Prepares for MIss America Pageant

Miss Missouri prepares for her trip to Miss America Pageant in Atlantic CityWhen the Miss America Pageant directors decided to move the pageant back to its longtime home in Atlantic City, they also moved the pageant back to its traditional time – in September.
For Miss Missouri Shelby Ringdahl, and the other state representatives, the changed pageant date (from January) meant three fewer months of preparation time.
So, the Tuesday after her crowning June 8, Shelby and her team began preparation with a whirlwind trip to Arkansas and Oklahoma. Now, Shelby is concentrating on her interview skills, through a series of mock interviews and round-table discussions with various mid-Missouri experts.
At the Miss America Pageant, Shelby will present her talent, have a ten-minute interview with the members of the judging panel, and appear in swimsuit and evening gown competitions.
"I'd like to thank the prep team members who went with me on my two-day trip last month," Shelby said. "Linda Huffman (Chair of the Miss Missouri board), Ann Jolly (Business Manager), Anne Williams (Executive Director), and Steve Wilson (Advisory board member from St. Louis) were a terrific team. They helped and advised me at every step."
In Arkansas, Shelby consulted with Tony Bowles, who is a well-known pageant dress designer. "It is every contestant's dream to find a fabulous gown made by Tony Bowles. I was able to find three – my gown for the evening wear competition, a gown for talent and another walk-on gown."
While in the car traveling on to Oklahoma, the prep team completed most of the massive paperwork required of the state contestants. Then, Shelby met with a trainer, who adjusted her fitness routine. "For six days a week, I work out about two and a half hours each day," Shelby said. "I eat a high protein diet of mostly meat, chicken and vegetables, with lots of salad, and almonds for snacks."
Also while in Oklahoma City, Shelby had a marathon session for her hair and makeup during a seven-hour photo shoot. "After this exhausting, but wonderful session of prep I had my 'last dinner' at my favorite Chinese restaurant, Pei Wei, before returning to Mexico."
Shelby praised her prep team for the feedback they gave her. "They would say what they thought, but constantly deferred to me, asking 'what do you want?' and 'how do you feel about this?' before I made decisions."
Shelby has limited pageant experience, winning two local pageants and making only her second appearance at the state pageant when she was chosen Miss Missouri. Her background, however, has given her a solid base for interviewing and presentations.
She was already involved in her local pageant platform, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), because it is her sorority's national platform.
"Shelby has an excellent platform supporting CASA, a nonprofit network supporting court appointed volunteers advocating for abused and neglected children," Lou Leonatti, Miss Missouri board member and interview prep committee member, said. "She understands that in order to fully understand CASA she needs to be boots on the ground, and has not just attended meetings but also is a volunteer."
Shelby, who is a theater and business major at Texas Christian University, said she is not fearful about the Miss America interview. "I like the interview part of competition," she said. "I'm not scared, but I want to be as prepared as I can be."
To help with this preparation, Shelby has stayed in Mexico since her crowning. She lives with the Miss Missouri host family, Dr. Lee and Ann Jolly.
Her interview prep committee, Lou and Alice Leonatti, have set up multiple sessions for informal round table discussions and mock interviews with various people. The Leonattis, who have been involved in interview prep for more than ten years, coordinate the events.
"Last year I made a list of topics I thought the Miss America judges might inquire about," Alice said. "The list is still current, but we have added timely topics such as the situation in Egypt. The key to interview prep is determining Miss Missouri's learning style so we can present information in that manner."
The round tables feature individuals with an area of expertise who can share their knowledge. "The round tables are more conversations, with individuals offering Shelby deeper understanding of complex issues," Alice said. "She has a broad base of knowledge, and the experts help her condense her opinions so her positions become clearer."
Shelby and the prep team members also looked for key words in her resume and information provided to Miss America that the judges might ask her. "I want to have depth and substance," Shelby said. "The more information I know, the more knowledge I have to contribute to answers, and the better I can provide precise responses."
Miss Missouri leaves for Atlantic City in early September. The Miss America Pageant will be televised on ABC on Saturday, Sept. 15.