If you watched television in the 90’s, chances are you’ve seen a beauty pageant. Memories of long-haired, physically toned women would not be complete without those toothy smiles permanently fixed on their faces. Anyone who has posed for even a 10 minute photoshoot knows that face muscles are not made to stretch that way for an extended period of time. Yet, these ladies maintained not only the widest smiles seen in a 100 mile radius but also the most picture perfect smiles captured on camera. Of course, these beauty queens underwent hours of training to achieve such poise. And if they can learn it, so can we. We researched the art of beauty pageant smiles and now share with you the secrets of the trade.

A Variety of Smiles

You have your close-mouthed, your slight toothy grin, your wide-toothed smile, your laugh smile, your laugh and, my favorite, your crying smile which only the lucky winner gets to showcase on stage. There’s a whole menu to pick from and beauty queens practice them all. Of course, these ladies don’t have to worry about hiding any crooked teeth which would deter an average person from about half that menu. But it is amazing to see the variety of smiles human cheek muscles are able to produce.

Smile and Activity Pairings

Beauty queens practice a variety of smiles to use for answering questions, introducing themselves and posing in different outfits (gowns vs. swimsuit vs. athletic). Now the natural question is, how can someone smile while talking? If you’re not attempting to do so right now, then we’d like to report back that, not only is it possible, but there is a second dimension to smile-talking. Beauty queens will vary their smiles as they speak. So, a sentence like “I believe in world peace” could start with a slightly toothy smile, shift to a laugh smile and end with a wide-toothed smile. Lastly, intuition is a key aspect of pairing and varying smiles during activities. No one wants to see a beauty queen cry smiling during the swimsuit segment.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is an important communication tool for all human interactions, making it very useful for beauty queens if they want to nab that tiara (crown? what’s the difference?). Buggy, laser eyes are probably going to make people question if drugs are involved in the moment. Keeping the eyes soft and allowing them to play a supporting role in the smile allows beauty queens to produce a flawless facial expression. Eye contact must also be varied and directed according to what’s being communicated. For example, beauty queens can make eye contact with the judges while answering a question or direct their gaze out at the audience to create a connection with the listeners.

Be Yourself

Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean that you necessarily should. A wide, cheek to shining cheek smile may look good on a beauty queen but may not suit her personality and feel inauthentic. This beauty queen would prefer a mellow, half teeth smile. Another beauty queen may look dazzling while cackling like Cruella de Vil but may not be able to pull off evil-glamourous and should probably stick to her girl-next-door image. Smiles are not a façade, but an expression of the beauty within. Beauty queens stick to the smiles that feel authentic.


Another way to achieve an authentic smile is visualization. Just as onions can induce tears, visualizing happy memories can create real joy to solidify that onstage smile. Beauty queens build up a database of cheerful thoughts to use according to the smile they want to produce. And all beauty queens know that authenticity is key. The audience’s empathy sensor is always on and a fake smile is a real turn-off, especially to judges at a beauty pageant (unless they’re psychopathic, which is highly probable given this is show business).

Practice, Practice and, oh yeah, Practice

Smiling is not easy. It’s not a talent you’re just born with. Practicing in front of a mirror is great for fine-tuning smile intensities and activity appropriate smiles. The mirror is also great to practice eye contact. If you can’t endure your own eye contact close-up in a mirror, I doubt a judge wants to see that. Another way to practice is to record smiles and smile-talking on a camera. Camera angles and contortions can change a quality smile into a teenager’s awkward nightmare, so it’s important to review video recordings.

Pageants give beauty queens a stage to share their culture, intellect and physical appearance. Whether you regret not exploring a career in beauty pageants or want to enter the industry, we hope this behind the scenes look provides an eye-opening perspective on the challenges of a beauty pageant smile.

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