This blog was written by guest blog contributor and pageant judge, Kara Brown Gillit.
One of the highlights of my life was the privilege of being asked to judge the 2014 Miss Rodeo America pageant. The excitement and anticipation I felt leading up to the pageant was met with an experience of a lifetime that I will forever be grateful for.
My experience as a MRA judge began prior to my arrival in Las Vegas when I was able to get to know all of the contestants through their applications and biographies. I was able to learn some interesting facts about each contestant and became even more excited to get to meet the girls in person. A photograph of each contestant was included that also appeared in the program. Although photographs can be enhanced and altered in multiple ways with today’s technology, I would advise contestants against manipulating photographs so much to an extent that it no longer represents you as a person. I think it is important to look your best, but it is even more important to look like YOU.
Shortly after I arrived in Las Vegas, I was able to meet with the other judges that I would be spending the week with. At this first meeting, our head judge Dr. Jim Heird asked me what was important to me when selecting the next Miss Rodeo America. Without hesitation, I told him I wanted a girl who was sincere and authentic in how she carried herself in all situations. I want to see a girl be relaxed and comfortable and really have the ability to connect with her audience both in a one-on-one situation like an interview and when she is on stage in front of a crowd of people delivering a speech. I think that one of the biggest mistakes that a contestant can make is to change how she presents herself in different aspects of the competition. Consistency is key and I don’t feel like I really know who the girl is if she acts a certain way when being interviewed and then changes and is completely different when she is on stage.
Another area that I think is extremely important throughout the week is interactions that contestants have with each other, pageant personnel and the judges. Being able to eat breakfast with the contestants each day was a great way for us to really get to know each other. I always admired the contestants that were gracious and considerate of the other girls when it came to including everyone in the conversation. Also, showing a lot of respect for the pageant volunteers and chaperones and being diligent to staying on time is a good indication to a judge of how a young lady will be able to interact with rodeo committees and uphold her responsibilities as Miss Rodeo America.
From a judge’s standpoint, one of the most important keys to horsemanship is simply knowing and executing the set pattern correctly. Being comfortable in the saddle and exhibiting confidence and control are important to show off your skill as a rider. Find out ahead of time the dimensions you will have to work with during the horsemanship competition and take the time to prepare your freestyle pattern that will show off your skills as a rider, but also be flexible enough to accommodate for adjustments that might need to be made depending on which horse you draw.
Finally, I think that the key to having the best experience possible during the week of the pageant is taking the time to prepare yourself so that you can relax and ENJOY this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Paying attention to details and good preparation will help with being able to endure the fast-paced competition and not miss out on really having fun and making memories of a lifetime. Even if I hadn’t been blessed with the title of MRA, I know that the hard work and experience of being a part of the pageant has helped me to be able to set and achieve goals in my life both personally and professionally. I feel completely blessed and thankful for all of the volunteers who work tirelessly to enable so many other girls to have the same experience I did.