When I met Candace Marquez at a wellness expo in 2010, it was not much of a stretch to believe that she was a pageant girl. The 29 year -old beauty knows what it means to be a true winner having held the titles of Miss North Chicago 2008, Ms. American Elegance 2008-2009, Miss U.S. United 2012, and Miss Essence 2011. This week, Marquez gives us insight into her world of glamour, service, and competition, and what the Chicago-native has coming up after the crown.

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

My initial interest pageantry began at the age of 12. My original intentions were to only be involved in my elementary school’s Charm Program. To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the end -of- the- year  pageant as a way to symbolize our completion. At the end of the production, I was crowned Miss Harold Washington and from there my love for pageantry took off.

2) What have you learned  over your years in pageants (related to competitions or not)?

Being in this arena as a staff member, volunteer, and competitor, I’ve learned that in life my biggest competition is myself. In order to progress, grow and win (at anything), I have to continue to evolve into my BEST self, with the intention to be better than the old version of my best self.

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

“Never second-guess yourself” was the best advice given to me by one of my closest pageant sisters. There are some times in pageantry when nerves get the best of us,  and we start to over think the very things that we’ve already practiced and prepared for. The added stress is unnecessary. You already know what you bring to the table, your platform, and how to gracefully walk in 5 inch heels and in an evening gown, so own it!

My advice for newcomers in pageantry and current pageant girls is:
1.Preparation, preparation, and more preparation!
2. Be yourself!

If you prepare and refine your talents, wardrobe, and speech communication far in advance, your onstage presentation and interview will be natural. This also ties into being yourself. I know that most contestants assume that pageant judges want to elect a clone of the present queen or someone whose platform is “World Peace,” but coming from someone that has judged many pageants, all judges want to see is passion and authenticity!

4)Weirdest moment while crowned or competing?

Well, the most funny (and I guess you’d say awkward) moment while being crowned is always dropping my crown. With almost every win during my final walk, it never fails that the beautiful tiara comes tumbling down off of my head. Some say that it’s good luck, so I guess I’ll run with that:)

5) What’s next for you?

Presently, I’m focusing on pouring extra effort into my business ventures (motivational speaking, talent management, and cosmetics) with an emphasis on a career in property management. However, I do see myself competing again in 2013. I know that I will always be involved (in some capacity) for life.

Quick Facts!

  • Hometown: Chicago, IL
  • Education: Bachelor of Science in Entertainment Business
  • Organizations: Aids Run and Walk Chicago, Community Action Partnership of Lake County, Clearbrook Center for Children, Adults with Disabilities
  • For bookings, contact: missessence2011@hotmail.com