Welcome to Former Feature Friday! I am over-the-moon excited to bring you insights, words of wisdom, and thoughts from former contestants and titleholders! No one knows the job better than those who have walked the walk and talked the talk – I hope you enjoy it, are inspired by them, and learn as much as I have!
Jessica (Colwell) Pohn and I competed together in the Miss Iowa 2006 pageant season, and she went on to become first-runner-up to Miss Iowa 2007 Diana Reed. Although we hadn’t kept in touch much the last decade, we’ve recently reconnected in a BIG way 😉 Jessica is a driven, ambitious, and spunky former, and I know you’ll love hearing from another contestant who left her mark on that Miss Iowa stage!
I always like to ask contestants how they got started in pageants; everyone’s story and journey is different, so we want to start with yours.
I did my first pageant when I was a freshman in high school, Teen Miss Iowa Scholarship and Recognition. It was a disaster! Haha! I filled out all my paperwork by hand, and I didn’t prepare anything at all.
I was the SAME – totally unprepared! I think it takes that initial effort to really catch the “bug” and decide pageants are something you want to do.
As for Miss America, I had taken singing lessons from age 13, and when I went to college my vocal teacher suggested I give MAO a try. The local titles I held were Miss Cedar Valley 2005 and Miss Jordan Creek 2006.
So let’s talk about your transition from year one to year two, because it was a big one. After dipping your toe in year one, how did you prepare for Miss Iowa 2007 differently?
I made sure every area of competition was the best I had to offer. I practiced interview questions and answers in the car while driving to appearances and at mock interviews; walked across campus with flashcards that had questions; studied my paperwork and made sure it didn’t have any errors; created appearances all over the state of Iowa speaking at Toastmasters, Rotary, Girls Clubs; and more.
You kept really busy and, I think, you understood that platform, interview, and speaking skills are a year-round endeavor.
For swimsuit, I joined a body pump class to tone up my body and learn how to eat healthy. Talent: I practiced singing daily, chose a challenging piece, took private lessons, and performed anywhere I could. For gown, when I tried on my dress I remember thinking, this is the dress I would wear if I was Miss America. I chose something that fit my personality and made me feel beautiful.
Those are great, sustainable methods to prepare for a state-level pageant! What was your favorite area of competition?
Interview, because that’s really what the job is all about. Who this girl authentically is and what she’s going to do with her year. Platform was also one of my favorite things about the pageant, although it wasn’t a specific area of competition. Girls On The Run is a program that helps young girls learn life lessons while training for a 5K. I just thought it was so awesome that we had the opportunity to promote something we were passionate about and make an impact in other people’s lives with it.
And that organization has expanded TREMENDOUSLY since its inception, of which you should be very proud! You were obviously very well prepared, but how did you guard against the mentally-draining and stressful aspects of competition?
Lots and lots of prayer and growth in my spiritual life. I read books and listened to CDs (haha!) about positive thinking. I carried an iPod with me that had an audiobook about living your best life, being positive, giving glory to God, etc. I also had a bag of cards, notes, well-wishes. When we had any down time I went straight to those instead of sitting around with the other girls. I made some really sweet friends through Miss Iowa and engaged with the girls during other events, but when it came to the competition, I viewed it as that and knew I had to stay focused.
I knew my mindset was one of the only things under my control, and I couldn’t let myself fall into comparison or watching what other people were doing.
SO SO SO RIGHT! Surrounding yourself with loving notes and positive thoughts is such a great way to combat those nerves and doubts. What is your biggest accomplishment in pageants and how did you deal with coming so close to winning and walking away?
My biggest accomplishment was being a double preliminary winner and first-runner-up to Miss Iowa 2007. It was exciting to see how much I had accomplished in that year and it was heartbreaking. I couldn’t understand for a long time why someone else got to walk away with my dream. I did everything in my power to be the best I could in every area of competition.
I didn’t want to not be chosen because of something I could have or should have prepared better.
So I really came to a crossroads. I either had to give everything I had and try one more time or be at peace with what I had accomplished and walk away with grace. I chose to walk away because I felt like I had learned all I was going to with that life experience and wanted to put my time and energy into other parts of my life.
Ok, the million dollar question: do you agree with SS being eliminated from Miss America?
I like the idea that they are trying to focus more on who Miss America is as a person – I think it’s a better fit for their brand not to have it. However, I gained a lot of confidence in myself when I prepared for swimsuit. I learned how to eat healthy and tone my body, not just be skinny. I might not have done that if I didn’t have a swimsuit competition to prepare for. Feeling confident in how you look helps you to then be more confident in who you are.
Even though that part is gone, I would still encourage young women to learn the basics of exercise and healthy eating so they can be their most confident in competition.
So let’s talk post-pageant life really quick. How have pageants helped you in the “real world?”
They helped me learn that so much of life is out of our control. Your prepare yourself the best you can with the skills you have and let the rest fall into place. If it’s not what you wanted, don’t dwell on it, take the lessons you learned, and either try again or move on. I certainly didn’t come to that conclusion at 21 years old either! it took a lot of living life, making mistakes, learning lessons, and growing in my faith to get there.
Is there a particular life skill you gained from pageants?
I learned how to set a huge (almost impossible) goal, break it down, and put everything I had into achieving it. I did that when I applied for graduate schools and do this now in the business I run from my home.
Did pageantry play a role in you pursuing your purpose in life?
I’ve always felt called to encourage women to live their best life. Pageants taught me how to create the best version of myself and teach other women how to do that too. I currently live in the Dallas, Texas area with my husband and two children, ages 4 and 2. Two years ago, I started a skincare business with Rodan + Fields while staying at home with my kids. I love that I can apply many of the things that I learned from pageants to my business and even as a parent! Goal setting was a big thing I learned to do in pageants, and it’s something I teach both my children and my business partners as an important tool for success. I get to use the speaking skills I gained from appearances to encourage other women to be successful in their skincare businesses.
Which brings me to the reason we reconnected in the first place….Rodan + Fields! Jessica reached out to me at the beginning of the year, and being a YES person, I agreed to a FB event since I was interested in learning more about the products.
And here’s what happened:
- I’m mid-thirties and knew I needed to start taking care of my skin that was showing signs of aging.
- I knew R+F works from people I actually know and see. I don’t like messing around, and I don’t like wasting time/money.
- I didn’t like the prices. Mama don’t spend money like that.
- But still…these wrinkles aren’t going to undo themselves. And I did want to try a few products. But didn’t make sense for me to spend the same amount on a handful of items if I could just join as a consultant and get a TON more products for that price. Hmmm….the conundrum.
- I literally asked Jessica, “Why would anyone NOT be a consultant if they want to use several products?” She said she has no idea. I feel like a genius and do the thing.
- I tell Jessica I have zero intention of selling: just gimme my sale and I’ll be on my way.
- I made some sales.
- I gained a consultant under me.
- I made some of the money back that I spent.
- I’m doing a launch.
- I did all the things totally backward and unconventionally, but that’s just me, right?!
So now, I am finally ready to announce that I have joined Jessica with Rodan + Fields!
Even though I’ve technically been part of the team for three-ish months, the timing wasn’t great for a launch, so I’m happy to invite you all to my R+F Launch event on Facebook. If you want to join me as I flounder my way through learning all the R+F lingo and learn more about the #1 selling skincare brand in the U.S., you’ll want to jump over there this Sunday for the event at 8:30pm Central Time.
**** End shameless plug, and another awesome FFF ****