The journey to the 2013 Miss America pageant was about more than shimmering evening gowns and swimsuits for Hannah Porter, the 2012 Miss Colorado winner who competed Jan. 12 in Las Vegas. For Porter, 24, a 2010 graduate of at the University of Northern Colorado’s Monfort College of Business, the experience has largely been a test of the skills she picked up as a management major. Since being crowned Miss Colorado last June, Porter has been traveling heavily, meeting state and business leaders, trying to secure sponsorships, and learning how to promote the pageantry organizations she represents.
Although she didn’t make it into the top 15 Miss America 2013 semifinalists, Porter said she has no regrets about how she performed during the competition. She used her business savvy to impress judges during the interview portion of the pageant, suggesting ways for them to secure long-term sponsors. She’s been following her own advice, as well. In the last six months, she’s been able to gather a bevy of new sponsors for the Miss Colorado Organization, including the Colorado Cadillac Dealers Association, a local tanning salon, and Frontier Airlines.
Bloomberg Businessweek’s Alison Damast spoke with Porter about her experience on the pageant circuit, why business school has given her an edge, and her plans for an MBA degree.
How did business school help prepare you to be successful in the pageant circuit?
At the end of the day, it’s a business, whether it is Miss Colorado, or Miss America, or any pageant, for that matter. You need to be able to market yourself and your organization as well as focus on sponsorship opportunities. I didn’t have to be told that by the leader of the organization; I knew that from the get-go. I think having that business background really helped me realize there is so much more that goes into it than just the one pageant night when people are in their evening gowns and swimsuits.
What did your experience as a Miss America contestant teach you that business school didn’t?
I think when I was in school I got a very strong sense that you have to be this powerhouse in business and that you couldn’t really embrace and embody your feminine qualities as a woman in business because you were competing against all these businessmen. The one thing the Miss America and Miss Colorado programs have really taught me it that it is OK, and even really great, to embrace those feminine qualities, because they set you apart from other people. Sometimes you walk into a room and feel like an underdog. People may not take you seriously because you have high heels on, have your hair done, and great makeup on. You can surprise them by speaking intelligently about topics you know and offer new ideas and new approaches to things and organizations.
I know you’re undecided about your career plans, but do you see an MBA degree in your future?
In the next five years, I see myself with or in the process of getting an MBA. But first I’d like to work and save some money so I can get my MBA without going into debt. What I’d like to do now is figure out what I’m going to go for after I’m done being Miss Colorado. Almost on a daily basis I go on appearances and get different business cards. They’re not specifically job offers, but people are saying, “Call me when you are done with your year of service, because I want to get you in for an interview.” I really believe I will be much further along when I give up my Miss Colorado title in June than I would have been if I hadn’t done any pageant at all.