Ashley Newman

My original intent was to name this blog: “How To NOT Spontaneously Combust During Pageant Week(end).” Dramatic…yes…but is this the honest- to- goodness truth? Indeed! I’ve wanted to write about a pageant weekend for awhile (which is why this is Part 1 of 2), and having done a few competitions, I will tell you that every pageant week(end) is exhilarating, thrilling, enriching… and exhausting, stressful, and sometimes a bit les miserable. 

Why is this? Well, it’s not because there isn’t enough glitter to go around. It is really because there isn’t enough energy to go around, and a gal just gets plain tired. People watch national and international pageants on television without realizing that all of those beauties have been pretty much awake for a week straight (and behind those smiles are visions of caffeinated beverages and cheeseburgers).

For anyone reading this who isn’t a pageant girl yet, here’s what a pageant week(end) schedule looks like: up at 6 AM, orientation and rehearsals until 6 PM, quick dinner before the ordained dog- and- pony show of the evening, shaking some hands and kissing some babies at the post- event meet and greet, and then (maybe) squeeze in another snack around 10:30 PM. Then, because most pageant girls can’t just go to sleep, you practice whatever needs practicing before a long winters nap of 4-5 hours. Then, guess what?! You get up to do it all again. Or even better, you get up and compete the next day. So maybe you won’t spontaneously combust… because that takes energy… which you don’t have. But you can have energy during pageant weekend in it can found through 5 little letters: S-L-E-E-P. That’s right, good old fashioned sleep.
Ashley Newman, competition.

Ashley Newman’s been there. Having competed locally, state-wide, and nationally (while holding the titles of Miss Illinois U.S. International 2011, Miss Illinois International 2010, and Miss UIUC 2008), the 25 year- old, South Holland (Illinois) native knows that it takes a lot to shine during a pageant week. “In order to feel, look and perform your best, getting ample sleep is absolutely imperative. I believe these things are especially important leading up to pageant week, especially since you may be busy with activities, appearances and rehearsals.”

Holding a B.S. in Advertising from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ashley is a smart cookie, and knows what can happen when a pageant girl doesn’t take care of herself while in the home stretch.“Not taking care of yourself could result in a loss of focus, energy and alertness—all things you need to shine while on stage. You don’t want all of your hard work and preparation to have been in vain, so be kind to yourself.”

Coco Bennett, one half of health, fitness and wellness duo Connie and Coco Bennett, agrees that sleep is next to godliness, especially in high-pressure times like a pageant week(end). “(You have to) realize that being sleep deprived causes irritability and depression.” Coco, whose health and fitness expertise can be found at the Rancho La Puerta Spa of Tecate, Mexico, has cited sleep as the key to health success during her 30 year career. “In terms of pageant week, the decreased alertness (caused by a lack of sleep) may impair your ability to think on your feet, remember routines, and get along with other contestants.”
Health aficionados Connie (left) and Coco Bennett (righ

Personally swearing by a regimen of 8-10 hours of sleep per day, she notes that though modifications have to made for a pageant weekend (where time is tight), a contestant must find the time to rest. She maintains that 6 hours needs to be the magic number in high pressure situations, and nothing less. “Sleep it out. Use an eye mask to block out light, and fit in 15-45 minute cat naps.  

She suggests that during the pageant weekend, if you find free time to sleep, take it. “You just have to get enough sleep. When stressed, it can be difficult to calm down enough to get the essential rest needed to excel. I suggest taking time to learn a few simple yoga breathing and meditation exercises. These techniques can really calm the mind, quell anxiety and soothe the nervous system.”

Our pageant and wellness experts know their stuff, but here’s three more tips for you!
1) Arrive EARLY if you can. I flew to Washington, D.C. for my last pageant week. Our check in day was Wednesday. I decided to arrive on Tuesday. In that time, I  had a chance to prepare all of my things, work on Soduku puzzles, and sleep. It was really helpful. The pageant weeks I had done in the past felt rushed, like a whirlwind of activities and mayhem. Arriving early allowed me to prepare and relax, so all I had to focus on was the competition.

2)Be sure to have your music handy, and learn how to block things out so you can meditate. People underestimate the mental stress and commitment necessary to compete. My favorite time to meditate is ironically when I’m putting on my warpaint make-up right before going on stage. I assist someone if necessary, but it is really my time to get my head together and tap into whatever that driving force is that frankly got me to that point. Figure out when YOUR time is, and take advantage.

3) Go to bed! Practice a few times (of whatever it is you want to rehearse) sure… but go to SLEEP. Practice makes perfect, but sleepy makes sloppy. You’ve rehearsed for the last six months. Go to bed.

Connie leading a fitness video.
Connie and Coco, fitness gurus and animal lovers.