Lauren Cabaniss, Miss Greater Greer, will be in Columbia for the Miss South Carolina competition July 7-14. Cabaniss is one of the favorites based on her showing in the 2011 Miss South Carolina competition when she placed third runner-up and won the overall swimsuit and preliminary swimsuit.
Cabaniss is representing Greer for the third time. She twice was Miss Greater Greer Teen. Interestingly, Cabaniss is studying advanced dance at the University of South Carolina although she is vocal about her love for Clemson. USC had a dance program and Clemson didn’t.
GreerToday.com writer Laura MacPherson sat down with Lauren at the Stomping Grounds for an exclusive interview last week. Laura and Lauren talked about Miss Greater Greer’s competitiveness and her goals beyond the Miss South Carolina pageant.
Q: Have you always wanted to compete? Tell me how you first started your journey in this competition.
A: At 12 years old I was competing a lot with dance. But then I wanted to get into solo performances, and I didn’t really have the stage presence to compete by myself on stage. My dance teacher said I should do a pageant to learn how to be by myself on stage and how to work the judges. I did a small Glitz pageant, and then I was hooked. People say you get the pageant bug, and I’m pretty sure I have it. I’ve been doing them ever since.
Q: You mentioned working the judges. Tell me a little more about that.
A: I’ve actually gotten to judge a few pageants here and there, so I understand it more. As a judge you want to feel like you know the girl and have a connection. Judges have an ego in a sense. As a contestant, it’s your job to stroke that ego. They want to be a part of what you’re doing. Smiling is a huge thing, and eye contact.
Q: You aren’t new to the pageant, are you?
A: I was a Palmetto Princess for Jeanna Raney, who was Miss Greater Greer in 2001 and she ended up winning Miss South Carolina that year. So I got to see my Miss crowned queen and compete in Miss America, which was even more of a motivator for me because I wanted to follow in her footsteps. When I got old enough, I started competing in SC Outstanding Teen, did that for four years and then I competed in the Junior Miss program. I competed in the Miss competition last year as Miss Greater Mauldin. It turned out pretty well and I got so close, I feel like I’m meant to be Miss South Carolina.
Q: Thinking about the pageant as a competition, what went into your preparation, your training?
A: The best thing you can have as far as training is experiences. Being a part of a community like Greer helps, being out there and involved, because that gives you something to talk about and connect with the judges with. As far as working with coaches goes, that’s a big part of it too. I worked with a fitness coach this year, and I used to work with an interview coach. Lots of going to modeling coaches.
Q: What’s been your favorite part of the competition so far?
A: As far as preparation, my teen queen and I have gotten so close. And my directors, Kevin and Jared, we’ve really become a Greater Greer family. As far as my favorite part of the competition, it’s most people’s least favorite: I really love the swimsuit competition. I love it. You don’t have to worry about it because you’re not answering any questions on stage, and when you work out a lot you can show that off.
Q: Is the fun over now, is it crunch time?
A: This is when it gets even more exciting. Because I thrive on competition. It is getting nerve-wracking though. We’re starting to pack and get everything in order. I went to the North Carolina pageant last weekend with the whole Greater Greer bunch and it really hit me right then because I knew what they were feeling. It upped the ante on the excitement and adrenaline.
Q: Tell me about your mindset.
A: I feel like I’m meant to be Miss South Carolina, and I’m going to focus and just going to show them why they’re going to crown me in a week. That’s all I’m thinking about. I can’t allow myself to think that anything else is going to happen.
Q: How do you handle the stress?
A: Lots of prayer. And I just got a new iPhone so I have all my music on there, so especially during pageant week when I need to zone out, I just like to put in my headphones and listen to Contemporary Christian music. That calms me down.
Q: Talk to me about your platform. How did you choose it?
A: It started when I was South Carolina’s Junior Miss. We got the opportunity to go to some of the children’s hospitals, primarily the Palmetto Health in Columbia, and we got to meet some of the kids and spend time with them. That’s a Children’s Miracle Network hospital. Those kids were amazing, and we all left crying. How are they so uplifting and happy despite what they’re going through? That really impacted me, and when I needed a platform, that was one of the things that hit me. I enjoyed that opportunity and being able to make a difference for them. It works perfectly, because that’s the national platform for Miss America and for Miss South Carolina. I didn’t have a personal connection until last summer when two of my cousins were in a (children’s) train accident and they were flown to CMN hospitals. Their lives were saved through CMN.
Q: Where does this road lead for you long term?
A: I’ve always said since I was three years old that I want to be a dancer and want to open a dance studio. I want to have a career involving dance. Until three weeks ago I wanted to dance in company for a few years and then open a studio. But then I went to this camp with my church and I was a counselor. We had an amazing speaker named Bryant Bush, and he speaks all over the world. He’s the chaplain for the Atlanta Falcons. I had this overwhelming push and call that maybe I’m not just supposed to settle and open a dance studio and be a dance teacher in a small town. I truly feel like I’m meant for something bigger. I just don’t know what that is yet. And hopefully becoming Miss South Carolina and Miss America is part of that.