We went behind the scenes at the famous pageant and came home with these 15 insider tips

By Jillian Ruffo
Updated September 07, 2017 02:16 PM
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When Savvy Shields and her fellow Miss America 2017 contestants hit the stage Sunday night, they each looked absolutely flawless, so much so that you’d expect an army of hairstylists and makeup artists to be lined up backstage. But that’s not the case: Every contestant is her own glam squad — and each one did her own hair and makeup for the big night.

PeopleStyle was backstage to chat with the girls as they prepared for the live show, and we found out their bizarre — and game-changing! — beauty secrets, and exactly what goes into those three-minute wardrobe changes. Below, the tricks we’ll be adding to our routines, and all of the behind-the-scenes secrets we were surprised to learn.

Contestants are required to do their own hair and makeup on finals night.
“Doing our own hair and makeup for finals night is part of being in Miss America,” Iowa’s Kelly Koch told PeopleStyle. “She’s able to do her own hair and makeup — she’s a woman — she can do it. But that’s what sets Miss America apart is that she can do her own hair and makeup for events, and that’s why we need to do it for finals night.”

Added Miss Vermont, Rylee Field, “It’s kind of a self-sufficiency thing. Anybody could — we all can — we came this far.”

Their bathing suits stay in place thanks to men’s toupee tape.
“I’m taping my bathing suit to my body,” Miss America winner Savvy Shields explained before taking the crown. “There’s butt glue and then there’s toupee tape, to each his own. I know we’ll have zero time to change, so I’m taping this to my body as soon as I can and I’m gonna hope that it stays the whole entire day. We do dress rehearsals, so I’ll get to see if it actually works. If this doesn’t work, I’ll try another round of tape or butt glue or hair spray. This is actually toupee tape for men’s wigs. So it’ll stay there. Isn’t that funny?”

Each contestant has her own “hostess” who helps her change.
“A lot of the changes are really fast, so that’s why we have dressers to help them,” said Boardwalk Hall stagehand Bonnie Corbo, who has been working behind the scenes at Miss America for nearly 30 years. “After they do the top 15, it’s very very fast. For talent, we have all of us and all the hosts, and we jump right on them.”

To change faster, they wear their bathing suits under their dresses.
“Right now a lot of them are “underchanged” so they have their bathing suits underneath their dresses,” Corbo explained. “If it’s a 3 ½ minute commercial, they’ll drop down that dress and tie up their bathing suit top.”

Men’s aftershave is an amazing primer.
“For my primer, I use Nivea’s sensitive skin aftershave for men,” said Miss West Virgina, Morgan Breeden. “It has glycerin in it, and it’s the best primer ever.”

Tan sponsors are a real thing.
How do they keep their spray tans looking so even and streak-free? For Tennessee’s Grace Burgess, that’s easy. “I have a tan sponsor, Suntan City, so I go get spray tans there,” she explained, adding that when she’s on the road, she relies on St. Tropez’s Self Tan Bronzing Mist — and her roommate — to touch up her glow every few days.

And the best way to self-tan evenly is by applying it using a small a makeup brush… on your entire body.
“I apply Bare Minerals Faux Tan Body with a kabuki brush to make sure it’s smooth and even, and if I do miss a spot it’ll at least blend in so it won’t be as noticeable,” said Miss Ohio Alice Magoto. “I do this to my whole body.”

Their hair is kept in rollers for up to 8 hours.
That big, voluminous pageant hair doesn’t come easy. In fact, most girls leave their hair wrapped in pin curls or rollers for the entire day leading up to the big night.

And many contestants use hair extensions to achieve their stage-worthy volume.
Whether they’re clip-ins or more complicated pieces, volume is often created with extra hair, shared Miss New Hampshire Caroline Carter. “Mine are clip-ins so I just snap them in. I’m not ashamed of admitting that I wear hair extensions — most of the people here do wear them”

But for Miss Delaware Amanda Debus, clip-ins won’t suffice. “Because I’m a dancer, I can’t wear clip-ins so I wear halo extensions (which are fastened using tiny beads and fishing line) so my hair doesn’t fall out while I’m dancing,” she explained.

Hand sanitizer and oil-free makeup remover remove makeup stains from clothes — and pageant dresses.
“When you mix self tanner and oil-based makeup remover, it turns red,” warned Miss Florida Courtney Sexton as she cleans self-tanner off of a white bikini bottom. “If you ever get a stain, oil-free makeup remover will allow you to get the stain immediately.”

And for Corbo, antibacterial hand sanitizer is a must-have. “They get makeup on their dresses and we have to clean that,” she said. “Hand sanitizer does it, or we have baby wipes at every station.”

Teeth whitening is done minutes before the show.
Miss Colorado Shannon Patilla’s last-minute ritual? “I’m gonna whiten my teeth at the last minute. You just brush it on your teeth and let it dry for a minute, and you can do whatever you want.”

Foundation doesn’t always have to be applied first.
Miss Utah Lauren Wilson is about to change the way you do your makeup. “I do my foundation last. I do my eyes first, so in case shadow drops down, I can wipe it clean, and then I do all my foundation afterwards so I can get clean lines on eye shadow and everything like that.”

Contestants are sometimes sewn into their dresses.
“We’ve sewn girls into their dresses as they were running onto stage with broken zippers,” Corbo explained. “In fact someone sewed a girl into her dress last night as she was running to the Miss America parade because her zipper broke. We fix a lot of jewelry, we’ve done shoes. I keep hot glue balls in case they lose their earring backs.”

Most contestants wear the same shoes.
“Most of the girls wear the Chinese Laundry Tippy Tops, they’re really good swimsuit and dress shoes,” said Field. “I bought Dyeables right before coming, and they’re super comfy, but by the end your toes usually go totally numb, so it doesn’t really matter. Two hours marching around on a hard stage will do that.”

The crown isn’t one-size-fits-all: Sometimes it needs to be fitted.
“The head of wardrobe deals with the crown — and sometimes it’ll need to have pins put on it or to be fitted,” said Corbo, who adds that she once had the exciting task of being the fit model for the official crown.

What trick will you add into your routine? Sound off below!