Besides the opportunity for scholarships, two sisters say they learned a lot, including valuable interview skills, from participating in beauty pageants.
While the Miss America program may have begun as a beauty contest offering cash, furs and movie contracts to winners, top prizes in what has long been billed as scholarship pageant have indeed been college scholarships for the past 70 years.
Helping to pay for their education was what prompted twin sisters Lauren Allen Bates, ’07, and Lisa Allen Sauter, ’06, to begin entering such competitions as soon as they decided to attend Indiana State University.
The twins’ parents Terry Allen, ’78, and Julee Allen both attended Indiana State. Their grandmother, Wandell Gabey, a retired university staff member and former travel companion for Miss Indiana, was familiar with the perks and convinced her granddaughters to enter.
“She got an up-close-and-personal view of what happens behind the scenes and how the girls can pay for their entire education by being involved in the program,” Bates said of her grandmother.
While the sisters may have been skeptical at first, they quickly embraced the idea, Sauter said.
“This is not something we would normally do,” she recalled her thinking at the time. “We’re athletes, we’re gymnasts, we’re cheerleaders, but we went along with it. Besides the opportunity for scholarships, we made a lot of very good friends. It taught us a lot of different life skills, including valuable interview skills.”
Bates won the Miss Crossroads to America title in 2004, earning the right to compete for Miss Indiana, while Sauter was named Miss Indiana State University in 2005, advancing to Miss Indiana where she finished among the top 10 contestants. Also in 2005, Bates competed in her home state and won the Miss Illinois title and the right to compete for Miss America.
As a result of her success, Bates used her $15,000 in scholarship earnings to finance her senior year at Indiana State, which was delayed by one year due to her Miss Illinois duties. She received additional scholarships as a result of being named runner-up in other pageants.
While Sauter did not win a state title, she earned enough from Miss ISU and other pageants to also make her education more affordable.
“You can pay your entire college tuition by never winning a pageant. That didn’t happen for me, but I did earn quite a bit to put toward my tuition,” she said.
“This was a great way to be able to help contribute and help pay back our parents, who were also saving for our education,” added Bates.
The twins are now enjoying successful careers thanks to their Indiana State degrees. Bates, who completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Indiana State and a master’s degree at IUPUI, is a pediatric nurse practitioner at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. Sauter, who earned a marketing degree from the Scott College of Business, is a medical sales representative in Dallas.
They encourage other young women to consider the opportunities presented by Miss America and its many preliminary competitions.
“You’ll never know where opportunities will present themselves that could help benefit you down the road,” Bates said.