FORT MILL — Walking in heels, making a turn on stage and pausing to smile at the judges aren’t typical school subjects, but some students at Indian Land High School stayed after class last week to learn a little more about beauty pageant basics.
A workshop for students entering the Miss Warrior pageant was held last Wednesday in the school commons area, led by local pageant veterans Amelia Old, Ashley Harkrader and Debbie Miller, who volunteered their time.
Old, who is from Indian Land, is the reigning Mrs. Ballantyne and will compete in the Mrs. South Carolina America on Nov. 9 in the hopes of representing the Palmetto State at the Mrs. America Pageant in 2014. Miller, a Mooresville, N.C., resident, has held multiple titles including Miss. Hawaiian Tropic Hilton Head and Mrs. North Carolina United States. She is an accredited pageant judge. Harkrader of Charlotte is a pageant coach with more than 30 titles, including Mrs. NC State 2013.
Thirty-five high school girls filled the commons area, many clad in superhero attire thanks to the timing of the workshop around Spirit Week. A Wonder Woman T-shirt or a Supergirl cape pair beautifully with heels, so they held their heads high as prepared to take the stage and practice walking and turning.
There was rarely even a stumble as they walked the long runway-like stage.
At the end of the stage, where the judges will sit, Old reminded the students to pause and take time to see the audience and the judges.
“Stop there, smile and take it in. This is your moment,” she said.
Some of the young women were prepared for being on stage. Many have been involved in dance or modeling. For others, though the Miss Warrior Pageant will be the first time in a pageant or on stage for any reason.
“It’s OK to be nervous,” said Harkrader. “That’s why we’re practicing.”
Preparing for the pageant with professionals at the workshop helped alleviate some nerves, especially in the interview portion.
The contestants were asked sample questions to give them an idea of what to expect on pageant night. Questions included, “What is your greatest strength and weakness?” and, “How would you better promote volunteerism in teens?”
Contestants were encouraged to smile, even when they were scrambling for an answer to a difficult question.
“Be confident in your answer,” Old reminded them.
Shelby Williams, a sophomore, participated in the pageant last year and was looking forward to last week’s workshop to help her hone her pageant skills.
“The walking and the talking, mainly,” she said.
For Baylee Rowland, practicing the interview questions helped her feel more prepared.
“It helps you get more confident speaking in front of other people,” Rowland said.
In addition to practicing interview questions and walking, Old, Miller and Harkrader talked with the girls about appropriate outfits, makeup and accessory choices for the pageant. They gave helpful tips, such as reminding the students not to wear bracelets during the formal wear competition that might snag their dresses, and to use a neutral color if they get a manicure.
Building confidence is a big part of the workshop’s purpose, organizer Kimberly Pyles said.
“They like to have the information. The more prepared you are, the more confident you are and the more fun you’re going to have,” Pyles said.