Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Trip to Dothan, Alabama

When I first began pageants about a year and a half ago, I was deluged with a laundry list of things to obtain, practice, and do. Walking, interviewing, headshots, wardrobe, shoes, jewelry, paperwork, hair, makeup; it all seemed very daunting. My mom and I started looking up local photographers and set up a photo shoot. A short while later, a friend started telling me about a photographer named Clay Spann and how she was dying to take a trip down to Alabama to get her pictures taken by him. Then, she explained that his business partner, Joey, owned a pageant boutique which outfitted girls with the most fabulous winning pageant wardrobes, and was also located in Alabama. I think my first response was something along the lines of “ALABAMA?! Did you forget we live all the way up in Maryland?”

As she laughed at my astonishment, she typed into her web browser www.clayspann.com and www.thecompetitiveimage.com. On Clay’s website, she opened a gallery full of headshots that he had taken. As she scrolled down the page slowly, showing me each picture, I realized that they all had something in common: they were all absolutely stunning. Now, when I say “stunning”, I don’t mean plain old nicely made up and put together looking, and I don’t mean “stunning compared to how she usually looks”; each face was perfectly made up so that the women looked naturally flawless. Each was dressed to complement her skin tone, shape, and hair, and each outfit was perfectly accessorized. I realized that what each of the pictures had in common was the fact that they looked like a picture in a magazine.

I knew that a trip to Alabama had just made its way onto my laundry list. My mother, however, did not quite agree. She told me that we could find photographers and dress shops in Maryland and DC and that a trip to Alabama was expensive and unnecessary. For the next year, we tried photographer after photographer all over the DC metro area and were never happy with the product of the photo shoots. Finally, in April 2010, we planned a trip to Dothan, Alabama!

From the moment I walked into The Competitive Image, I was given the full royal treatment. Hair, makeup, and styling were all done for me and the shoot was fun and upbeat. By the time I left that evening, I had a cd of proof pictures in-hand. When my mom and I arrived home we eagerly loaded the cd into the computer and began to look through all of the proofs. Now, I’ll admit that I am by no means photogenic. Candid photos of me generally turn out alright but put me in a photo shoot and you’re left with a search for a useable picture. However, when I looked at the pictures that Clay had taken, I almost began to cry, I was finally photogenic!

My parents both decided that the trip to Alabama had been well worth it. I felt more confident competing at nationals knowing that my pictures really allowed me to put my best foot forward and make a great first impression.

Last Wednesday through Friday I was honored and overjoyed to be a part of the 2010 International queens’ photo shoots with Clay! Returning for a second shoot with him, I felt comfortable and in my element. I put all of my effort into just having fun with the shoot and was amazed by the results. Looking at the proofs was like looking at high fashion ads in a magazine- I am so excited to see the finished products on www.missteeninternational.us , the Miss Teen International Pageant program book next July, my autograph cards, and various other media throughout the year!

While it is true that pictures and wardrobe do not win a pageant, they represent you. Having pictures and a wardrobe that you are proud of allows you to open up and let your true confidence, personality, and inner beauty shine through.

If I could go back to March 2009, when I was preparing for my first pageant, I would take that trip to Alabama in a heartbeat! And to those of you who have been contemplating your own trip to The Competitive Image, or one of their trunk shows scheduled across the country throughout this year, I encourage you to schedule that trip as soon as you can! A trip to The Competitive Image is truly an investment in your future as a contestant, and otherwise.

Juliana McKee

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