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  • Writer's picturecharlotte lister

Interview with Royal International Miss Alaska 2020 – Cortni Cheyenne Risley

Firstly thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about your pageant journey it’s been amazing speaking to fellow queens from across the globe and help them share there stories.

What made you enter pageants ?

I started pageants when I was around 6, my mom had signed me up for a little local pageant and at first it was really all about winning a pretty crown but as I got older, I started to realize that pageantry was more about giving back and bettering yourself. I’ve grown so much through pageantry. When I started I was very shy and would hide behind my mom when people would talk to me, but I became a social butterfly after I started competing.

Can you tell us about your journey so far ?

I’ve held a few titles throughout my journey. My first title was a small local title -Miss Wagoner2014, I was National American Miss Oklahoma in 2016, and in 2018-2019 I was Royal International Miss Oklahoma. – My journey began 16 years ago and if I am being honest, it was very hard. I started during the recession and I didn’t know how expensive pageant outfits were and we couldn’t afford anything, so my first interview outfit and evening gown came second hand. I couldn’t afford a coach, I had never been in an interview before, It was just a mess! And of course, I didn’t win my first pageant, but that was okay because I caught the pageant bug and kept entering and competing. It took me a very long time to win a title, but it was all worth it because I knew that all the waiting and the work was worth it.

What made you decide to compete Royal International Miss?

I heard of the pageant through some friends of mine that had left the system we had both been in for years. I had just given up my title for that system a year before and was itching to get back on stage and compete so, I did some research and looked at the pageant and the girls and requirements to enter. I found the director for my state pageant and emailed him and I signed up the week before (talk about stressful) but it all worked out and I was able to take home the crown and represent my state at Internationals.

What the best thing that pageants have taught you ?

I think the best thing I have learned thought this experience is how to communicate and how to speak and conduct myself in interview. If I had not entered a pageant I wouldn’t have been able to go sit in an interview and speak to the judges. Interview can be scary and intimidating with all eyes on you, but after years in interviews and with the help of a coach I now know how to make the best impression to the judges and how to speak without messing up my words or stumbling on a question.

What’s your pageant platform and why ?

My platform is “The Confidence Codes: Growing Confident Girls”. I wrote an essay last year for the Royal International Miss essay contest about growing confidence in girls that want to pursue STEM majors and how we as a society can help break the stigma that STEM is only for boys. I won the essay contest and I knew that I had to make this my platform. I want to always encourage girls to break the mold and don’t let someone tell you that just because you are a girl, you can’t do something. I have really been focusing on ways to help girls realize their potential and find ways to ensure that they have the support and the tools they need to become whatever they want to be.

What’s your dream title ?

I would love to be Miss USA! I think the Miss Universe Organization is an amazing organization. There are so many opportunities that came out of this pageant system and to be a Miss USA and to represent the United States of America at Miss Universe would be the greatest Honor! If I won Miss USA or even Miss Universe I don’t know what I would do with myself!

If you were to win Royal International Miss what would it mean to you?

If I won Royal International Miss, I would probably cry. It would mean so much to me because of the work that I have been putting into everything to get ready for this pageant. It would mean so much to not only me, but to my mother. She goes above and beyond to help me get ready and prepare for every pageant! I want my win to be a message to girls that, even if you are told no, fight back and say “Yes”. You may not win your first 5 times, but do not let that stop you from living your dream! I want my win and my story to show that if you keep trying and growing and learning, you will reach your goal, just don’t give up!

What’s the best advice you have for fellow pageant queens ?

Be yourself! I think a lot of times, girls will compete and when they don’t win they think “I need to be something other than myself to win” and they start to change who they are because they think it’s what is going to win. But that’s not true! Judges love girls that are authentically themselves and show they are human and are relatable to others! Being yourself is the best thing you can be!

What have you been doing in the run up to your pageant final ?

I have been practicing my walk like CRAZY! I have two new pieces in my pageant wardrobe that require a little more effort from me this year. I’m going to be a little more daring and break out of my comfort level with my wardrobe this year because I tend to play it safe, but I don’t want to be safe this year. I have also been doing a little interview and introduction prep, but I don’t want to do too much because I want to come off as natural and authentic in my interview and not seem overly coached. Before Covid-19 I was spending my free time doing appearances and volunteer service but now that I am inside all the time I spend more time prepping for the stage!

What’s your favourite ever appearance so far ?

Before quarantine, I went to a Princess Party for children in our foster system and I had so much fun! I love interacting with children and to see their faces light up when they came to the party and got to meet all of the real life Princesses (aka, all of the titleholders). They got to dress up in pretty dresses and wear pretty jewelry and crowns, decorate cookies, decorate their own magic mirrors, bottle fairy dust, and dance. They had a blast and I loved getting to see the smiles on their faces!

How has the lockdown due to COVID19 effected your pageant journey ?

It has really changed my schedule and my preparations. I had almost every weekend booked with appearances and volunteer service and when Covid-19 forced us to go on lockdown, my schedule cleared up, it was really sad to see! My prep changed as well, I had a bootcamp I was going to be at to get some critique on my walk from Miss Oklahoma USA and I was going to have a practice interview done so I could take notes and sharpen my interview skills and that didn’t get to happen either. I’m a planner and for me to not have a full schedule or continue with my normal routine has been very difficult. I feel as though I am not properly able to represent my title or my pageant system. I wanted to spend every spare moment doing my appearances and volunteer service and I feel like I can’t do my job!

Has your reign been extended due to COVID19?

Unfortunately no. I will be giving up my title in October 2020. But I am okay with it, I want someone else to also enjoy the experience of Royal International Miss as well! So before I give up my title I want to make an impact as best as I can!

What makes a good pageant role model ?

I think a role model is someone who is authentic. Someone that strives to make a difference in the world, and someone that makes others want to be better. I look up to so many women that have been competing for years and they makes me want to be a better queen, whether it’s doing more community service, going to more appearances, working harder and growing my platform, or being a better person and being the best queen I can possibly be!

What’s your favourite pageant round ?

I love personal introduction! I don’t know what it is about that phase of competition but I truly love being up on stage and having the microphone in my hand. My mom says that I love to talk, which is true, so maybe that has something to do with it!

How do you deal with pageant nerves ?

I don’t try to think too hard about it! I know that if I start to overthink and start worrying myself then I’m not going to feel good or confident! I always want to be confident and if I’m just a ball of nerves then I won’t perform to the best of my abilities! I always tell myself “you’ve done this for years! You can do this!” and I will replay my routine in my head at least 15 times before I go on stage!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions it’s been lovely getting to know you better. I wish you all her best inn the future. Much love Charlotte Ms Diamond South Yorkshire 2020.

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