Miss Omaha

Now that another Miss America has been crowned I fondly reflect on my short-lived pageant days.

Yes, I competed in a Miss America local, and a state preliminary. This was when I was young and innocent enough to assume I would become Miss America. That did not happen. Instead I went a on a wayward, yet interesting, path before eventually figuring out what I was going to do with my life.

That is to say – competing in those pageants made me a damn good stripper.

I applied just about everything I learned from prepping for Miss Nebraska to working at a strip club, and I paid off those pageant gowns in no time. How do they overlap, you might ask?

First, let’s cover a few basics on how Miss America (and pageants in general) work.

Miss America is not a beauty pageant. It is a scholarship pageant. There is no entry fee, unlike there are with other pageant systems, one being the more aesthetically pleasing Miss USA, run by Donald Trump. With the Miss America Organization, they put a lot of emphasis on brains before beauty. It’s an amazing opportunity for women to win scholarships to further their education.

You have to have a platform, a cause which you’re passionate about, such as diabetes, eating right, or something about helping the youth of America. Anything about helping youth, really. This factors into the interview portion of the score.

The private interview and onstage question together is 30% of your score.

Then there is Swimsuit, which is now called “Lifestyle and Fitness”, only 15% of the score which leaves a little room for cellulite.

Talent, 35%, which is good because everyone needs to have a party trick to pull out if necessary.

Evening Wear, 20%.

What does any of this have to do with being a good stripper? A lot.

When I was training for Miss Nebraska, the pageant directors constantly told me, “You are competing against the best version of yourself. Don’t let any other contestant affect you.” You’re also taught how to apply makeup. Loads of makeup. So much makeup you will feel like you’re wearing a mask. To be the best version of yourself, presumably.

When you work in a strip club, it’s like your competing in one big pageant. Everyone is dressed up, full hair and makeup. You’re all competing to get money from a pool of “judges” (customers). It’s up to you, to make the best impression possible to win-get the money! Some people prefer blondes over brunettes, flat-chested girls over implants. Some people will love you, and others won’t. The only thing you can do, is be the best you that you can be.

Again, it’s supposed to be brains before beauty, but let’s face it. Studies have proven that beautiful people always seem to come out on top. If it were all about brains, the pageant wouldn’t have the “lifestyle and fitness” swimsuit competition.

Different pageant skills would help me more than I ever expected in my new career.

Swimwear: During my training I was taught how to properly walk in high heels. I was even encouraged to wear them around the house with socks to break them in. There were two specific “walks” we were taught for competing. The swimwear walk, which is bouncy, playful, and stripperesque. The evening wear walk, which is slower, sexier and more come hither because you have a lot more than a bikini on. What better training grounds for a young burgeoning stripping learning how to walk around in a thong and heels elegantly than doing a pageant? The way you walk can make it or break it and definitely get a guys attention.

Talent: What does the talent portion of Miss American have to do with stripping? If you’re talent is dance, you can definitely show off your skills on the pole or do some amazing floor work. My talent was singing. I sang “Cabaret” by Liza Minelli. Some of the fellow contestants did comedy routines, dramatic monologues, all which can come in very handy in a strip club situation when you are trying to convince someone to give you money.

Interview: This is the most important score in the entire competition! Being able to talk to any kind of person and anyone in strange situations, as Miss America, or a stripper is extremely important. By training with an interview coach I was given a huge binder of secret pageantry information on how to give a stellar interview and handle crazy questions that could possibly come my way. One girl was asked “How do you feel about sex in outer space?” during a pageant interview. Whereas, in the VIP room being asked “Do you like anal?” and be able to give a calm collected response of “No, I’m sorry sir, we do not do that here.” Can really come in handy.

Most of the time when a gentleman comes into a club he likes to be able to talk about how his day was to an attractive woman. Being up to date on current events, avoiding politics, abortion and religion questions is also a very important thing to remember in pageantry and stripping.

Crying: Happy crying is allowed in pageantry, and there is definitely no crying allowed in stripping. Ever. It’s just not pretty. No one likes to see a lady cry. No one likes to see a lady cry when she wins a pageant, and no one ever wants to see someone who loses cry. It’s very uncomfortable for everyone. Always wear waterproof mascara and take a beta-blocker.

Smile through it all: If you’re doing a pageant and having a bad day, smile. If you’re at work stripping and having a bad day, smile. Never let the anyone know how terrified you are. Just smile.

Aging out: Aging out is a common term used in pageantry, and one that should be implemented in stripping. One cannot strip forever, and one cannot compete in pageants forever. You must be between the ages of 17-24 to compete, and if you go the Miss USA route 18-27. Then you are deemed “too old” and you “age out”. Once this happens usually the girl will go through a mourning period and gain a lot of weight, or perhaps have a baby, become a local news anchor, schoolteacher, or become a pageant director herself.

The same thing will happen with stripping, one day a stripper may find herself knocked-up or in love and leave the business for good, while others will try to keep the dream alive and dance well into their 40’s, or become a strip club manager.

There is only one winner in a pageant. There are runners-up, they never get as much attention as the winner. It’s unfortunate. Those pageant girls work hard and a lot of them hinge their hopes and dreams on winning a state title and vying for Miss America. The hardest part about losing is being a good sport, you just keep on smiling. There is so much more out there in life than pageants.

This happens with stripping as well. One of your co-workers can go home with thousands of dollars, and you may leave with barely enough money for cab fare. There’s no point in crying about it, because everyone will have their day.

There may only be one winner in a pageant, but there are plenty of winners in real life. That’s the important thing to remember. A pageant is just one event, out of a long life of possibilities. Take what you’ve learned from and make the most of it. I was 18 when I lost Miss Nebraska and thought it was the end of the world. I was so annoyed with the experience that I didn’t compete again for several years. Then I did Miss New York USA, where I won Miss Congeniality and that was pretty cool. I accepted the fact that being a beauty queen was not in store for me. I’ve been very happy with what I’ve pursued.

I have retired from stripping, and now write about all of my fascinating and somewhat crazy experiences for your enjoyment, and maybe to my parent’s horror. I do want to make it very clear that there are a lot of good things to be learned from competing in pageants. It’s not only good training for strippers. Several former Miss America competitors have gone on to be active in politics and taking part in congressional and state races. Miss USA, competitors usually aim towards a more entertainment based path, as the fabulous Robin Leach explains in his recent article about the difference between Miss America and Miss USA, and their controversies, on his website.

The interview portion did help me snag a great position at Morgan Stanley when I was in a more business-oriented state of mind, I did receive a college scholarship from competing. I made some amazing friends that I still keep in touch with. I really did learn some valuable skills, and all in all gained more self-confidence. I just happened to apply those things to stripping.

Tell me any job that requires you to look good in a bikini, evening gown, and be able to walk in platform heels. See what I mean?

Do you want to compete in a pageant? Go to www.missamerica.org or www.missusa.com. If you have a small child that wants to compete in a pageant, I recommend you do a google search. I cannot help you with that one.

Randi resides between New York and Los Angeles. Follow her on twitter @WorldOfRandi and her blog WorldofRandi.com. She no longer strips, and fears that this article may get her former title revoked.