SanFranGuy is getting all misty eyed. I can get star struck, but that is not what is happening here. Allison Seale, Miss Austin USA 2007, has competed her final pageant as an eligible contestant. People have the perception that beauty queens are all about outward packaging, though we know this is not always the case. Allison will go down in pageant history as an historical delegate, from the choice of her gowns, to her swimsuit physique, many awards, excellent interview skills, and her ability to prepare and consistently do well, even though she is petite. This is where the public audience is able to delineate between just a gorgeous girl and one who has tremendous depth. Before I get to the interview, I want to point out a few more things: Allison has completed college, having made it a point to value education; she works full time and has a mortgage: responsibilities that enable her to not be just another cookie cut Pageant Patty. She has a tremendous support system, makes many public appearances, as other title holders often do, adores her pets, job, is funny, smart, interesting, and to top it off, she is a fierce competitor who gave it her all. She will be missed.
Q. Allison, when do you remember watching your first pageant, and do you remember many memorable reactions to the experience?
I can still remember watching one of the greats…Stacy Outhouse. I wasn’t a competitor at that time and I only remember her name because of its uniqueness, but I will never forget her beauty and how much I thought she was robbed! I can even remember sitting around the television with my mom and her saying from the beginning that Stacy would win…looking back on that experience it’s really weird that my mom knew so much about her. From the fact that she had competed numerous times down to the fact that she had been runner up before. I guess my mom was a “pageant mom” in the making and didn’t even realize it!
Q. What was the first pageant you competed in? What was the theme? Did you place, and what made you want to compete!
My first pageant ever was not a part of the USA system, but it was called Miss Round Rock Youth pageant. There were several different ages ranging from the Wee level to Teen…I was 14 years old and therefore a Teen. I decided to compete because the director had recruited at my high school and my best friend was Miss Austin Teen USA. It was so strange…there was no theme, but there was interview, sports wear, and evening gown competition. Now I have to describe my outfits for each, because anyone competing in the 90s will appreciate them and anyone who has liked my style in the past will be SHOCKED!!! Anyone who has spent thousands on photo shoots will be stunned at my “official” headshot.
Interview: Ivory colored jumper with forest green floral print and a t-shirt underneath. I was wearing beige socks that you could pull up to your knees if wanted, but I slouched mine…then to top it off I was wearing Doc Martins…the kind that you just slipped into with a buckle over the top. My mom told me I looked so cute!!!
Sports wear: Equestrian Horseback riding outfit accompanied with the crop (whip), helmet, and all.
Evening gown: A short, forest green, velvet, with puffy sleeves dress. I wore 1 inch black shoes and thankfully my best friend who was Austin Teen at the time let me borrow her gorgeous crystal earrings…she told me they would bring me luck. Looking back I needed more than luck! In addition, my dad was my escort.
My “official” photo was taken by my mom in front of the bathroom door at our house…glamorous, I know!
Believe it or not, even with the atrocious attire and terrible photo I guess the earrings were lucky after all. I won the pageant and was Miss Round Rock Teen for the next year.
Q. Who inspired you, besides your Mom of course, and what led you to compete at Miss Texas Teen USA? How did you approach these competitions from your previous preparations? How was this pageant different from others?
Besides my mom, I’d have to say my best friend Brandy Nace, Miss Austin Teen USA 1996 inspired me. She encouraged me to enter my first pageant telling me that I would gain so much. I had never thought of competing and didn’t think of myself as a pageant girl, however I didn’t have low self esteem, I just hadn’t thought of it really. I decided to compete at Texas Teen after I had finished my reign as Miss Round Rock Teen and after I had competed in the Miss Austin Teen USA pageant for the first time. As a Teen I really had no idea what I was doing. I always designed my own gowns and had a local seamstress make them for me. My very first year at Texas Teen my evening gown cost $150 and my interview suit I copied from a Victoria’s Secret catalogue and cost about the same as the evening gown. My mom got out really cheap compared to what was in store for her in the future…LOL! I didn’t really prepare…I mean I did all my paperwork and got my wardrobe ready, but I was always very tiny and was fortunate in not having to work out. I had never heard of Julie Phillips or Elizabeth Anthony and didn’t have the faintest idea as to what an interview coach entailed. I learned how to walk and model from watching other contestants. I would watch the girls that consistently did well and just try to copy them. Texas Teen was a whole new world!!! My mom and I got there on Thanksgiving day and I of course had an outfit for EVERYthing. I thought I was in good shape until arrival day…everyone was so beautiful and everyone that I remember had on very expensive looking outfits. I’m so glad that as a Miss competitor all I had to worry about on arrival day was jeans and a shirt…it saved me tons of money in that department! That first year at Miss Texas Teen really shaped me for my upcoming Teen pageants.
Q. What were your best placements at Texas Teen USA? What awards did you win including the ones you received in preliminaries?
I only competed at Texas Teen twice before I aged out and both years I made the top 15…even with a $150 dress. The second year I stepped it up and paid $300 for my gown. I never won any preliminary awards as a teen. Again, I really didn’t know what I was doing, but believe me, I thought I did!
Q, What was your favorite year when competing at Teen, Did you make many friends? If so, who?
My favorite year was probably my final year at Texas Teen in 1999…Christy Cole won. It was the first year that I developed a bit of an ego and the first time that I really had confidence. I had always placed or made the first cut as a teen and it was the first year that I was excited to go out there and strut my stuff. I must say that as a Teen, if anyone remembers me, I didn’t make friends very easily. I believe I had an heir air of confidence that could have been mistaken for arrogance; however, I wanted to win and wasn’t there to make friends. It never surprised me that I didn’t win the congeniality award and I usually just kept to myself. I did however meet a few contestants that later would become great friends of mine.
Q. Before entering Miss Texas USA, you sat out a year to compete for Miss Petite Texas, am I right? Tell me more about how this pageant was conducted, Pros? Cons?
I did sit out of the USA system for a couple of years after I aged out of Teen. I was still eligible for the Miss Petite Teen division and just didn’t feel quite ready to move on to the Miss level. I have always had a very youthful look with being petite and all and it just seemed like the best alternative. For the most part it was conducted similarly to Texas Teen USA, however swimsuit was replaced with sportswear. The pro was that there were far less contestants! I had a much better shot at actually winning compared to what I had experienced as a Teen in the USA system, which was runner up after runner up after runner up. The cons were that it didn’t have as much recognition as Miss Texas Teen USA and there weren’t as many contestants. If you win you want to know you won competing against the best and with less contestants that just isn’t the case. And while all of the girls were so gorgeous there were only 15 to 20 of us.
Q. When you won Miss Petite Texas, tell me about the process of the girls who made it at the international level? What was it like to work with international pageant girls, and who did you feel was your biggest competition?
This was actually my least favorite pageant experience. The way that this pageant worked was anyone could go to the international level. Because it was such a small system you could “buy” your title. And while I had won mine and many of the other contestants had too, there were some there that maybe had ties to Spain or Oklahoma, but were from Texas and they would in essence be that title for that pageant. Some girls were from other countries and it was interesting to try and communicate with the girls from Brazil and the Dominican Republic…I basically didn’t. At the time of the competition I was 19 years old, working full time, in college, and living by myself in an apartment with bills to pay…I was at a totally different place in life than the other Teen contestants. I basically just hung out with Ashley Doughtie who had crowned me as Miss Petite Teen Texas and was the reigning Miss Petite Teen International. Even with a 4-5 year age difference, Ashley has such an infectious sense of humor and I loved being around her. All of this created a lot of tension between me and the other Teen contestants. They began saying I was anorexic, yaddy, yaddy, yada and this was the first time that my mom had a bad experience with other moms. My biggest competition was Miss Petite Teen Georgia. She was your typical Georgian with dimples, long blonde hair, and modeling that I had NEVER seen. Now that I know a little about the “kiddie” pageants, that was how she modeled. At the end, I pulled it out and was crowned Miss Petite Teen International…And no, I’m not nor have I ever been anorexic. If anyone knows me they know I love my fine cuisine!!
Q, How did it feel to win the International Petite title? And what do you have to say about women who feel they are too petite to compete at competitions like Miss USA?
I was so excited to win the title of Miss Petite Teen International, but not nearly as excited as I was when I won Miss Austin USA!!! I would love to be able to tell women that being petite doesn’t hinder you, but that would be a lie. On the flip side of that, we all have different issues that hinder us for whatever reason and it’s about putting the focus on other things that you have to offer. I couldn’t offer that tall model look regardless how high my heels were and while I am 5’4 and have seen many girls go on to do well, ie. Nicole O” Brian, Andria Mullins, Chelsea Cooley, Tara Connor, etc. etc., I knew that I still had to battle my tiny frame. Not only am I vertically challenged, but I’m just tiny all over. So instead I tried to have great style, I worked out very hard with personal trainers, met with an interview coach more times than I can count, and tried to be the best that I could be. You are only as small as you believe. On the outside I may look like a kitten, but on the inside I feel like a lion! And that’s what you have to believe to be successful in life not just pageants.
Q. Do you feel that you personally have been underscored as a result of being more petite than the glamazons who often win? What would you tell other petite women to help them feel more encouraged, and what do you think the organization needs to do in order to get more variety in their competitors?
I would like to hope that I haven’t been underscored because I am more petite, but I think naturally the eye is drawn to women that are tall such as Cassandra Meyer, Crystle Stewart, Lindsay Harvey, just to name a few. Not to discount their beauty, because I admire them all, but they have the tall thing going for them that I will never have. I can only hope that when judges were making their selections they were focused on someone who could go to Miss USA and kick some booty and I hope that they remembered that a great representative didn’t have to be 5’7 or plus. I have never looked at ANY winner and thought they didn’t deserve their win. It just wasn’t my night. I think I would tell petite women that old cliché of big things come in small packages. Again, the height thing just really doesn’t matter anymore. We should be looking for women that embody class, integrity, elegance, natural beauty (I’m over the whole caked on makeup thing with huge hair sprayed hair), poise, and the list goes on and on. And let’s face it…those qualities come in more than just tall individuals. To answer the last part of the question, I think we definitely have variety in our contestants. It’s just about getting out of the mindset that USA/The Donald are looking for model type girls. Who is to say I’m not a model type anyway…I mean I may be good for only print modeling, but STILL that’s modeling! And that goes not for just me, but any of the girls that might not be the tallest or the thinnest.
Q. After your stint as Miss Petite Teen International, I know you took time off before competing at Texas so that education was your priority. Tell me about what you studied in college and the entire college experience. What did you major in, and what were your best memories?
I took about another year off from competing after I gave up my title as Miss Petite Teen International and focused on school. When I first graduated high school I decided to start working full time and move out from my mom’s house and be what I thought was an adult. It wasn’t until I started to juggle school and work that I realized it was really really difficult. So I decided to move back home after a couple of years and focus on getting into the University of Texas. By the time I actually started at UT I was 21 years old. I got an apartment down by campus and downtown (6th street), which we all know is really exciting as a 21 year old and had a lot of fun going to school with 50,000 other college students. I met one of my closest friends who attends EVERY pageant and screams almost as loud as my biggest fan, my sister. I majored in English and minored in Government…I was basically ready to get out of school as quickly as possible. I was very behind everyone else due to the fact that I was working for two years out of high school and not accomplishing much school. I joke that I was on the 6 year plan, but hey at least I finished! It’s funny though…I couldn’t wait to get out, but now that I’m finished I can’t wait to go back for graduate school. My best memories of college were walking around campus and thinking of how historical everything was. Sure I had fun hanging out on the weekends and all of my classes were intellectually stimulating, but hearing the UT tower bells still makes me feel so proud to have been a part of something so much bigger than me. That is what I miss about college.
Q. Since you did graduate from college, what would you stress to other girls competing, and Donald Trump's decision to keep interview out of the one of the major categories at Miss USA? What kind of message do you think this sends to competitors and to women in general?
College is definitely not for everyone and it was absolutely not for me, but I’m the type of person that once I start something I will do everything to finish it. Being that my mom is a school teacher I value education very much and have found that I really respect those that have stuck it out, but I don’t think that having an education can make you a good interviewer. Education and all, interview has always been a struggle for me. I’ve always been fine one on one…it’s those darn on stage interviews that freak me out. I don’t know if it’s the microphone that startles me or the fact that hundreds of people are watching, but inevitably I usually screw up onstage interview. I could have strangled myself after Miss Austin USA interviews when I realized that I started out both the onstage interviews with, “Gosh.” But even with onstage interview being my least favorite stage of competition, I still feel strongly that it should remain. I think it sends the message to the contestants that we need a well rounded representative and encourages them to work on life long skills, not just skills that will help them win Miss whatever. Miss USA continues to have low ratings and I think the reason is that most women don’t want to watch girls in their early 20s who appear to have no substance prance around on a stage…and lets face it, most women dictate what’s being watched in households. Interview has always been mine and my mom’s favorite to watch. It may not be either of our favorites when it comes to me, but it’s the best part to watch. You can either think to yourself, “wow that was an incredible answer” or “oooh, she botched that one.” Your favorite usually changes after interview…and that’s real tv.
Q. Tell me more about your experiences at competing at Miss Texas USA, your accomplishments, the years you enjoyed the most, whether it was placement or the community created. How did you feel about your placements?
Ok…this is a long one! I competed four times at Miss Texas USA and every year was a great experience. My first year I was kind of on my high horse and basically just expected to make the top 20, because as I mentioned earlier I never didn’t make the first cut. Wow…Was I disappointed! My first year I didn’t make the semi finals and I couldn’t figure out why. I still don’t have the answer…I guess I felt like I shined more than I actually did…LOL! It did however teach me so much and clearly I had tons of fun that I came back for more torture with Kent Parham J My second year I prepared harder than ever and was ecstatic with my placement. I made the top 10 that year and both of my reactions were very genuine…I was shocked. My third year I worked just as hard if not harder than the previous year and made the top 15. Top 5 would have been nice…ok, real nice, but it didn’t happen and I thought the girls that made it over me were very deserving. My fourth year almost didn’t happen. I knew I was aging out and I just couldn’t decide if I really wanted to not win Miss Austin USA for a 4th time and then be told that I was too old not to try again. I had an internal battle and thought to myself that it would be much better to not win Miss Austin USA because of MY decision not 5 other people’s opinion of me. But then I came to my senses and realized that I definitely couldn’t win if I didn’t at least try. My final year competing for Miss Austin USA I really didn’t prepare too much. I tried working out all the time and it was just too difficult to work and then have it in me to go to the gym for an hour and a half. In terms of interview, I figured at 25 I either had it or I didn’t. And for my dress I was content wearing my dress from Miss Texas the year before. That was until I went to pick it up from my favorite boutique, St. Thomas from being steamed. I just don’t have it in me to wear the same thing twice…when it comes to pageants of course. I purchased my least expensive gown as a Miss the morning of preliminaries and luckily it needed only a hemming. I’ve never been as happy as I was the night I won Miss Austin USA with any placement. I wasn’t sure if it would be my night and when it came down to Lacie Weatherford and me I really didn’t know. I’ve become accustomed to hearing my name called out as a runner up so I was really prepared for that again, but it FINALLY happened and I won. My final year at Miss Texas USA was very different from the others. Like many contestants my mom purchased a little book for me called “The Secret.” I guess it really isn’t a secret though, because everyone had it with them in Laredo. I worked with Nicole O’Brian on something that everyone complained about and that was slowing down. I felt like I was in slow motion working with her, but I guess that’s what I needed. I envisioned…I believed I was already Miss Texas USA…I could feel it…I could see it. I did all the things right and I am so happy with how I did. Sure I was disappointed because when you believe you are already Miss Texas USA and then you see someone else actually achieving it, it kind of stinks. BUT, I love Crystle to death and couldn’t be happier for her. I know I did my very best and that is enough for me. Do I feel like I deserved a higher placement? Yes! It happens and then you move forward. I’m only 26 and I have so much more of a life to live…pageants were just the beginning. This was by far my favorite year…I was excited to see what laid ahead of me outside of what I call “pageant land.”
Q. What is it like for you as a competitor competing with various different women? Did you make many close friends? Were there some girls who were almost too competitive? Were their girls who were too intense and unfriendly? And what about the girls who would give you the earrings off their lobes?
It wasn’t until I was older that I really started to develop friendships with my fellow competitors. I can’t begin to tell you how high of a percentage my friends are on Myspace that are pageant girls. Most I know and some I don’t, but there are a lot on there! My closest relationship that I developed from pageants has been with someone that I actually competed with as a Teen, Julia Salmon. Such a class act! There was nothing more joyous than standing on stage with her the night of Miss Texas USA and walking off the stage together after the top 5 was called…we just put our arms around each other, and walked side by side with our heads together…I know I had tears…she’s a little stronger than me or at least she hid them well. I have developed many additional close friends from competing as well…my phone book consists of many fierce competitors. I really haven’t come across many girls that I didn’t genuinely want to be around…I joke that I wish I could come back to Miss Texas USA next year just to hang out with everyone. It’s kind of like camp…and I will really miss everyone. I would say that most of the people I hung out with during the week at Miss Texas USA would let me borrow just about anything that was within reason and help me out with a zipper, makeup, and such. I had to borrow a curling iron on finals this year and I asked just about everyone. Either the barrel was too small or too big, but Blaire’s (Miss Lake Whitney’s) was perfect! I’ve been lucky to meet such amazing women.
Q. How do you prepare for each stage of competition? Are you rigid in your nutrition and workouts?
I have always been very rigid with what I eat and how hard I work out. I’ve been fortunate to always have a personal trainer and I guess I’ve been genetically fortunate as well. While I try to eat right ALL the time, I’m able to sneak some carbs and chocolate in there as well. I definitely believe in trainers for every category. Sometimes it truly helps you out and sometimes it’s just mental. As my mom always told me, your mental state of mind is sometimes more important than your physical state.
Q. Do you think pageants portray negative stereotypes on beautiful girls?
No, not at all. If anything, I think the media has created negative stereotypes on beautiful girls. Magazine and television advertisements have created such an unrealistic image of what women think they are supposed to look like, dress, and how they should even act. Pageants have their stereotypes as well, but every person that I have ever met usually tells me after meeting me that they have a different perception of pageants after talking with me. I think that pageant girls are able to shed a different light on what we are all about and what we do versus watching the show on tv. I wish that more people could see what the organization is supposed to be all about instead of what has been transpiring lately.
Q. One thing I have always appreciated is your sense of style. How do you go about picking a gown from color to fit?
First and foremost, THANK YOU!!!! We all know how expensive the gowns can be so I appreciate your positive words…my mom does too J Most people that know me well know that I have a ton of gowns…a new one every year and even though I always tell my mom that the one we buy for Austin I will wear to Texas, it just never works out that way. I’ve always really liked lighter colors such as white, silver, gold, etc. and in terms of fit it’s always been necessary to find something that elongates me. This year we tried to step out of the box and do something different. My mom and my director, Betty has always seen me in red. And for me I wanted something that I could envision on the Miss USA stage. The owner of St. Thomas had shown me the dress before Miss Austin USA to wear then, but turns out Miss Louisiana USA was planning on wearing it to Miss USA so we had to hold off. I loved my dress so much and still feel like it was the perfect choice for me. I wouldn’t have changed anything about it.
Q. Do you think that white gowns are on the way out? What inspires you to choose certain colors?
YES!!!!!!!! We’ve already seen so much color lately that I think it proves girls are realizing they don’t have to be in white to win. I still love white though…it makes me look tanner. Nothing has ever really inspired me when picking out a color. If it looks good and I feel good, then it’s the one.
Q. Are you going to continue to work in the pageant industry on any level, whether it be about judging or sharing your knowledge?
I’d love to! I know Betty Warner and I will always be close and as long as there is still a pageant I know I will be a part of it…I’m addicted to that woman! I love judging pageants because I know what the girls are going through. I may appear a little tough during interview, but really I’m a total softy.
Q. Who was your mentor when you started competing, and who besides those who prepare you for pageants do you admire the most?
I would always talk to Brandy Nace about competing, but I really just looked up to the girls that were competing. There was no one specific person. I loved watching Holly Mills, Heather Ogilvie, and Kandace Krueger just to name a few and I admire anyone who comes back year after year after year.
Q. What do you think about raising the age of eligibility for competing?
I think it would be great…I still can’t believe at the ripe age of 26 I’m finished. I think that other women besides me have even more to offer after the age of 26. Maybe nothing crazy…29? On the other hand though, I wouldn’t compete again if it were raised. Mentally the chapter has been closed and I’m just happy to be Miss Austin USA for the rest of 2007.
Q. Off subject, tell me about your pooch. So adorable!
Ha ha ha!! I actually have two pooches…Chanel, my teacup Chihuahua and Rigby who is an American Bulldog. Chanel is 3 ½ years old weighing 3-4 lbs and Rigby will be a year in November weighing 85 lbs now and will probably put on at least another 15. I think they are precious, but it’s nice to know someone else thinks so too.
Q. Who did you bond with most while competing, and do you think these are friendships that will last?
Again, that award goes to Julia Salmon. I know it will last…we try to have dinner at least once a month and she’s someone that when the time comes, I will ask to be in my wedding…I just adore her!
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope in 5 years I’m at least on my way to completing my Masters…and I really would like to be married. I hate to put a time frame and age on marriage, but I really do! No kids though! Not 5 years from now at least. I hate to say what I hope I’m doing career wise, because I’ve learned that even when you are doing exactly what you think you want, there is still something you dislike about it. I’ve always had my eyes set on public relations so maybe something in that arena.
Q. What do you value in general in life, besides your work or accomplishments? What are your true passions?
I value the people that are in my life. Take away my house, take away my car, clothes, gobs and gobs of shoes, take away all those miniscule things and all you have is the people that you love and the people that love you…that’s what I value most in life. I am truly passionate about making people smile and living a righteous life. And I’m passionate about teaching my children all the wonderful things that my great mom taught me. I guess I really just look forward to being a mom….far far from today though!!!
Q. Do you think that pageants will ultimately lose their relevance? How can we keep this from happening?
I hope not…I tell people all the time that I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not had the pageant experience. Sometimes that’s bad, but for the most part it’s good. I think they could lose their relevance if things continue how they are. I’m not sure what the status is, but there’s talk of eliminating Teen all together and eliminating prelims...such a poor choice. Pageants prepare young women for the curve balls that life will throw them. Pageants teach you anything from public speaking to how to walk in heels to how to be organized. There’s so much that goes into competing that some people don’t even realize. We aren’t just pageant girls we are determined, fierce, driven, and won’t take no for an answer type of women. Hence the reason almost all of us continue to come back for more. There’s something to be learned from every single experience. We can continue to keep pageants relative by continuing to prove people wrong about what society says about us. Sometimes there’s a bad apple, but for every bad apple there are thousands of diamonds in the rough.
Q. Finally, tell us all more about yourself, your loves, interests, philosophies.
I love going out to eat, movies, playing in the rain, wearing my hair in a ponytail, my flip flops, sushi, Chanel and Rigby, Parker and Saylor (nephew and niece), running yellow lights, driving with the top down, Elvis Presley, singing in the shower, parmesan cheese, baths, a glass of wine after work…maybe two, Hamburger Helper, The movie The Graduate, sleeping in, vacuuming, getting my hair cut, Sunday brunch, big jewelry, sun dresses, Mexican food, expensive shoes, vintage anything, Ebay, anything having to do with Mark Wahlberg, horses, charging on my credit cards, Coldplay, vacationing, mascara, short nails, and sitting by myself from time to time. My philosophy is that when life gives you lemons you should make lemonade. I always see the glass overflowing with water and try to let things roll off me. It’s hard to anger me and easy to make amends. I’m way too forgiving and will be your best friend as long as you can stand to listen to me whine on occasion.
Finally, this survey has been used on "Inside the Actor's Studio," and I think they are interesting questions:
1. What is your favorite sound?
The fan on full speed…rain, snow, or shine it has to be on.
2. What sound do you like the least?
The sound my dog makes right before she is about to throw up…gross, I know.
3. What word do you love?
Kumquat…it’s a fruit.
4. What word do you dislike?
I hate the word burp…it just sounds so gross even without the disgusting connotation.
5. What career other than your own would you like to attempt?
6. What job would you hate?
Construction worker or garbage woman…it’s a toss up.
7. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear when you enter the pearly gates?
I’d like to hear all of my friends and family that have beaten me there welcoming me.
Thanks Allison. I appreciate your friendship mostly because I know the person you are -- compassionate, caring, ambitious, humorous and smart. It is truly a pleasure being your friend!