-- Many Miss America contestants spend years preparing for that big moment when they get the chance to grace that big Atlantic City stage.
Beauty queens aren’t born after all. They’re made, and some of the competition’s winners were made by an Alabama man named Bill Alverson.
Alverson, the father of three grown children, is one of the most successful and sought out pageant coaches in the United States, turning beginners into pageant stars.
“We need to understand, life’s hard, life’s cruel, life can be great. But what are you doing with it?” he said. “Why did you fail? Why did you not know the answer?’ And then if we can work from that, and see where that’s going, then even if you don’t win the crown, you’re getting life experience that’s going make you incredibly successful.”
People pay $125 an hour to get a dose of his tough love because Alverson gets results. The past two Miss America winners, the current Miss America Nina Davuluri and Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan, are his former students. In fact, Alverson has coached six of the 53 women who are vying for the 2015 Miss America title this Sunday.
Alverson’s specialty is preparing contestants for the interview portion of the competition.
“It’s usually regarded the highest, because what they want to make sure that the person is of quality substance,” he said. “You bomb your interview, you’re not going to make it. End of story.”
Alverson knows what it takes to win. He’s a seasoned trial lawyer, regularly arguing his cases in court in Andalusia, Alabama.
“That’s the basis of my whole pageant coaching,” he said. “Coming from the aspect of client preparation, of being in front of a jury, in front of a judge… how are you going to present the reasons and explanations for what you did or did not do.”
And he’s just as passionate about the pageant world as arguing a case in court. Alverson said he got into pageant coaching after being asked to help a girl from his church prepare for an upcoming pageant. Not only did the girl end up winning, but Alverson said she went on to win more pageants that eventually helped pay her college tuition, so Alverson decided to keep going with it.
Last month, Alverson ran a three-day coaching clinic out of a formal wear store in Columbus, Georgia – he also hosts private sessions often. But clients came from all over the region just to get one hour with him and nearly all 30 spots were filled.
Fallon Farr, 9, was one of the participants. Fallon has won regional titles, but she wants more, so she and her mother drove three hours to attend Alverson’s pageant clinic. During her session, Alverson coached her on how to answer questions, from her interests to what she magazines she likes to read, with poise and confidence.
“Don’t oversell the cute,” he told her. “When you oversell it, it’s kind of like too much sugar in a dessert. I start to get a little nauseated.”
Despite the tough session, Fallon said she was thrilled.
“I was a little nervous, but it turned out to be really good,” she said.
Lillieanna Kilgore, 15, has only been in one regional pageant but will be competing in the upcoming Miss Hummingbird Festival Pageant, a competition affiliated with the Miss America pageant, at the end of the month. Kilgore spent a grueling hour-long session with Alverson in which he also worked with her on interview answers. In the end, she and her mother said it was money well spent.
“I was very happy that he was honest because I don’t think that I could’ve learned half of what I did if he wasn’t,” Kilgore said.
This was the first time many of the girls had met Alverson, but some, like 11-year-old Laura Grace Henry, were regulars. She has worked with him for a year, but still has work to do. During her session, Alverson coached her on projecting her voice while on stage.
“Are you afraid of people to hear you? Then make it be known,” he told her after she said her name too softly.
At the end of three days, Alverson has done all he could and the rest is up to the contestants.
“If they’re dead in the water and don’t know what to do, then they’ve wasted their money with me,” he said. “They’ve not done the work they’re supposed to do.”
For Alverson, he said his “telling it like it is” style is the only way to go to turn a beauty queen into a winner.
“Let’s be perfectly honest. I have always said and it’s my catch phrase - life is a pageant,” he said.