Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Larry and Keith Cannon, The directors of the Miss North Texas/DFW Organization.
(Pictured above, from left. Larry Cannon, Miss DFW 2023 Gabriella Collins, Miss DFW's Outstanding Teen 2023 Anna Lilie, Miss North Texas' Outstanding Teen 2023 Hollan Palmore, Miss North Texas 2023 Chloe Burke, and Keith Cannon.)
1.) What is it like being directors in the Miss America Organization?
- (Keith) The first word that pops into my head is "rewarding." It is very rewarding to watch these candidates and title holders develop, grow and accomplish all of the things they are trying to accomplish whether its school-wise, career-wise, talent-wise, or whatever it is. It is incredibly rewarding.
- (Larry) I think it is also rewarding to develop the relationships with the titleholders and with their families. I think that makes it equally rewarding.
2.) How long have you been pageant directors?
- (Keith) We are going into our fourth year. Our first year was the "Covid Year" so that was the year when Miss America and Miss Texas were cancelled and as a result, we had our first titleholders for two years. We just had our third competition, but we are going into year number four.
3.) What do you find is the most challenging thing about being a director?
- (Keith) Two things come to mind. The first thing that comes to mind is letting go of [previous title holders]. When it is time to have a new competition, it is very hard to get used to not having that constant contact with them. Even though we stay in touch, the level of frequency is not the same. I think the other difficult thing is the logistics of it. Trying to coordinate with four titleholders. This year none of our title holders live in Dallas. It will be a very interesting experience this year trying to coordinate with title holders who live 3 to 4 hours away.
- (Larry) I think it's interesting too, the thing [Keith] mentioned about letting go of the previous titleholders is its those relationships, right? It's the thing that's the most rewarding and it's the thing that's the most challenging at the same time. You never want to say bye to the title holders. I think the more we've done this, the more we've realized you're not saying bye. They're still part of the system and you're still going to be in contact with them.
4.) What is your life like outside of pageants?
- (Keith) Well we have our careers. I teach pre-k at an all-boys school and that keeps me busy and pretty exhausted. Outside of that, we have a lake house that we like to drive down to as often as we can just to get away, get some peace and quiet, and take in the beautiful scenery. We love to go out to dinner, and we love to travel. We're trying to get back into doing more traveling now that covid is mostly behind us.
- (Larry) I think Keith said it all, but we also have two cats that we love dearly. They're always lurking right outside the room while we do zoom calls. I also work at the American Heart Association where I oversee all of the corporate operations worldwide. That keeps me pretty busy but it's all manageable.
5.) What do you feel like has been your greatest achievement as directors?
- (Larry) I would say figuring this all out on our own. We weren't in pageants before, and we weren't familiar with them until we joined. There's a lot to learn and there's a lot to figure out. I'm proud of the two of us for figuring it out over the years. A lot of people help with that like your titleholders and their families have experience and other directors help as well but there isn't really a formal orientation program for directors, so you really have to figure it out as you go. I'm proud that we figured it out.
- (Keith) I also want to mention the growth as well. Watching the growth and knowing that you had a part in that. Whether you have a titleholder who might really need to work on interviewing skill or public speaking or how to interpret their talent in a different way and seeing them finally on that stage come Miss Texas week and just being really proud that they've put in the work and that you've had a part in the journey.
6.) If you could give one piece of advice to a newcomer in the pageant world, what would it be?
- (Keith) I would say don't give up. this year we have a lot of newcomers competing and what I've been really impressed with is they take what they've learned at each local, they carry that through to the next local, and you see them do better and better until you see them eventually get that title. My advice would be do not give up, learn from each experience, and keep going.
- (Larry) I would add on to that that I don't think it matters if you win your title the first time you compete or the tenth time you compete. What matters is what you do between the time you win and the time that you get to Miss Texas. Thats a big learning period right there and you can do really well. It doesn't matter when you got your title or how long it took to get your title, it's all about the preparation and the work you put in during the following months leading up to Miss Texas.
7.) Is there anything else you would like to add?
- (Keith) The thing that I always try to explain to people is that it's not what you may think it is. We have been fans of pageants since we were kids. Thats one of the things we bonded over on our first date. It wasn't until we started volunteering with a local organization and getting to see behind the scenes that I really grew to appreciate what the Miss America Organization truly is all about. I think that's what I would want people to know. It's not a beauty contest. These are smart, driven, educated women who have enormous talent and they're going to do great things. They are going to do great things with their lives, and we are providing them the platform, the opportunity, the scholarships that they need to pursue those dreams. Thats what this organization is about.
- (Larry) I would just add that this is really one of the most rewarding things we've probably done in our lives. I don't think we had really any expectations around that, but it turned out to be incredibly rewarding and it continues to be in part due to what Keith was saying with respect to the relationships that you develop and the growth that you see in the titleholders during their year of service. I think it's incredible to see the growth I think particularly in the teens because they're young and still changing and growing. The growth is often so tremendous and visible with the teens.