Behind the scenes of Miss Arkansas

Miss Arkansas contestants walk the runway. (Photo: KATV)

This weekend, a new Miss Arkansas will be crowned in Hot Springs. From make-up to talent preparation, everything these ladies do is very intentional.

Miss University of Arkansas Savannah Skidmore warms up her voice for her talent, "So I do hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah and you go up the scale."

She's singing "Finding Wonderland," and while her vocal warm-ups give her time to hone her technique, they also give her time to remember the reason she is there.

"There's this line that says if you lose your way reach out for someone's hand, and that just really hit home for me... In 2013, my family lost my uncle to suicide, and it really affected my family, and was such a shock to my family. I just really wanted to reach those people."

And she's not the only one looking to make a difference in someone's life. Miss Southern Arkansas University Natalie Morrow is getting her masters. She wants to empower young people through counseling.

But right now, she's empowering people another way: "I'm a licensed cosmetologist," she explains.

She's doing her own make-up for the competition which typically takes between one and a half to two hours.

"You want to make sure everything is featured a little bit better, and you know brighter, blush and lips, end everything like that... You want your eyes to look bright on stage, so you really want to use the lighter colors on the inside, and the darker colors on the outside."

In another area of the dressing room, Miss Sweetheart of Arkansas Jennifer Nottenkamper showed the different clothing that goes into a Miss Arkansas wardrobe.

"We all have to have a robe, because we tend to run around in swimsuits all the time... You can tell I like to be super organized, so all of my shoes are organized and have labels. I am the only baton twirler this summer, and my mom actually creates all of my baton twirling costumes, so it is very special to me."

And she showed off what she describes as the pageant's girls secret weapon: "Every pageant girl has candy in their lockers."

Every year, critics point out that a woman could easily spend the money she makes on scholarships on her hair, make-up, and clothes. But that's not the case for Jennifer: "I am one of those that went out and got sponsors. I could not afford to pay for any of it, I had so much debt that I said, 'I can't do this, I can't do this,' and so all of my sponsors paid for my entire wardrobe... So anything I earn is scholarship money."

And she's not the only one earning scholarships. Over the past few years, Miss Southwest Arkansas Sarah Clayton has earned more than thirteen thousand dollars in scholarships: "It's actually paid for my past two years and I am completely debt free the past two years."

Beyond the scholarships, she says she has relished every moment of her past three years competing.

"I never thought I would be in a pageant, but being in these pageants has given me life skills I will cherish for a lifetime."

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