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Kira Kazantsev, Miss America 2015, react to her character portrait on the wall of The Palm restaurant at the Quarter, Tropicana in Atlantic City, NJ. Saturday, Sept, 5, 2015.

Miss America contestants, and pageant competitors in general, are often seen as epitomes of grace, beauty and intelligence.

They can be bused between several states, doing media appearances, greeting fans and promoting charitable messages without smudging their mascara or wrinkling a dress. And they can do it in heels.

But what about the rest of us schlubs?

Never fear: Just because this year’s 52 Miss America competitors will be put on a pedestal — or at least the Boardwalk Hall stage in Atlantic City this week — doesn’t mean that their experience is completely foreign. There’s plenty that a lay person can learn from the contestants.

We asked some Miss America aficionados, who believe the contestants are great role models, how we can all be more like Miss America, even without the tiara, butt glue and stage time.

How to dress

It might not be practical to tote around a personal shopper or tailor with you every time you go to the mall, but there’s still a way to look as put together as a Miss America contestant.

Find clothes that fit properly. And no, that doesn’t mean just hanging off or clinging to your body in any old, unflattering way. Well-suited clothes should be comfortable — they shouldn’t have to be adjusted, tugged or pulled back into place every few minutes — and should instill a positive self-image.

“You should be able to look in the mirror and ask: ‘Does this fit me? Does it flatter me? Do I feel confident in it?’” Saltalamacchio said, emphasizing that clothes don’t have to be skin-tight to be sexy.

Appropriately fitting clothes also shouldn’t break the bank, Lakey said. Just be patient to make sure you find the proper fit for the proper price.

It’s not just with women. Saltalamacchio says men can use that same advice. One article of clothing in particular is a lazy man’s way of dressing: Cargo shorts.

“They don’t do anything for anybody,” he said, citing a story on Buzzfeed.com titled, “Dear Men, Please Stop Wearing Cargo Shorts.” So guys, Saltalamacchio wants you to change up your short game.

In any case, while you may not have a personal shopper with you, Saltalamacchio says that when you shop you should bring someone you trust and who will give you an honest opinion in the dressing room.

How to appear confident

Speaking of feeling confident in your clothes, a Miss America contestant might seem almost laughably self-assured.

But that may not necessarily be the reality.

“I would say 95 percent of the contestants struggle in that area,” Saltalamacchio said. ““I think that’s the best quality (the Miss America Organization) has, helping with self-confidence.”

To Lakey, participating in pageants and similar competitions gives people that what-doesn’t-kill-you-makes-you-stronger perspective.

Some contestants might be terrified of strutting down a runway in a bikini — who wouldn’t? — or convincing seven strangers (see judges) that you’re the best. Dive in, Lakey recommends, and learn from it.

“Pageants have a way of making you face your fears head on, and then instead of being afraid, you begin to evaluate what you could’ve done differently or better,” she said.

How to interview

Play into the self-confidence aspect.

“Girls who will tell you they couldn’t have put a sentence out in front of a group of people can now engage a crowd of 1,000,” Saltalamacchio said.

But getting up in front of a crowd and spouting off words is only part of the equation.

Interviewing is one of the most important parts of the Miss America Competition. There are face-to-face interviews with judges and on-stage questions during the preliminary competition nights and an on-stage interview in the final competition.

Being confident in an interview comes from having conviction in whatever you’re telling the judges, that is, having conviction in your own beliefs.

“Be open and honest, you’re going to have to perpetuate what you say for all that year long,” Saltalamacchio said.

Also, don’t go in with canned answers. Do research on who you’re speaking to and what they’re about, whether it’s a potential new boss or a gymnasium full of schoolchildren. Lakey said that helps with Miss America contestants because many of them speak on a specific topic, typically their socially conscious platform. They had to do their research, too.

“In all cases, you need to tailor your message to your specific audience, or you’re going to have a tough time succeeding,” Lakey said.

Health and wellness

Don’t believe that Miss America contestant don’t have their junk food-bingeing days, just like the rest of us.

Although pageant contestants tout their intensive workout schedules and watch their diets, Saltalamacchio said contestants and the rest of us shouldn’t be discouraged from eating what we want. Just do it in moderation.

“One contestant I’m working with” (whom he wouldn’t name) “comes from a state known for a sweet treat, and she told me, ‘It’s part of my culture, but I know how to use it in moderation,’” he said. “I’m not the kind of coach who will say, ‘You have to lose 17.3 pounds.’”

Lakey says contestants find the most success by avoiding crash diets and making overall healthy choices.

“Most women who compete in pageants say that once they started eating right and committed to a fitness routine, it was one of the best things they ever did for themselves — not just for a pageant,” she said.

But, again, it all comes down to self-confidence.

“Just make sure that when you look in the mirror, you like what you see,” Saltalamacchio said.

Contact: 609-272-7256

STracey@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPress_Tracey

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