Jul 30, 2014

Pageant Director Finds Joy in Mentoring

Dacula resident Cynthia Montgomery is the head of the Miss Memorial Day pageant.

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This week's Dacula friend and neighbor is pageant director Cynthia Montgomery. Cynthia discusses her job and life in Dacula in her own words:

How did you get started as a pageant director?: It began when a neighbor asked me to enter my daughters in the Dacula High School’s PTA Beauty Pageant. The girls were 3 and 4 years old. I told her no. My husband was in the FFA in high school and showed hogs at the fair. I knew he would not go for "showing" our daughters. The neighbor explained it was Dacula's only fund raiser and they needed contestants. Finally, I said yes with much hesitation. I put them in, they lost, and cried all the way home commenting on how the judges did look at how they walked,(which was with their head down looking for the X’s). Yet, the funny thing was between their tears they wanted to do another pageant the next day! If we were going to do pageants,  we were going to do our very best.

I began to learn about wardrobe, hair styles, modeling and most of all their being able to connect with the judges.  Their next pageant they won!  They continue to place or win for the next 15 years with titles including;  eight Miss Dacula titles, Miss Mill Creek 2005, Miss Teen Georgia 2006 (United States), third at the Miss Teen United States and then third runner up in the Miss Georgia USA pageant system along with many local pageant systems. Pageants became a bonding activity for us.  

Along the way,  mothers of their friends asked me to coach their daughters and do their hair and makeup.  A professional pageant coach, Danita Florance, gave me my first judging job because she knew I knew what the judges were looking for in a winning contestant. I have been judging for about 15 years. Once my daughters graduated high school, I worked with the Dacula Memorial Day Parade Director in his effort to make the Memorial Day Parade more about honoring the Veterans instead of a parade with beauty queens promoting themselves. Our goal was to reduce the number of beauty pageant cars and queens by designing a pageant that  any girl could enter no matter which school she attended and the Miss Memorial Day Organization was born.

Our pageant goals are to involve young women in their communities in areas of military support, government, politics, and patriotic events.  We are now in our seventh year. We have given thousands in scholarship funds to our winners. We have held debates, registered voters, worked with Adopt a Platoon, Friends of the Mansion, Toys for Tots, and the Atlanta VA Hospital.

I continue to judge, coach and direct pageants including the Miss Memorial Day Pageant held each April. We are proud to offer a college or pageant scholarship to our Miss Memorial Day queen.    

What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? I enjoy many parts of pageantry; the encouraging and mentoring of young women to become their best, getting to be involved in the little ones again since my daughters are now grown and also providing a patriotic family events that encourage families to talk about what it means to be a good citizen. 

Our pageant's entry form is designed to open the conservation between parents and contestants about their government leaders and the history of our country.  I have been fortunate to work with many young women as they prepare for a pageant. I begin with one question to each of my girls, who are you?  This one question begins a girl on her journey of self discovery. If a girl does not know who she is, how is she going to communicate to a panel of judges why they should choose her?  

I am always humbled when a past mentoring client comes back years later, and tells me it was that one question that was a turning point in their life. So many young girls today do not know who they are.  Without that defined purpose and path to follow, too many young woman fall into dangerous activities as they are looking for themselves with drinking, drugs, and sex.  No 11-year-old writes down a goal of being a pot head, getting a DUI, and becoming a teen mom. It is important that we allow our daughters to set their life paths early as growing up fast is a harsh reality for our daughters today. Their lives are important and yet mothers do not sit down as help their daughters see themselves as successful women in future years.

Pageants keep girls on the right path towards success. Once a young girl knows who she is, she can then determine what she wants for her future. She’ll make a goal path and walk that path until she achieves her goals. I encourage each girl to begin her computer resume and keep adding to it each time she does something worthy. I tell them if they can not put anything on their resume after a year has gone by they are wasting their youth and are not personally growing. 

This determined type of youth is so different from a girl that is flitting and bounding from one self defeating event to another. I would have to say that what I find most rewarding is seeing young girls become strong, successful and caring young women.   

What is the most challenging aspect of what you do?  The most challenging aspect of owning and directing a pageant is the marketing and financing of the pageant. High school pageants can sign up contestants by sitting in the lunch room for days after advertising in school. I do not have the luxury of marketing to a captive school audience. I must be more creative. I market contestants throughout the year by attending pageants, inviting Facebook pageant girls to enter, and handing out cards at community events.

Each year we have many queens from other pageant systems see us at the parade and want to be a part of the Miss Memorial Day Organization. Also, I must stay within a budget as I design the set, book a venue, pay staff and judges, develop sponsors, order in crowns and sashes, design Government Day and Stars and Strikes Day and continue to upgrade the pageant each year.  

I guess the business aspect is the most challenging for me. I am thankful to have a solid team that makes this happen each year.    

What advice do you have for anyone who would like to pursue this activity?  First, learn on someone else's dollar. It takes about $3,500 to put on a solid respectable pageant. Volunteer for another system and learn all you can. Make your mistakes early on with another system, not your own. Learn about every aspect of the pageant world: marketing, development, staging, judging, financing, production, mentoring, staffing and profitability.  

After you have a couple of years of successful volunteering for other pageants done then begin by copywriting  a title and begin your own system. Yet, if you do not have a true love of mentoring young women this may not be the avenue for you. While there are many different types of pageants, I believe if the girls are being used as unpaid employees each weekend or they have no personal self development activities conjoined to their crowns, you will not succeed.

Pageants are as expensive as cheerleading, tumbling, or sports. Yet those activities do not prepare young women to enter the work force, pageants do in a very real way. When applying for a job a woman must present herself in her best light, be ready with insightful answers during their job interview, know about the company and out shine the others applying for the position.  It is the same with a pageant.  The more interviews your daughter can have before her first “real job” interview the better she will fare in the job market.

One other piece of advice is, you must be able to be honest in a friendly way when telling a parent why their child did not win your pageant, so, I would say you must have tactful salesmanship abilities as well.    

What is your favorite thing about living in Dacula?  I have lived here since 1983. I fought the development of Hamilton Mill and Apalachee Farms knowing that our children would be in trailers from then on and so they still are to this day.  I was delighted when they announced the Mall of Georgia was coming. I was proud to enter the beautiful Mill Creek High School on opening day. I have supported the building of the library, and now we have our own e-paper, the Dacula Patch.  I have seen leaders and educators come and go. 

So, what do I like about living in Dacula? I like our living growing community and that I am a witness to all the greatness that it has become. In Dacula, you can speak about your values at a city council meeting or school board meeting or even a PTA meeting and your opinions will be heard. I love being a citizen of this unique little city that is on the verge of future greatness.   

What is your personal motto? I am driven by two life mottos. The first is, Don't give up, don't ever give up, don't ever ever ever, NO never never never GIVE UP!  I see so many people giving up when things go wrong. Marriages, friendships, jobs, children, and family issues are going to go wrong some times but now days people just give up!  They quit and take their same poor coping skills to the next marriage, job, or friendship and wonder why their life is messed up. Work on your issues. Improve your coping skills. Hang in there instead of giving up and running away, carrying the same baggage, to the next problem.  

The second motto I live by is well known by my children. When I write a book, the title of my book will be, " NO CONSEQUENCE - NO CHANGE." I see today’s parents not wanting to give their children a consequence for normal growing up developmental behaviors. They do not want to “lose” their child’s love. So parents will not “love” their children enough to correct their child’s behavior. Children come into this world wanting to have it their way and it is the job of parents to mold and develop a child’s personality into a positive person that can work and play well with others. When a person does something wrong, and receives no consequence to their poor decision, they are apt to repeat the mistake again because they have not experienced a negative action to their behavior.

Most people will change their behaviors if a negative behavior is associated with a specific behavior.  A 6-year-old, that you see in the store, telling their parent what to buy them and is out of control screaming loudly and demanding is a child in charge. Fast forward that 6-year-old to a 16-year-old and it gets pretty ugly very fast. 

Parents must set the standard for a child’s behavior not the child! We all know parents that allows their children to do drugs, or drink, or have sex because they can not bring themselves to be the parent in the relationship. To indulge a child when they are misbehaving instead of taking steps to show them right from wrong is, in my opinion, true child abuse. It starts at a young age with a child and develops into out of control teen all because a parent can not bring themselves to deliver an appropriate  consequence to their child’s negative actions.  These children do not grow into mature, confident, productive members of society, they become damaged adults. So by delivering a consequence, change is demanded.  When I see a parent, in a trying situation, out in public I say, “Great Job Mom, stay strong, your child’s future depends on it!   

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