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miss-america-with-contestant-for-miss-illinois-tells-allIf you've been following my blog, you have met Gemma Berto, a student at DePaul University who believes in a healthy lifestyle, taking school seriously, and helping to inspire others.  

In her quest to represent Illinois in the upcoming Miss Illinois USA pageant, she has been sharing her experiences with my readers to help them see the beauty in themselves. Keep in mind, if you met her on the street, you would never hear these details as many of her friends at school have no idea that she has competed in such an event, nor that she placed in the bathing suit competition last year.

Gemma Berto, contestant 2013 for Miss Illlinois USA in her own words:

9 Days Until Pageant Weekend! YIKES!

The countdown begins as there are only nine days until pageant weekend! I am so excited and still running around tying up loose ends. We have already attended the pre-pageant seminar where we heard from Miss Illinois USA 2013, Stacie Juris, as well as the pageant coordinator and other pageant staff. At the seminar we are also taught the opening dance number. There are four different dance sections and the girls are given the choice to learn whichever dance they feel most comfortable with. Michelle Holmes, pageant coach and owner of Joyce’s Bridal Boutique, was also at the seminar. She brought with her a selection of evening gowns, swimsuits, and accessories for the girls to look at.

I had a pageant lesson with Michelle the weekend prior to the seminar and we selected a dress out from her store for her to bring up to the seminar and have me try on. I tried on this dress and my first thoughts were how I loved the way it fit! I have a smaller frame, so it is harder for me to find dresses that are fitted up top and long enough as well. I was happy to find one that felt as though it was tailored to me.

Evening gown"With a strapless dress, you worry that it will hold up!"

Last year I had a strapless dress and as beautiful as it was I found myself worrying about it staying up while I walked. This dress I am far more comfortable in, which is the most important thing to me. I know you cannot project your best self if you are uncomfortable in your clothes! Feeling insecure will show in your body language and will be amplified because you are on stage. I would much rather feel 100 percent comfortable in my clothes such that I may exude confidence. I decided to get the dress that I tried on and I look forward to accessorizing it!

I took the opportunity at the end of the seminar to speak with current Miss Illinois USA: Stacie Juris. I asked her how she best prepared for the interview as this section is what I am most anxious about. She advised me to practice with my interview sheet, the one I had written for the judges, and think about all the possible questions the judges could ask me from it. While this may seem like a lot it is very good advice as I wouldn’t want to be caught off guard not knowing details about my personal information!

Also at the seminar we are given the option to choose our roommate. Last year I asked a girl I had just met at the seminar to be my roommate and she has since become one of my closest friends. There is a lot to say for the types of women that enroll in this pageant and I feel fortunate to have the ability to meet so many incredible ladies. Prior to the seminar I reached out to one of the girls I got along with well at the pageant from the year before. We both agreed that we would like to room together this year and I look forward to seeing her pageant weekend.

As the pageant is so close I have booked all my appointments for things I like to hold off on until last minute. Next week I will be getting my hair cut and colored and will also be getting a spray tan. I don’t like to tan in the UV beds but a tan on stage makes a big difference for the girl. Spray tans are a great way to give you an on stage glow without the damaging UV rays. As for my practice in walking I have been focusing on my swimsuit walk. Although it may sound funny to say that one practices walking there is a technique to doing it and a way to hold yourself that looks best on stage.

I focus on swimsuit because it involves a few more steps than evening gown and when walking in just a swimsuit and heels mistakes are far more visible. Again, it all comes down to confidence and if you have practiced your walk then you will feel more comfortable under those bright lights! However, even if you slip up on a section of the walk if you are confident you will look good doing it no one will even notice! I am so looking forward to next week as things are finally coming together! I know that the days left will fly by and I will post about my thoughts and activities right before pageant weekend. Next time I will also include my schedule to better share with you how pageant weekend looks like for the contestants!

Check back next week to hear more about Gemma's journey. The days are numbered to announcing who will wear the crown, but either way I'm sure Gemma will be happy. It's all about the experience!

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