“You should switch up your gown.”
“I think you just look too young, you need to amp up your sex appeal.”
“Maybe try a new hairstyle.”
These are all things I heard from people who tried to explain to me why I didn't win a crown and what I could do to win it the next time.
When I competed at Miss California USA in 2019, I had spent over a year preparing and getting myself ready for the competition. I placed second runner-up out of over 70 contestants!
Second runner-up should have felt like an accomplishment. But it didn’t. My overall performance was 1000x better than any previous pageant performance I had ever given.
I just couldn't understand why my personal best wasn't enough.
About 10 months later, I competed for Miss Hawaii USA. Spoiler alert, I won!
When I won Miss Hawaii USA, I wore the same gown, the same hairstyle, and rocked the same on-stage walk. Yet there was a night and day difference in how I shined on that stage.
My mindset was my number one priority going into Miss Hawaii USA and the number one reason I walked away with the crown.
So let's talk about the three mindset hacks I used to go from top three to pageant Queen.
MINDSET HACK #1 - Adopt a growth mindset
A growth mindset means you believe you have the unlimited potential and ability to grow and better yourself.
I had previously believed that my performance at Miss California USA was my absolute personal best. And it was. At the time. But a growth mindset means there is always room for improvement.
Once I decided that my potential was limitless - that I could continue to grow and reach new heights - there was no stopping me from achieving my dream of competing at Miss USA.
I used my new mindset to improve all aspects of myself:
I previously had been such an anxious person that I would often make myself sick to my stomach simply because I was stressed, nervous, and anxious about a situation. I accepted this as normal.
But since I was now operating under the belief that anything was possible, I knew I could take my stress management beyond the acceptance of an undesirable character trait. Instead, I grew into someone who incorporated daily habits that reduced the potential for stress to arise at all.
I know, I’m basically a superhero, right?!
I always thought of myself as a confident person, but I also would subconsciously try to be what I thought others wanted / expected of me.
Instead, I grew into someone who was confident enough to not be concerned with what others wanted or expected. My own self- approval was all that mattered.
We all, at some point, feel the pressure or desire to be perfect. Especially in pageantry and especially on social media!
Now, I embrace my flaws, quirks, and mistakes. They’re part of who I am and when I share them with the world it makes me more relatable and allows everyone around me to put their guard down too.
MINDSET HACK #2 - Redefine what it means to “win"
Most people would define winning a pageant as winning the crown. But there are a TON of other things you can win when you compete.
And no, I’m not talking about specialty awards or optional competitions.
You must - absolutely MUST choose at least one thing for yourself that you can win that is completely within your control.
The crown is not within your control. You can do everything right. You can have the most expensive gown and give the most educated answer and still not walk away as the titleholder.
But you can set your own tangible goals and use the pageant to help you achieve them.
My goal for Miss Hawaii USA was to be calm. Calm on-stage, calm backstage and most importantly calm during my interview.
Interview had always been my most challenging area of competition. To me, being calm during those five minutes meant I trusted myself enough to relax and be free.
After my interview for Miss Hawaii USA, I felt incredible! I had accomplished exactly what I wanted. The hardest part was over!
MINDSET HACK #3 - Eliminate the competition
If you currently think of the other contestants as your “competition,” you are only distracting yourself.
The real competition is you!
You are what you should be competing against. Competing to be better than you were yesterday. Competing to give a more powerful performance than you gave a year ago.
“The Queen who knows herself the best is the one who takes the crown.”
Stop looking at what the other girls are doing on Social Media. Forget about what they’ll be wearing at orientation. Start thinking about who you need to become in order to be ready to represent the system you’re competing in.
When I competed at Miss California USA, I gave everything I had. But the truth is, I wasn’t ready.
I wasn’t ready to fully be myself on that stage.
I wasn’t ready to stop comparing myself to other girls.
I wasn’t ready to represent something bigger than myself.
How did I become ready?
I let go of the idea that I needed to be better than the girl next to me. Instead, I became better than who I used to be.
Your mindset is you.
You are your mindset.
These three mindset hacks changed my performance and ultimately changed my life. They are the reason I became Hawaii’s first African-American Miss Hawaii USA and the reason I placed in the Top 10 at Miss USA.
Your performance is what they’ll see.
Your mindset is what they’ll feel.
Is your mindset ready for a crown?
If not, don't worry, I got you! Let's chat and figure out how to get your mindset on track.
Hey, I'm Samantha Neyland
I'm a Mindset & Performance Coach, Keynote Speaker, Community Leader, Actress and Model.
In 2020 I was crowned Miss Hawaii USA 2020! I went on to place in the Top 10 at Miss USA.
Now, I am dedicated to helping young women in pageantry become Queen's before they ever hit the stage.