Pageants encompass glamour, image, sophistication, talent, poise, personality, success, and opportunity—and more. Fashion modeling does the same. The business of acting, film, and television embraces all of these aspects as well. It is little wonder, then, that in the last few years there has been a very significant crossover between these career-launching platforms. Models who have competed in pageants now enjoy acting careers, while pageant winners model on international runways. Some actresses have done both pageants and modeling.
After the last Miss Universe, Miss World, and Miss USA extravaganzas, I received many questions from parents, children, teenagers, and adults who had either been involved in fashion modeling and were interested in pageant competitions or vice versa. They wanted to know if it is possible to make this transition or crossover, and if so, what the key differences and ingredients are for a successful career.
For answers, I interviewed experts from all over the world who are involved in various aspects of modeling, acting, and pageants. Here is what they told me.
Zenata Blank, a former model who owns the visage agency in Zurich, Switzerland, acknowledges that it is possible to make the crossover, but there are certain things to remember. “In the modeling business,” she says, “we are looking for a very natural look with hair and makeup. A model must have height, good proportions, excellent bone structure, and know how to project in front of the camera. She must walk well on a runway and be photogenic. She doesn’t necessarily have to be very intelligent.
“If she wants to be involved in pageants, however, she does need to be intelligent because she will be interviewed on a wide variety of subjects. It is not enough for her to be photogenic. A pageant girl who wants to become a fashion model needs to be at least 5'9" tall, know how to move and walk well, and trade the big hair style and heavier makeup for a more natural look. I think it is easier for a model to make the crossover to pageants.”
Zenata speaks from experience. She advised one of her models, beautiful Fiona Hefti, who had been with VISAGE for seven years, to compete for the title of Miss Switzerland instead of pursuing a modeling career in New York as planned. Fiona was crowned Miss Switzerland and was one of the Top 10 finalists of Miss Universe 2005! Fiona is now a fashion journalist.
My research for this article led me to meet an amazing trio of school directors from Japan. (By sheer coincidence, we met in a taxi in New York on the way to a reception at the famous Elite Model Agency for school directors attending the International Model and Talent Association (IMTA) Convention in that city.) They are Akiko Shimizu, Mitsuka (Mika) Hyoguchi, and Tokiko Fujimoto, and they are exceptional because they own the only modeling school in their respective cities of Tokyo, Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu, and Osaka — all three are John Robert Powers franchises. Akiko was bubbling over with excitement, because one of her students, Kurara Chibana, Miss Japan 2006, had just been voted 1st Runner-up in the Miss Universe Pageant. She told me that her office in Tokyo was being mobbed by the media wanting to report this great achievement for Japan. Say Akiko, “We collaborate with the Miss Universe office in Japan which organizes the Miss Japan Pageant. They send us contestants for more training in poise, sophistication, good manners, confidence, conversation, and participation. Kurara is tall and beautiful. She also has a very good attitude, speaks well, and can answer questions on any topic. This combination is essential for the pageant participant. Many models have the looks but are not trained to participate in all of the pageant events.”
Valerie Trott, a renowned model agent who judged the Miss California 2006 pageant, believes that the crossover from modeling to pageants and vice versa is a recent phenomenon. “Fifteen years ago,” she says, “it couldn’t have happened, but today it can, because there is not that much difference between the two. The most significant difference is height. A pageant girl who has the height can model, but you don’t have to be 5'9" to be in a pageant. You can be 5'5" or 5'6".
“Pageant judges look at how you present yourself and the way you handle yourself in front of people,” she continues. “The better you put that together, the more charming you become, the more people take to you. In the pageant world, they say you have to be red-carpet ready. Today, the celebrities can be models or actresses because they all blend. We see more and more actresses on the covers of fashion magazines and more and more models on television and in the movies. Celebrities like Halle Berry and Diane Sawyer have all been Miss Somebody. It is all show business. I would strongly advise anyone going into modeling to learn how to speak, and act, and compete. If models and pageant girls can make the crossover, there can be amazing career opportunities.”
The highly-respected family that owns the Barbizon-Avanti School and Agency in Raleigh, North Carolina, is deeply involved in the development and careers of girls interested in pageants, modeling and acting. Co-owner Nell Renfrew-Sutton agrees that the crossover between pageants and modeling happens more frequently than ever. “We have girls who go into modeling to prepare for pageants,” says Nell, “and sometimes when they have made that crossover, they decide that modeling is what they want. They are all beautiful girls, and while the walk and height is very important for models, pageant girls are sometimes more outgoing and not afraid to talk to people, which helps when they sit with a model agent.”
Two examples from Barbizon-Avanti are Sam Holby, Miss North Carolina USA 2006, who is trained for a modeling career, and Kristen Hansen, who was Miss Congeniality and winner of the People’s Choice Award in the same pageant and attended classes for modeling and acting. “We brought her to the IMTA competition in New York,” says Nell, “and she won the Actress of the Year award for Barbizon International as well as for IMTA. She was also awarded a scholarship from prestigious acting coach Adam Hill.”
For the complete behind-the-scenes story and all the details on this and other exciting competitive events from across America, as well as a wealth of advice to improve your chances of victory, be sure to Order Pageantry today.
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