, writers, directors, photographers—there are so many wonderful aspects to the industry that people may be interested in, and not necessarily just in front of the camera.

 

Megan Alexander reporting from the White House

Tools of the Trade: When reporting for Inside Edition, Megan is constantly finding herself in new situations, in which she has to think fast to come up with creative and insightful questions, whether she’s covering politics, entertainment, general interest, or even interviewing Miss America.

PM: We’ve been very fortunate to have positive role models as our cover models at Pageantry magazine—your own Deborah Norville, Leeza Gibbons, Halle Berry, Eva Longoria, yourself. There has to be a singular trait that all of you possess. What do you think it is?
MA:
I’ve actually interviewed everyone that you just mentioned, except for Halle Berry, but I’ve heard such great things about her. Every one of those ladies is well-spoken, motivated, a hard-worker. We hear all of their success stories, but I think it’s important to not forget that for every time they won, they probably lost 20 or 30 times. That’s true for me, and in my interactions with Eva, Leeza and Deborah, they’re gracious women. Eva remembered everyone’s name in the room when I interviewed her in San Antonio. They’re all smart businesswomen. Ultimately, I hope this means that pageants teach you good manners. They’re classy ladies.

PM: Pageantry played a special role in you meeting your husband Brian. How did that happen?
MA:
My husband Brian and I both began working for Steve and Kathleen Mayes as teenagers. He was interested in the business and production side. National American Miss shows are known for their incredible productions, customer service and professionalism and we were both drawn to that. Brian especially, after college, began working full-time for Steve and Kathleen and was really impressed with the motivation aspect of the shows and encouraging the next generation. Now he’s a state director for four states for National American Miss. Brian is a true motivator, and we worked together in the summer and kept in touch in college. I began my career in television and we’d see each other at some of the shows, and I finally realized that he’s my kindred spirit and my soul mate. He’s certainly supportive and my number one fan. We got married in January of 2009, and I’m so proud that he works for a program of great quality, and I love supporting him at his shows.

PM: It’s always hard to look ahead, but where do you see yourself in 10 or 20 years?
MA:
I had no idea that I would be here now if you had asked me that 10 years ago. I’d love to continue in the television business, I think that’s where I’m supposed to be for a while. It’s an interesting time right now in our country and I want to be a part of that conversation. I have a few ideas for some books that I’ve been meaning to write, and I will hopefully have authored and penned those in 10 years. Brian and I are both big dreamers, so anything is possible. I’d like to continue in the industry and I’m excited, because the possibilities are endless.

[To hear the complete interview with Megan Alexander, please visit the Pageantry PodCast page.]

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