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A pageant expert on 4 things to watch for during Miss USA

Miss Wyoming USA, Lexi Hill, Miss Wisconsin USA Bishara Dorre, West Virginia USA Charisse Haislop, Miss Washington USA Allyson Maureen Rowe, and Miss Virginia USA Arielle Saige Rosmarino participate in the bathing suit competition during the 2014 Miss USA preliminary competition in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday, June 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

One of the glitziest, most made-up nights of the year is nearly upon us. The 2014 Miss USA competition will conclude Sunday night, with live results airing on NBC starting at 8 p.m. For the pageant obsessed — or those fascinated by big gowns and bigger hair — the Miss USA competition is a momentous occasion. Not to be confused with Miss America, it’s more scholarship-focused older cousin, Miss USA — which is owned and presented by Donald Trump — is infinitely more sparkly, and more focused on large personalities than community service.

For those playing along at home, long-time pageant coach and author Valerie Hayes has four tips to help win your watch-party pool.

1. Look for the next “It” girl.

Confidence and beauty play a large role in the Miss Universe contest. As does personality.

“They want to demonstrate today’s modern woman can be confident, smart, savvy, can market herself and move her career forward.” Hayes says. “At the same time, she is beautiful, feminine and fashionable.”

The women went through the interview round Thursday, during which they were asked questions to figure out their life philosophies as well as how they would use the title.

“They what to know what motivates them. What are they interested in doing, do they have a real direction in life, or ‘I want to be pageant Barbie.’ They aren’t going to pick pageant Barbie.”

2. Can a contestant back up her opinions?

Trump pageants tend to have some of the most controversial questions. This leads to soundbites that can reverberate around water coolers Monday morning. Most will remember Miss California Carrie Prejean’s answer to Perez Hilton’s question about gay marriage in 2009. But contestants aren’t docked points for having opinions, Hayes says, as long as they can back them up.

“It’s perfectly OK to have opinion that may be different to the norm, but explain why you feel that way and how you arrived at that opinion,” she says. And it doesn’t hurt to throw in a little pro-American sloganeering, too.

3. Is she a model of health?

Health is the primary concern in the always-controversial yet always-popular bathing suit portion of the competition. Judges are looking for contestants who will be good role models, so women who are too thin or too muscular likely won’t win points. Confidence is always a factor, too.

“Can she walk in those heels in a swimsuit as if she is fully dressed and not the least bit concerned a camera is looking from every angle?” Hayes asks.

4. Don’t be fooled by the white dress theory.

A long-standing theory in the pageant world is that women in white dresses are the most frequent winners. But Hayes reminds viewers that white dresses are also more popular with manufacturers and with buyers. So whether or not it is the chicken or the egg — or in this case the contestants or the judges — is hard to tell.

“It’s really about the girl,” Hayes says.

In terms of dresses, blue is universally flattering. Red is another popular choice, though a little polarizing.

But orange, silver and brown are no-no’s in the industry; they tend to read a little muddy under the bright stage lights.

Cara Kelly manages the development of editorial tools and presentation for new products and user experiences. She previously worked in the Style section, following the completion of her MA in journalism at American University.



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David Montgomery · June 6, 2014

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