Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Photos of Alexis Young

Interview with Alexis Young

Alexis Young, Fourth Runner-Up to Miss Texas USA in 2007, has agreed to interview for the Miss Texas USA Beauty Shop board. The interview and the pictures shared in this chat are owned by Alexis Young and by the board moderators and can not be replicated without permission.

Also, thank to 2Cents and LubbockGirl for help with interview questions.
First of all, Hi Alexis! And, thank you for interviewing with us!

You know, everyone wants to hear about your stint on “The Bachelor”! Did you think the show portrayed you in a fair light? Do you think Andy gave you a fair chance?
Yes, I think I was portrayed fairly. Of course, due to the nature of the show, they could not show all aspects of my personality. I knew that going into it, so I chose to err on the side of being more reserved, because we all know how much the media loves to play up any "indiscretions" of a pageant girl!

Who was your favorite “bachelorette”? What did you think of Tessa (the winner)?
I’ve become great friends with so many of them. In fact, about 13 of us are meeting for a little “reunion” weekend in a few weeks. I talk to Amanda, Erin, Peyton, Amber and Tiffany W. often. I also really liked Bevin. She was so fun while we were at the house. So I really don’t have a favorite! Tessa was awesome. One of the funniest moments from the show was when she was re-enacting her infamous “muffin joke” one day when we were all hanging out in the kitchen – she is hilarious!

How is your love life now? (LOL) Haha, it’s pretty much the same as before the show. I think that a common misconception about the show is that the girls go on their to “find a date” or “find their husband.” When, in reality, we all just saw it as a once in a lifetime chance to experience something unique and exciting. In fact, I actually had to put my “love life” on hold for the show, because we signed these contracts that forbid us from dating for a month prior to the taping of the show, until the day that our elimination show aired. So that was kind of annoying!

When did you first start competing in pageants, and what was your inspiration to do so? The first pageant I competed in was the Miss Dallas America preliminary during January of 2000. To be perfectly honest, I had just broken up with my first college boyfriend, and of course, thought my life was over, so my mother found the pageant and suggested I enter in an effort to take my mind off of it. So, I grabbed my prom dress, bought this little dress for interview from J.C. Penney’s, and showed up at the pageant a week later. I remember that I actually used my piano music during the talent competition because I didn’t memorize it! I was so intimidated; in fact, Morgan Matlock was placed next to me in the dressing room and I remember being in awe of how prepared and poised she was. I definitely felt out of place!

What made you want to compete for Texas USA after so many years in the Texas America system? Though I definitely gained so much from my years of competing in Texas America, I never quite felt that I fit the image that they seemed to promote back then. Of course, things have changed since then, but back during the years I competed the preferred style was a bit more … okay, I’ll just say it, “matronly.” Also, I’ll be the first to admit that I struggled with talent. I would always hear these girls gush about how much they loved performing their talent, and I would be sitting their thinking how much I dreaded it! And yet, I would score well in evening gown and swimsuit. I’d always been curious about the Texas USA pageant, so instead of competing in the MAO during my last year of eligibility, I decided to give it a shot.

What did you like about the Texas USA system as opposed to the Texas America system, and vice versa? The main thing that I liked about the Texas USA system was that I felt I could express my individual style. Whereas during my days at Texas America, I always felt like I was trying to fit into this “mold.” The one thing I liked about the Texas America system over Texas USA, was that there seemed to be less of an emphasis on physical beauty. The Texas USA system can definitely cause one to develop insecurities. For example, I remember that I used to smile with the biggest goofy grin ever, and then after I competed in my first USA preliminary, I heard about how my gums showed too much. I became very self-conscious about it! I really enjoyed my years competing in both systems however.

Was there a difference in preparation for Texas USA versus Texas America, and if so, how? The major difference is that you don’t have to worry about talent (which is nice!). Another thing is that the swimsuits are provided at Texas USA, so that removes another element of stress. Other than that, the preparation is basically the same.

What advice do you have for a contestant that is switching systems? I see a lot of girls who try too hard to fit the “glamorous USA image.” I think that I went overboard the first year that I competed at Texas USA. I had this image in my head of what Miss USA is supposed to look like, and I just did “too much” – overdid the modeling, got too skinny, concocted a gown that pushed the limits, etc. My second year I relaxed and focused on trying to be more confident and graceful onstage, as opposed to forcing myself into this preconceived image. I would tell the girls to remember that quiet, understated confidence transcends both systems.

Was there a difference in personalities of competitors? Judges? Not really. The judges are just people, and the same qualities that impressed the judges in the MAO will impress the judges in USA. I believe they are looking for the girl who is truly comfortable with herself. The competitors were pretty much the same too.

Besides talent, what would you say is the biggest difference between the two systems? Well, the production numbers at Texas USA are certainly more involved than in Texas MAO. And anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t exactly have the most rhythm, but I tried my hardest to make it work!

How do you feel about Miss America losing its sponsorship to telecast the pageant? Do you feel the pageant is outdated? No, I don’t feel the pageant is outdated. I think the problem came back during the nineties when the pageant started to fiddle too much with the tried and true format that had existed for years. The thing is, it doesn’t matter how much they try to remove the focus from the “beauty” aspect of the pageant, the critics will never be satisfied. And in the process of trying to appease the skeptics, they alienated those who loved the pageant just the way it was. It was a classic case of trying to serve two masters. The appeal of a pageant is the mystical fantasy, the glamour, and the fact that it is different than anything we typically see on a day-to-day basis. There is no reason to try to make it mainstream or keep up with the times, because then it loses that which makes it special. I think that the MAO finally realized that people just want to see a beauty pageant, and have tried to bring back the glamour over the past two years. Hopefully it won’t be too little too late.

What do you say to those people who think that pageants are sexist and set the women's movement back? I think that the glossy magazines, cosmetically altered models, and Hollywood movies do infinitely more harm to the “women’s movement” - by propagating the idea that a woman’s value only comes from her looks - than some pageant. Women have been judged based on their physical appearance since the beginning of time. I don’t agree with it whatsoever, and it makes me angry, but that is just how it is. The presence or absence of a pageant is not going to change it one bit.

How do you prepare physically for pageants? And how do you prepare mentally?
Generally, about 6 weeks before the pageant I would start working out 4-5 times a week. My workouts consisted of a short cardio session to warm me up (about 10 minutes walking on a treadmill set to the highest incline), then 30-45 minutes of weight training. For diet, I would just try to focus on natural, healthy foods (fruits, veggies, lean protein, good fats, whole grains), and limit the desserts and processed foods. Mentally, I would try to keep up with the news, do mock interview sessions, and try to keep my spirits up.

How did it feel making the top 5 your first year at Miss Texas USA? I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t expect to make it at all. I think that is why I kind of froze up during my final question. You have no IDEA how much I beat myself up over that dreadful answer I gave! In fact, the only thing going through my mind was “abandon ship, this answer is going nowhere fast!” – of course, you could probably see that written all over my horrified face.

Which phase of the competition do you enjoy the most? Which phase is the most difficult? I liked all phases! Really!

How do you go about picking a gown to compete in? I vividly remember a conversation I overheard during my first pageant, where a girl was talking about the “great deal” she found on this pageant gown for $1,000. Of course, I stood there in abject horror that anyone would spend that much on a dress … a viewpoint that would rapidly change! Haha! The first couple of years that I competed, I modeled for Claire’s Collection, so I purchased my first few gowns from them. The first gown I purchased right off the rack, and made no alterations. But after a few years I, like most girls, desired something a little different, so I began changing up the styles (changing the neckline, beading, train, color, etc.).

I hear that you often are instrumental in designing your gown. What is that process like? And, how involved are you into the making of the gown? Yes, pretty soon I began changing so many things about the gowns that I thought, well, why don’t I just design it myself! So I just started sketching different designs. Then I would find a basic pattern from the fabric store that I would adjust to fit my design. Then I would order the fabric and other necessary items, generally off the internet. The most ambitious (or some would say, weird) adornment that I ever chose for a gown was my first year at Miss Texas USA. For some reason I fell in love with this gown that Miss Venezuela wore in the 2000 Miss Universe Pageant. But, even after tracking down the designer of her gown (who never returned my calls) I could not figure out what the shiny clear stuff was on her gown. So, after spending countless hours scouring the internet and every possible store, I finally settled on clear window film from Home Depot. Yes, I know, it was strange. Looking back on it, perhaps that dress was a little “out there.” But I just had my mind set on it!

My mother and I did the sewing. She is definitely the better seamstress, and she ended up doing the majority of the tricky sewing, while I did most of the beadwork and easier sewing. The process was very much trial-and-error, with tons of fittings, and more than a few tears! I definitely could not have done it without my mom – she is amazing!

How did it feel competing against some of your former MAO contestants on a different stage? It was fun. It was nice to already have a little camaraderie with the girls that I already knew, and I felt that we were supportive of each other.

Are you friends with many of the girls you have competed against in the past? If so, who are you closest to? I am! You know what, I started to type out some names, but then I realized that I had gotten to know so many great girls, that I didn’t even want to name names because I am afraid I would leave someone out! I really made it a point last year to try to get to know as many of the girls as possible – it made the week a lot more fun!

What about cattiness in pageants? Have you ever run across wit jealous or mean-spirited girls? If so, how did you handle this situation? In my opinion, the cattiness is born from insecurity. In fact, the girls that seem to come across as “stuck up” are generally the ones who are the most insecure themselves. I handled it by making a point to get to know these girls who everyone said were mean. 99% of the time I found they were just quiet, and were in fact really sweet. If ever I came across someone who was truly not nice to be around, I would just keep my distance. You don’t want to surround yourself with negativity.

How was the camaraderie amongst the delegates? I thought it was great. Everyone seemed to help each other. Girls were lending each other jewelry and shoes all the time.

I asked Cassy Meyer Russell this same question. Do you have a most embarrassing moment in competing? I’ve racked my brain to try to think of something, but (fortunately) I can’t think of anything!

Is winning everything? What will you take from your experiences? Winning is definitely nice, but far from everything. I will take from my experiences many friendships, special time with my mother while making my gowns, increased confidence, and lovely memories.

You are very down to earth. How do you think you and other girls defy the standard stereotypes about pageant girls? Well thank you! I think that most “pageant girls” are down to earth. I just tried to be myself, have fun, not take the pageant too seriously, and remain focused on my career and education.

Do you think there should be a cap on age limit? What about being married? Do you think that pageants should lift this ban? I’m fine with the cap and the ban on being married. I think that there are certain times in your life when it is probably best to move on and focus on other things.

What type of law do you practice? How does your pageant background integrate into your practice? I do commercial litigation, as well as some trademark work. My pageant background doesn’t really play a role in my practice. Though, I know that all the interviews and public speaking opportunities have made me more confidence in the courtroom. And for that I am thankful.

How do you juggle being a "pageant girl" in a corporate setting? I don’t; I stopped being a pageant girl once I started my job. :)

What are your plans now that you have aged out of both systems? I am just focusing on my career and enjoying living in Dallas. I also enjoy working with girls who are still competing.

What would you like to say to the girls competing this year? Just relax! The week of Miss Texas USA is grueling: emotionally and physically. So, first of all, sleep! Personally, I think it’s nonsense to set your alarm for 4:30 a.m. to go work out (and you know that most of the time you just end up snoozing it anyways!). The week is physically exhausting enough, and the calories you burn during your workout will not make up for the decrease in your mental and physical stamina resulting from lack of sleep. Second, try your hardest not to check out your competition. You know what I’m talking about … the furtive glances at the other girls during rehearsal and arrival, checking out who is in shape, who is not, who got extensions, who looks cute, who looked cuter last year... . All this will do is play with your mind and diminish your confidence. The single biggest difference between my first year of competing versus my last year was that I finally learned this lesson. I know it sounds cliché, but once you get to Miss Texas, it really is all about focusing on yourself. I would like to echo Cassie by saying to stay upbeat, always have a smile on your face, and be confident! (or at least try to look like you are! Haha) The thing is, 100% of the girls there are fighting insecurity – I promise – even the top five girls! So, if you can be confident and secure with yourself, you are already so far ahead of the game. Though, I will add one caveat. If you haven’t put in the necessary time and effort into preparing (i.e. working out, making sure your gown is just right), then it’s going to be hard to feel good about yourself. So, right now is the time to do those 4:30 a.m. workouts! You (or your parents) are spending an obscene amount of money and time to be in Laredo, so put your all into it and leave no stone unturned!

We want to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. You are an inspiration to others. Best of luck in all you do!

Photos of Cassandra (Meyer) Russell

Monday, June 18, 2007

Interview with Cassandra Meyer

Cassandra Meyer, First Runner-Up to Tyler Willis at Miss Texas USA, and former Miss San Antonio USA as interviewed with SanFranGuy for the Texas Beauty Shop. This is an exclusive interview for http://www.voy.com/210461/The information in this interview is solely owned by this board and may not be copied elsewhere without the permission of myself (SanFranGuy) or Cassandra Meyer. Credits will also be noted where necessary.
First of all, congratulations on your new marriage, even if I wanted to see you compete for Miss Texas USA this year! Thank you!
How did you first come to love pageants? Did you compete in any pageants as a teen or little girl? If so, what titles did you win? I have always enjoyed pageantry. Although I never competed as a young child or teen, I vividly remember watching pageants on television with my mom. I always hoped to be in a pageant but never gave it much thought until college. I was surfing the Internet one day and came across the Miss Texas USA website. I filled out the application (not really knowing what I was filling out) and before I knew it, I was visiting with the Brazos Valley directors at A&M. I was told the San Antonio pageant had already happened for that year, so I was able to go at-large as Miss Brazos Valley USA. I entered my very first pageant, Miss Texas USA 2002 that summer and loved it! I had no idea how much was involved in a pageant. Simply thinking, I thought I would grab my old prom dress from the year before and go! Thankfully, my directors stopped that idea. I had a team of wonderful, committed ladies that helped me. I owe my start in pageantry to them. In 2003, I began competing in my hometown at the Miss San Antonio USA pageant where I met another group of wonderful people dedicated to helping women achieve their dreams. I feel privileged to have work with the best in the industry from College Station, to Houston and to San Antonio. I took advice from each person I met. I believe that helped me become well-rounded as a contestant.
Why did you choose the USA system over Miss America? I always enjoyed watching both pageant systems on television, but felt I was a better fit for Miss USA. I played the piano for about five years when I was younger, however I believed my talents were not up to par for Miss America.
Now, tell me what it was like to be among the final two at Miss Texas? Were you nervous? (Duh!) Did you expect to go so far? It was amazing to be one of the last two contestants standing at such a large and prestigious pageant as Miss Texas USA. Every girl entering the pageant hopes to win, but realistically, I had hoped to make it past the swimsuit competition. That was my main goal that year. When I made the top five I was THRILLED! Live television happens very fast, and the next thing I knew, Dan O'Rourke was asking me about being an Aggie, and my relation to Calvin Coolidge. Then, it was down to two! I was elated and overcome by it all. It was a neat feeling to know all eyes were on us which made the moment even more suspenseful.
How was Tyler Willis? She is a lovely, sweet woman and we have stayed in touch over the years. Although I wanted to be Miss Texas USA, I was genuinely happy for her and thought she would do a good job. (And she did!)
How nerve wracking is it to compete? What goes through your head as each girl is called into the top 20, the top 10, the top 5? It is very nerve wracking waiting to hear the announcement of each cut. The year I was first runner-up, I was the last to be called in each category. I always breathed a sigh of relief every time, but I honestly felt bad for my family and friends watching. I think it was more painful for them! (Jokes) As the announcements are being made, I would always keep listening for my name and/or title. I never realized who had made the top 20,10, 5, until we exited backstage between commercial breaks. I think it is important to stay focused on your performance.
What was your most embarrassing experience in competing? Thankfully, nothing too embarrassing happened to me on-stage. My most embarrassing moment related to pageants was my very first appearance as Miss San Antonio USA. I was with Miss San Antonio Teen USA and our appearance coordinator at San Antonio's Oyster Bake. When we arrived, I went into a restroom to pin my crown to my head (This was my first time wearing the crown since that night at the pageant). I was armed with bobbie pins and all sorts of hair clips. I finally got the crown attached to my head, walked out of the building and down a flight of stairs into the mingling crowd outside. In front of everyone, the expander in my crown slides, and the crown falls from my head to around my neck. Everyone was staring and started laughing!
What goes into your preparation for the title? How was your fitness conceived? How do you choose a gown, hair, make-up, earrings and such? Every year I decided to compete at Miss Texas USA, I gave it my all. I always took advantage of what my directors, sponsors and coaches had to offer. They all supported me and I thank them very much for that. To maintain physical fitness, I made sure to workout and stay on a consistent schedule. For gown, I would take my mom with me to the store. She has an amazing sense of style and I value her opinion. I always chose gowns that I believed were classic and elegant. My belief was to find a gown that I loved and the rest (hair, make-up, etc.) would fall into place.
Which phase of the competition is the hardest for you? Which was the easiest, and why? The swimsuit competition is always hardest for me. There is something about being in high heels and a bathing suit that is challenging. Once I got out there and did it, I always wanted to go back out and do it again and again. When I won the Everything But Water swimsuit award at Miss Texas USA 2006, that was an accomplishment for me. I don't know if any part of the pageant comes easy, but I do enjoy the interview competition. I earned a Master of Arts in Communications so I enjoy speaking in-front of large audiences. I'm also very passionate about my causes.
After coming so close to the title, how was it preparing over again for Miss Texas USA? Was it a letdown? Did it make things more difficult? It was hard mentally coming back to Miss Texas USA the year after I was first runner-up. I had to wipe the slate clean in my head and remind myself that it was a new year, new pageant, new judges. I had a list of things I wanted to improve on such as becoming stronger physically, fine tuning hair/make-up techniques, modeling, and gown selection. I felt I achieved them. Overall, being first runner-up made me work harder than I ever had before. At Miss Texas USA 2006, I was thrilled to win the swimsuit award and happy with another top five placement because it showed consistency in my performance. However, it was disappointing to place 3rd runner-up when I felt I was at my best.
What were the other girls like in the competition? I hear that there are always a few girls who are catty and mean-spirited. Did you experience any of this? Most of the contestants were nice and I am still friends with several today. I personally never had any bad experiences at Miss Texas USA. Often, you could catch a girl giving another girl a jealous look, but that was about the extent of it. One time, I had a contestant come up behind me and run her fingers through my hair. She asked if I had hair extensions, and I told her I did not. I found it funny that she had to check it out on her own. I did hear once that a girl had her swimsuit stolen on pre-liminary night. Another contestant was kind of enough to let her borrow her swimsuit. Believe it or not, most of the contestants are nice ladies.
Who did you enjoy the most among the competitors? That's hard to say. I have met a lot of really nice, genuine girls. I remember my first year at Miss Texas, I didn't bring another outfit to change into after rehearsing in our opening number dresses. A girl from Denton had brought an extra dress and let me borrow it for the day. I will always remember that. Tyler Willis was also very sweet. I had the opportunity to be around her a lot the year she won. That made it all the better when it came down to the two of us that night.
What is it like walking in heels in swim suit and down staircases? Can you really prepare for something like that? It is tricky! I always made sure to buy shoes that I knew I could walk in. When you enter Miss Texas USA, always be prepared to walk down staircases on stage. As for walking in high heels during swimsuit, the idea is absurd, but I love the result you get wearing heels. They make your calf muscles pop even more! My advice is to practice in your shoes the moment you receive them, and put gripper pads on the bottom of your shoes. They help immensely! (I guess Miss USA forgot hers?!)
What are your highlights in competing? Which year did you feel was your best performance and why? Was is due to placement, preparation, or just an overall feeling? I enjoyed every year I competed at Miss Texas USA. Let's see....I enjoyed Miss Texas USA '02 because I was selected for the dress rehearsal. Since I was not selected for the top 12 on finals, I had the chance to see what it was like to be in the competition. It was great! My family still laughs about that pageant, because my dad got more air-time that I did. The camera pans right to him after we finish the opening number (laughs). I didn't compete at Miss Texas USA '03. I took a year off to focus on school, save up money and come back ready to win! I placed in the top 16 at Miss Texas USA '04 as Miss Alamo City USA which was exciting (also my favorite opening number routine. I was on the go-go pad with Christie Woods that year). Miss Texas USA '05 was the year I was first runner-up. I loved that year because of my placement. I felt my best year was Miss Texas USA '06 when I competed as Miss South Central Texas. Although I went down in placement from the previous year, I felt I had improved. Last year, I also felt improvement from the previous year, but sadly only made the semi-finals. That was difficult after putting in so much time and commitment. It made me realize it was time to end my journey at Miss Texas USA.
Now, are you planning on doing anything else in pageantry now that you are no longer competing? How has competing at Miss Texas USA carried over in other areas of your life, if any? I believe their will always be a piece of pageantry in everything that I do, even if I never compete again. I must say that pageants helped me transform from a shy teenager into a confident, strong woman. The skills I learned throughout the whole process help me everyday. I'm not planning to compete in a Mrs. pageant anytime soon. I need to practice being a good wife first! I think it would be fun to be a pageant consultant.
I hear you are becoming an actress. How is that coming along. What kind of work would you like to do in this field? Yes! I'm pursuing television work in southern California. It is a blast and I am enjoying every moment. My goal is to host or star in a national show someday. And, who would you most like to work with? In broadcasting, I would love to work with Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer.
How do you feel about Tara-gate? Do you see a lot of this behavior in other contestants? Unfortunately, their are some girls that do behave like Tara outside of the pageant. I wish the judges could see that during interview. It is a shame because it hurts the reputation of pageants.
Do you believe that Tara Conner deserved a second chance? No. Their were 50 other contestants that wanted her title. I can only hope that she learned something from the whole experience and will grow from it.
You know, I always say that Miss Texas USA is Miss USA, because the quality of contestants could win other state titles in nearly most states. Did you ever consider competing in another state system? That is nice of you to say, and I agree. Miss Texas USA is very competitive. In the back of my mind, the idea was there to go to another state, just because I wanted the opportunity to compete at Miss USA (and win!). However, I am a true Texan and could not imagine representing any other state.
Finally, you will always be a legend in Miss Texas USA. Are you happy with your experiences? And, are you happy in your life now? Thank you. Yes, I am very happy with my pageant experiences. I wish I could have been Miss Texas USA, because that was a dream of mine. Being a titleholder has more impact to a crowd when speaking on a cause than just the average person. I wanted to use the title to stop drinking and driving and promote breast cancer awareness. These causes will always be dear to my heart. However, the skills I learned, and the friendships I made will last a lifetime. For that, I am grateful for the five years I put into the system. Yes, I am happy with my life now. I married my high school sweetheart in November 2006 after being together almost seven years. We have a great life together in California and I am excited about my career.
And advice you would like to impart on girls competing this year? And will you be able to come to the pageant? I wish everyone the best of luck at Miss Texas USA! Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the pageant, but my family said they would tape and mail it to me. My advice to the contestants before they leave: keep working out, get plenty of rest, find a gown you love, (and shoes you can walk in), read your contestant handbook, and take advantage of any training you can - whether it be from your directors or coaches. Once you arrive enjoy every moment! Be positive, confident and have a great time!
Any final thoughts you would like to add? I want to thank everyone for their support. Now that I know about this message board, I will try to visit as much as I can. Good luck to all of this year's contestants and to our new Miss Texas USA! Make us proud at Miss USA! Thanks Cassandra for taking the time out to answer our questions. You are one class act! You are welcome and thank you!
SanFranGuy would like to credit Meemaw for the format of the questions.Cassandra graciously shared these photos from her personal collection for this interview. Please do not reproduce them without permission from her.