This is a typical day in the life of a Missouri beauty queen hopeful:
9 a.m. to noon -- Rehearsal. Learn walking patterns for evening gown and swimsuit competition, practice opening and closing musical numbers.
Noon -- Lunch.
1 p.m. -- Interviews. First with hometown newspaper, then the big 12-minute private interview standing before five judges and worth 40 percent of total score; it can be the difference between winning a free semester of college or grad school plus a trip to Atlantic City or settling for a one-week summer vacation at the Missouri Military Academy.
2 p.m. to 10 p.m. -- Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. Try to fit in time to eat dinner.
10 p.m. until midnight or so -- Practice singing for talent competition. Run through sample questions for on-stage interview. Try to get some rest for tomorrow.
The 38 young Missouri women -- including two from Southeast Missouri -- competing in the Miss Missouri Scholarship Pageant in Mexico, Mo., this weekend have been filling out their itineraries in much the same fashion every day since Saturday, when they arrived at their dorm at the military academy.
When the pageant kicks off at 8 tonight, all their efforts will be condensed into four evenings, during which time they will model evening gowns, swimsuits and casual clothes, perform their talents and undergo on-stage interviews. And all while wearing their brightest smiles.
The finals are Saturday night, after which only one will move on to represent the state in the Miss America Pageant in September.
For the two local contestants, the chance to compete is more than worth the sacrifice.
"Beauty pageants paid for my entire college tuition," said Miss Sikeston, Christina Icaza of Jackson. The 23-year-old former Miss Missouri Teen America and 2002 Miss Missouri second runner-up has been competing in pageants for more than 10 years.
To her, the pageant is about more than just sashes and tiaras, and even more than scholarship money. It's been a chance to build her self-confidence, improve her public speaking and raise awareness about the American Red Cross.
"The pageant gives you a microphone," said Icaza, a member of the Southeast Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross board of directors.
Miss Bootheel, Holly Bauer of Cape Girardeau, is competing in her first Miss Missouri Pageant. The 19-year old former Junior Miss Missouri said she intends to take advantage of her time on stage to promote Center Stage, which exposes underprivileged children to art through free dance lessons.
"It's more than getting a crown," Bauer said. "These are all bright women that have a message."
Both Icaza and Bauer said the camaraderie with their fellow contestants -- like Miss Jackson, Whitney Weeks of Chesterfield, Mo. -- helps them pull through the stressful contests. Migraine headaches have kept Bauer from some rehearsals over the past week, but her cohorts have all helped her catch up on her dance steps and supported her through her ailment.
"These other girls are going through the same thing you are," Icaza said. "That's what keeps you sane in this unreal world."
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