Merissa Underwood, Miss Montana USA 2020, sits down with our very own, Trisha, as part of our Queenly Tea Talks Instagram Live series to talk about her journey into the pageant world.
Trisha: Hi Marrisa! I want to start off by asking, how long have you held your title for?
Merissa: It has been a year now. I’m actually kind of sad because I will be handing off my title next week. I know a lot of my friends are keeping their title until April/May and I wish I could too!
Trisha: I just want to take the time to tell everyone that you are a Queenly user. We are so lucky to have you. How did you find out about Queenly?
Merissa: I think Lucas posted about it. (Lucas Sigarini @roadtomissusa). He posted something saying, “you can find tons of gowns”. There was a gaping hole in the market for something like this. It was impossible to find used gowns. Everyone had to get gowns that were straight from the store. That doesn’t make a lot of sense when you are just going to use it for a weekend or two. Especially when you can’t afford something brand new.
Trisha: I have seen many girls having trouble finding something affordable. Then what do you do with it after? We have a lot of great questions for you today that were submitted by our users! When did you start pageants?
Merissa: I started in 2013. It was not something that was part of my life at all. I did not know anyone participating in pageants. One day, I saw Miss USA on TV and I said, “Oh, I want to do that”. I started local and would not place at all, but I kept on going.
Trisha: What is a piece of advice you wish someone told you before you entered pageantry?
Merissa: For interviews, I always thought there was a right answer for something. I would go over it in my head and ask myself what the judges wanted to hear. I would never actually talk about me. But the judges want to hear genuine stories about you. Bring the story back to you.
Trisha: After winning Miss Montana, what is something you did that you think set you apart?
Merissa: I told more stories about myself rather than what I wanted to do. In the past, I would always talk about the big plans I had, but everyone has big plans. So I focused on what I was accomplishing in the present.
Trisha: In your time as a pageant girl, what is your favorite pageant memory?
Merissa: We went to Texas in January to shoot with Sherri Hill. That was the moment where I realized, it took 7 years, but I’m finally here.
Trisha: Let's talk about the upcoming pageant? What are you most excited for Miss USA?
Merissa: I’m the most excited to meet the other women. We have all Facetimed, but I am excited to build that real-life friendship.
Trisha: It’s really the experience you have with the other girls that make the experience. It’s pageant fate. Someone asked: As an environmentalist, what is one thing that you could do to save the planet?
Merissa: The biggest one is adopting a plant-based diet. The amount of water you save, animal suffrage that you remove...even saving communicates that are located right next to these factories. Their air is completely polluted and they are getting ill.
Trisha: Do you have job search advice for recent environmental studies grads?
Merissa: I would say it depends on what your niche is in environmental science. For me, if I was looking for a job, I would be looking for something that is within animal rights. Finding something that you are really interested in within the industry is really important.
Trisha: What would you say to someone who does not believe in climate change?
Merissa: First, I would ask them, why. Then I would go with the route of facts and science. We have to look at the way we have polluted our planet. That’s not an opinion that’s a fact. Why not move towards these new and clean energy sources? Let’s kill fast-fashion and start buying things second-hand online. Let’s come up with new innovative ways.
Trisha: In your personal opinion, what qualities should a Miss USA titleholder have?
Merissa: The single most important attribute needs to have is empathy. There needs to be somebody that can be on both tables and able to have a conversation with both parties. That’s what is going to foster change.
Trisha: I definitely agree that Miss USA needs to be someone who is ready to unite the country. I just want to say thank you so much and I wish you the best of luck this November!
Thank you Marissa! Check out the full interview here. Make sure to follow Queenly on Instagram for more exclusive interviews.