This isn’t Melissa’s first rodeo. Having competed in pageants since she was a toddler, Melissa has learned the in’s and out’s of the industry. Whether it is picture perfect hair and make-up or  the intrinsic qualities that give a competitor the “it” factor, Melissa’s wealth of experience creates a solid foundation for her success. Now competing on bigger stages, Melissa tells 5 Questions how she prepares for the crown and what makes a contestant truly stand out.

1)What is your preparation routine for pageants and do you see more competitions in your future? 

My pageant preparation includes the usual exercise and diet routine. However, I find it necessary to never completely cut out the foods that I really love to eat. I hate to deprive my body and mind of something delicious but I do watch the portion size of what I eat. 

Closer to the date of the pageant, I like to get my wardrobe set so that I know exactly what it will look like, accessories, shoes, and all. If I have a speech, this is usually when I like to write it down. Procrastinating is not always a bad habit in my book. I prefer to write my speech late in the game so that I can have it fresh in my head and improvise when actually performing it. That has always been my way of preparing for speeches. The best part of my preparation routine includes watching my favorite pageant movies such as Miss Congeniality and Drop Dead Gorgeous to get me in the zone! I definitely see more competitions in my future.

2)What sparked your interest in pageants and how did you break into the industry?

When I was a little girl, my favorite thing to do was play dress-up and my favorite movies were about princesses. So, when I was old enough, my mom entered me in the local little miss pageant knowing that I would love to wear the sparkly dress and have my hair curled like Shirley Temple. Little Miss Antioch was my first pageant and even though I was furthest thing from assertive as a child, I competed all 3 years until I aged out. 

As I got older, I continued to follow the Miss USA and Miss America pageants on TV and when my town finally had a Junior Miss pageant, I competed. That year I took the title of Junior Miss Antioch and five years later, grabbed the Miss Antioch title. Now I’ve moved onto bigger and better pageants which allow me to compete at the state level.

3)What was the best piece of advice someone gave you, and what advice do you have for any girls getting into pageantry?

It may sound cliché, but the best piece of advice I have ever received was simply to “be yourself.” It’s so much easier to be yourself rather than try to be someone else and try to remember that person’s story. I would tell any girls just getting into pageantry the same thing: tell your own story. Be yourself and focus on yourself. There’s nothing that will stress you out more than focusing on the other ladies in the competition. Be the best you can be; that’s all you can do.

4)What was your most embarrassing moment as a beauty queen?

I recently competed in a new pageant system. Before we started the individual interviews, we appeared in front of the judges as a group where we would introduce ourselves by name and title. Although I was last in the group, I was to go first in introductions. Fortunately, I remembered that part; unfortunately, I forgot that it was morning and I started my introduction with an enthusiastic “Good evening!” What a great first impression I must have made on those judges! I 

5)What do you think makes a competitor stand out?

Confidence can make anyone stand out but I think true beauty and sincerity can earn a competitor the judges’ attention. There is always one competitor that stands out among the rest. That one girl has poise, confidence, and a genuine smile. However, that girl may not always end up with the crown but she makes a lasting impression.

BONUS! What has to be in your pageant bag?

HAIRSPRAY! Lots and lots of hairspray. I think it’s stated in the unwritten pageant handbook that hairspray is a pageant priority. I go through hairspray rather quickly on a weekly basis but when pageant day comes around, you can expect me to empty a full bottle or two.

Quick Facts!

Name: Melissa Zeman

Age: 23

Hometown: Antioch, IL

Education: Graduated from Illinois State University

Pageant titles/experience: 2nd Runner Up Miss Illinois International 2013, 
Miss Illinois USA Top 15 2009, Miss Antioch 2008

Organizations:Best Buddies; Make-A-Wish; St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; American Heart Association; Easter Seals; Purple Heart;