Tuesday, June 19, 2007

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!

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