ARTICLE: How to Be the People’s Choice

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Placing Top 16 at Miss USA and being named "Fan Favorite" for the Miss USA 2011 title was one of my top 10 highlights as Miss New Mexico USA 2011. There is something so humbling about millions of people believing in an individual and taking the time to claim their voice. Sometimes I am overwhelmed just imagining the amount of people who took the time to learn about me, invest in me, and support me. It was more than I could have even dreamed of as a way to sum up my experience at Miss USA.

Whether you are a 2012 Miss USA contender or simply in pursuit of a state or local title these 10 Tips on “How to Be the People's Choice” will help you connect & build relationships to further grow who you are as an individual and what you bring to the table as a potential titleholder. This is the time to let your connections and personality shine and work to your favor as you vie for the a crown. Here are my Top 10 ways of claiming your voice and securing a spot on the big stage:

1. Leverage Relationships: I love the opportunity for communities, families, and people of all diverse backgrounds to come together & support a female leader. I am so impressed by the Miss Universe Organization’s ability to recognize the power of relationships and influence that each woman has in her community.  I've got a sneaking suspicion that most titleholders have a wonderful skill of building relationships and influencing others. Well ladies, werq what cha’ got! Don’t limit yourself to the pageant world, reach out to the networks that you have worked so hard to create and cultivate all your life, you’ll be surprised at who is willing to support you. I could not have received the support I had last year without all of the partnerships that I made along my journey. Thanks to Teach For America, the Herbalife nutrition community, my alma mater of New Mexico State University, my sorority Zeta Tau Alpha, and radical self-love blogger (& my personal idol) Gala Darling I was able to mobilize a diverse range of voices and support.

2. Be Creative: Whatever you can do to capture attention in a manner that is authentic to your personality, go for it (but keep it classy!). I used traditional forms of communication such as Facebook and Twitter to market the links to vote, but instead of just posting a typical ole’ link I made an effort to grab attention in unique ways. Every day I would post a reminder about the link, but prefaced it with something funny or thought provoking to generate and invite a conversation first. My favorites were: “Why do men have nipples? I have no idea, but I do know that you can vote for your favorite Miss USA delegate right now!” or when I offered to give fortunes to anyone who responded to my link that they had voted. Think outside of the box, you’ll stand out and break the worlds’ stereotypes of a “pageant girl" & have fun in the process.

3. Take Risks: My favorite blogger & lifestyle idol is Gala Darling of galadarling.com. With her (at the time) hot pink tress and tattooed sleeve it could have been very easy for me to assume she had no business with pageant girls -- but I took a risk anyway. I sent her an email totally out-on-a-limb about an opportunity to expand my impact & voice. And wouldn't you know,  she responded to me with the utter most enthusiasm and joy! She interviewed me for her ever-so-popular blog and helped capture and rally a traditionally “non-pageant” crowd to support me. Not only do I believe she played a significant role in the fan vote but she also taught me some stellar lessons along the way. Take a risk; you’ll be glad you did. (See my risk here!)

4. Express Gratitude: I cannot tell you how important an attitude of gratitude is. Not only does it take mental space to remember to vote each day, but it also takes time out of people’s day. Every time someone engages in a conversation with you or notifies you of their support be excited to respond to them with pure humility. Whether you rep' a small state or a big state you are still no greater than someone’s time & support. Be gracious and humble, you will always succeed a win, tangible or not.

5. Share Your Story: Sure your family better be voting. And that ex who did you wrong? Yeah, he owes you a couple of votes as well -- but why on earth should any stranger invest their time in you? Well -- let ‘em know! As a title holder you have been blessed with the gift of a voice, not many people in the world are as privileged. Share your voice and tell the world who you are & be yourself gosh darn it. Don’t tell them what you think they want to hear, tell them who you are and what you stand for, then leave it up to them if they want to support you or not. Be real, be vulnerable, and put yourself out there. I limited myself to no boundaries; I exposed myself in every form possible. While I was in Las Vegas for three weeks I wrote on my blog every night (Day 1), no matter how tired or exhausted. If anyone was gracious enough to listen I was enthusiastic enough to share my experience.

6. Market Yourself: Ain’t no shame in marketing yourself, as long as it’s tasteful and represents you. Design a reminder flyer that captures attention and leave stacks of them at local businesses around town (I made pink "ticket stubs" with my crown shot, the date of the show, and the info for voting so that strangers would feel connected to the final telecast, even if they were watching it from their couch). Print the link off on mailing labels and stick ‘em to your autograph pictures. Include the link on your email signature so that every email you send out shares the information potential votes need. Think of all the ways you can engage with others and spread the word -- there are endless possibilities if you put your mind to it and many take minimal to no effort.

7. Take Yourself Out of The Picture: Let’s get one thing straight -- it’s not about you. Rid yourself of the “Vote for me, Prom Queen!” attitude and think big picture. People aren’t voting for you, they vote for all you stand for. They are voting for your beautiful state, they are voting for your actions and desires as Miss USA, they are voting for something bigger than yourself. The sooner you realize that the sooner others will understand what they are investing in.

8. Reach Out:  Make some effort and reach out to the local radio (and don’t just limit yourself to the “hot hits” stations, the folks who listen to “oldies” might end up being more proactive about supporting), local TV stations, & the local news paper. I was privileged as Miss New Mexico USA to write a weekly column for my local newspaper. When the voting began they were so gracious to promote the vote, and by that point people already knew what I wanted them to know about me and what I stood for. Don’t just think inside the lines either, your community is full of people who will love you once they get to know you. Offer to serve for an hour at a local restaurant in effort to connect with more people, even if they don’t vote they’d still love the opportunity to connect with you & you will learn more about the people you represent.

9. Know Why (or if) You Want This: Before people should know why they want to vote for you YOU need to know why they should want to vote for you. Draft out all of the reasons why you want to be Miss USA, list as many as you can. Then narrow in and pinpoint the reasons that mean the most to you. Do the same for all of the things that you love about your state or the things you love about yourself. The better you know yourself the easier it will be to articulate to strangers.

10. Believe in Yourself: No matter what state you represent or what experiences you have had you are still capable of achievement greatness. I represented one of the smallest states at Miss USA 2012, but I did not let that stand in the way of knowing what I knew was possible of myself and of my state. You have worked hard for your privilege to represent yourself and your community, and everyone is on an equal playing field. Believe that you can make this possible and you will find the ways to do it.

...as I stood up there in the Top 16 line up, I knew I was not alone. I felt the presence of everyone who had been on this journey with me: everyone who had sent an email, who had posted a link on Facebook, who had communicated to others about why New Mexico deserved to be represented on that national stage. I loved the community that my placement reflected and the reminder of the many people I have been fortuned to connect with.

Have fun, be yourself, and don’t stress about the outcome. Whether you win the “Fan Vote” or not still recognize how many people put their faith in you and gave you their support. I assure you, the woman who seeks abundance out of all situations will continue to be prosperous. As you seek this incredible opportunity to be this year’s Fan Favorite remember to first & foremost be humbled by the love of strangers. The experience will soar by but the people you carry with you will outlast any crown.

Fans & Spray Tans-

This post was was written by thePageantGuy.com’s guest blogger, Brittany Toll. Brittany was Miss New Mexico USA 2011 and a Top 16 Finalist at the Miss USA 2011 pageant, winning America's vote as the Fan Favorite. Brittany also held the title of Miss New Mexico Teen USA 2005 and placed Top 10 in the Miss Teen USA 2005 pageant.

This article was written by Brittany Toll

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