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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Profile: Reginald Lewis, pageant coach

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Reginald Lewis is a man with many crowns. A professional pageant coach and a former Mr. Georgia, Lewis teaches young women how to dress, walk and interview to impress. And as a coach to former Miss Georgia USA Tanisha Brito, Lewis proves that pageantry can be a man’s world, too.

What does your job entail?

My job is basically to work with a girl in preparation for her to compete in a pageant. I am there to teach her what to wear, what not to wear, interviewing, and how to walk. The biggest thing for them to understand is that pageantry is an image. Pageants began in 1921 in Atlantic City as a gimmick. It was a way to promote the city by using beautiful girls. We have since then added layers to pageants, but it’s still about beauty.

What is your pageantry background?

I was Mr. International 2005, I was Mr. Georgia, and I also competed in Mr. United America — and was the first man crowned in 2004. I started doing pageants when I was in college. The first pageant I competed in was for a sorority on my campus. It was a great experience for me. I was 18 years old and I had the opportunity to hear girls screaming for me.

Is it difficult being a man in the pageant community?

Is it difficult being a man in the pageant community?

Surprisingly it is not. One of the things I pride myself on is that I’m very opinionated and subjective. Pageantry allows me to really look at the girls I work with to see if they have potential.

What do you think is the most common misconception about pageants?

That the girls have no substance.  Many people think that they're airheads who have no ambitions, and that’s simply just not true. These girls are extremely articulate and driven. Anyone who is familiar with the Miss America pageant knows that the four points of the program are scholarship, success, style and service. Girls who compete in pageants have to exemplify these traits.

What is your favorite part of coaching?

My favorite part is the transformation. Girls come to me who are shy and unsure of themselves — and then we work together and I begin to see a transformation not just on the outside but also on the inside.

What is the most challenging aspect of coaching?

The most challenging aspect is explaining body image in pageants to girls. Many girls get discouraged because they feel they are not the right body type to be in pageants, which isn’t true. The pageant community has begun to host many additional pageants such as male pageants and plus pageants to include every body type. It is important, however, to help girl set realistic goals for the pageants they want to compete in and win. I hate to see a girl competing in the wrong pageant.

How do you know someone has the potential to win a pageant?

It something in her eyes; it’s a twinkle or a spark of passion.  That’s what lets me know that she wants it. More than anything, it’s like sensing a kindred spirit. I pride myself on being good at reading individuals. I won’t coach a girl if I don’t believe in her. I won’t waste her time or money, because it’s really a partnership.

How do you teach a girl how to walk?

I take the girls to the mall in their heels. I tell them to wear nice fitting jeans and a shirt. The goal of the exercise is to see how many heads they can turn without speaking. Initially some girls are embarrassed, but after a while they really get into it and start to build confidence.

How competitive is pageantry in Georgia?

Many people don’t realize that Georgia is a big pageant state. Statistically, if two parents had a son and a daughter, the son would have a greater chance at playing professional athletics than the daughter would at making into the Miss USA pageant. Fifty-plus girls are all vying for the a given title. It is extremely competitive.

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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