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What happens behind the scenes of Miss OSU

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during Miss OSU 2020, at the Student Union Theatre, in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Wednesday, September 25, 2019.

Julianne Thomison started her night of being crowned Miss OSU on the floor.

She sat in front of a full-length mirror in one of the small room in the backstage of the Student Union Theater teasing her hair for volume so she didn’t get lost on stage.

“I have the magic teasing brush and I’m trying to make my hair as big as it can get because when you go on stage it’s going to look a lot smaller,” Thomison said. “You always want to do things over the top and as big as possible so it looks normal on stage.”

The nine contestants were getting ready for the pageant Wednesday. As the sound production tested out the background music for the competition, the women were sharing the mirrors and helping apply hair spray.

“Every single pageant, even though it’s different in its own way, it’s kind of the same backbone in every single competition you do,” Thomison said. “It never ceases to amaze me and I love every second of it. The relationships are the best part of the girls you get to get ready with back stage… The competition aspect of it really isn’t there, it’s about helping each other with hair and question and zipping each other in dressing.”

Elizabeth Shelton, Miss OSU 2019, was there getting ready with the contestants and was helping a woman with her hair spray. As a veteran competitor, she feels that’s what she should be doing.

“They’re familiar so they can help the rookies who are not super sure, probably super nervous, a lot of things going through their minds,” Shelton said. “So having those young women back here that are soothing people and encouraging people, giving hugs and pieces of advice, I think that’s what you see back here. You come back here and that’s what you see.”

The competitors spend weeks leading up to the pageant for 90 seconds of a performance while also preparing for onstage interviews and planning a platform to campaign for if they are crowned Miss OSU. Kennedy Kerr spent weeks readying for everything the competition could throw at her.

“The past few weeks I’ve been running over where I stand on different subjects, making sure that I can present myself in a professional manner and still present that I’m a human,” Kerr said. “I’ve practiced my song. About any moment of free time I can get I have practiced in my room and all my sorority sisters can hear me singing but I just have to brush it off and keep going. I’ve made my friends ask me questions on the fly so I know how to answer different questions on my toes.”

Even directly before the pageant, there are still things to prepare. Warmups for their talent and the competition have to be done during this time.

“It’s not just body warmups… it is also your mind and getting focused because you have to be so ready for anything,” Shelton said. “Like in your private interview, they can ask you whatever they wanted. Having your mind focused and having that going and knowing that it’s not up to you. It’s up to somebody else, you have to find peace in that. Just know that if it’s your night, it’s your night.”

People outside of the competition circuit of pageants aren’t often aware of the work that goes into preparing for a pageant or what happens behind the scenes of the competition. Jocelynn Poppy Johnson remembers what it was like outside looking in and is now trying to reverse the notion of pageants being artificial.

“A lot of my friends look at the pageant world like ‘why would you want to be on stage like that?’ But there is honestly a lot more going on behind the scenes. You get that confidence, that self love and appreciation and you actually get to talk in front of people and build that up. That’s the part that people don’t realize … It is a lot of work. It’s a lot of time and effort. People should realize that these ladies work for this, and they really care about this and their platforms are really something that they want to create and make change in the world with.”

For Thomison, the minutes before the competition is the easiest part. All the preparation is done and now it’s time to be on stage.

“When I show up to a pageant, the work is done for me,” Thomison said. “Now it’s time to just play and have fun, perform on stage. For me this is the finale but it’s the fun part. All the hard work is done, now it’s just trusting myself that everything is ready to go.”

The mindset the contestant goes into the pageant affects their performance, which is why Johnson prefers not to think about the pageant.

“I try to think happy thoughts and happy things because I want to make sure I’m calm, cool and collected,” Johnson said. "Once I get to my calm state, everything comes naturally because you have been working on it for so long.”

The atmosphere backstage was not one of a competition. The girls were back there supporting and helping each other get ready. Even with the official title of Miss OSU on the line, the girls were also focused on cheering for the girl who would win the competition dubbed “Mini Miss Oklahoma.”

“It’s not a competition, it’s a sisterhood,” Thomison said. “We love on each other and we support each other and whoever is going to be Miss OSU tonight, we’re going to hug their neck and celebrate them throughout this year.”