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             Fake eyelashes, fake breasts, fake blondes, fake tan. What may appear to be the description of a drag queen competition is actually the cut-throat world of pageantry. To the average civilian a pageant is seen simply as a beauty contest in which girls fix their hair up and put on sparkly dresses. However, a seasoned pageant girl will tell you it is much much more than merely dressing up; for if one looks closely, a pageant can be utilized as the eyes into American culture.
             Humble Beginnings.
             What first began as a curiosity soon turned into an interest. What appeared to be an interest morphed into a hobby. What disguised itself as a hobby was in fact an obsession. Being a thin, blonde, twelve year old, when a family friend suggested a pageant, I wasn't too aghast. "They"re gonna give me money to walk around and smile?" I questioned. With some persuasion (and a lofty bribe from my mother) I entered my first pageant, Junior Miss Manatee County. The money drew me in, while the fierce competition and thrill of winning kept me there. Along with my age grew prize money, higher expectations, and most importantly, more challenging contestants. After my fifth win at regional levels I decided to raise the bar. At 14 years old my whole existence was devoted to the Miss Teen Florida pageant. Corporate sponsors, a former Miss America and Miss Indiana coach, and custom-tailored evening gowns ensued. I knew there was no turning back.
             The Seasoned Veteran.
             A typical regional or state scholarship pageant requires a minimum of two months preparation. Rarely does a "pageant virgin" walk away with the title. Although a high score in all three categories - interview, swimsuit, and evening gown - is crucial, the interview undoubtedly makes the more powerful impression to the judge. The interview is where all the elements of the pageant converge. Poise, spontaneity, beauty, intelligence, physique, charisma, presentation, and voice are all under strict scrutiny during these 5-10 minutes.

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