1. Tell us about how you got started in pageantry and your pageant history.
I got started in pageantry around the age of 20. I started competing in Miss America local pageants in my home state of Maine to earn scholarship money for college and law school. My first pageant was terrifying, and I nearly ran off stage because I was so shy. Needless to say, I thought pageants were not for me and I waited about a year before I decided to compete again, since I was still in need of scholarship money. After a few pageants at the local level, I started to like it more and more and won a local title that enabled me to compete at the Miss Maine America Scholarship Pageant and from that point, I was hooked and have now been competing for over 20 years.
Since my start in pageantry I have competed in the Miss America system at the state level, Miss USA program at state level, Miss Hawaiian Tropic, Mrs. America system, Miss US of America, World's Miss Tourism, Mrs. International and now I am the reigning International Ms. USA in the International Ms. Pageant system.
2. What is the most important thing that you've learned competing?
I have learned so much, but the most important thing I have learned is to have complete confidence in yourself. I have also learned that most stereotypes associated with pageants and women who compete in them are not true.
3. What has continued to motivate you to compete as an adult?
As a wife and mother sometimes, I think you can begin to focus all of your energy on other people even though the need for time for yourself is of course always important. For me pageantry provides an opportunity to focus on me, my accomplishments, my passion for volunteering and of course the ever-fun glamour of pageantry helps me to feel sexy and glamorous in a life where I otherwise don't feel very beautiful or glamorous in my day-to-day life as a mom. In addition to that, since giving birth to two children, it also helps to motivate me to stay fit and healthy.
4. What is your charitable platform?
My platform is the Prevention of Heart Disease in Women. My family has a long history of heart disease, having taken the lives of my great-grandmother, grandmother and grandfather and my own mother having suffered two heart attacks. In addition to my work in preventing heart disease, I have also done extensive work to help refugees and recently won a gold Presidents' Volunteer Service Award and am also a recipient of the 2020 Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA).
5. Tell us more about your life in Europe.
I have lived in Europe for over three years now. I lived in Zagreb, Croatia for three years and just a few months ago moved to nearby Belgrade, Serbia. Along with my huband and two children, we live here for our work with the US Department of State.
We love Europe, and in particular the Western Balkans. It is a very interesting part of the world and breathtakingly beautiful! There is also great food, friendly people and amazing wines and beautiful scenery! Living here also gives us the opportunity to travel by car to many neighboring countries. Once the pandemic is over we hope to resume visiting our neighbors and getting to travel again.
6. You are a lawyer and an event planner. Tell us more about both and how you do it all!
I worked as a non-profit attorney for over 5 years, working mostly with victims of crime. I also started a hobby business making candy buffets and planning small events, which lets me explore my more creative side. I love both and currently my job with the State Department actually involves a lot of events planning, which I really enjoy! I love planning theme events and making sure every little detail is perfect!
Sometimes I am not sure how I do it all, but I am lucky that my current job at the Embassy is part-time, which leaves me plenty of time for my family, volunteering and still doing the things I enjoy. However, sometimes I overextend myself and that is something I am working on.
7. What was your preparation process like for a pageant?
I always make sure to be getting my fitness on point starting at least 12 weeks before a pageant. I use that time to improve my nutrition and diet and also make extra time for exercise to make sure I am competition ready. Of course, the most important part of competition is always interview, so in preparation for International Ms. I worked with Commit to the Crown to help get me ready for my interview and hone my presentation skills. No matter how much experience you have in pageantry, it's always important to hone and improve your skills, I feel a coach for this, especially at an international level is very important and makes the difference between winning and losing.
I also thoroughly research the system I am competing in to see exactly what they are looking for and what I need to be prepared for, this is key and in fact you should do this well before signing up for a syatem, otherwise you could find yourself surprised with certain expectations or areas of competition you were not expecting or prepared for.
8. What advice would you give to other women considering competing in International Ms?
International Ms. is an amazing system, probably the best I have ever competed in. My advice would be to make sure you are preparing in advance and know your reasons for competing as well as making sure your interview skills are on point, as interview is 40% of the overall score. You will also want to make sure you are prepared for the more unique aspects of the competition which differentiate International Ms. from other systems, specifically the social media and Introduction video portions, which are both scored at 10% each as part of the total score.
9. What has been your favorite part as International Ms USA?
I have had a lot of wonderful opportunities as a result of my International Ms. USA title and probably the things that stand out as the most fun and exciting were my official photo shoot in Leeds, UK, along with my sister queen Dr. Corinne Devin, the reigning International Ms. This was a fun-filled girls weekend and we bonded so much during this time as well as meeting many amazing ladies in the UK that ultimately decided to join our system.
One of the other exciting opportunities I had was modeling in both NYFW and Milan fashion week. I can't express to you how floored I was to have the opportunity to model in these prestigious events as a 42-year-old mom! Wow, sometimes I still have to pinch myself! Though this would not have been possible without my Director, Laura Clark, Hitechmoda or the designer MMMilano! I will remember these moments for the rest of my life.
10. What are you most looking forward to in your second year as International Ms USA?
As a result of the pandemic our pageant was postponed until June 2021 and will take place at the fabulous South Point Resort in Las Vegas. Though disappointing, it gives me and the contestants the opportunity to do even more! I hope of course that the pandemic will end and allow me the opportunity to travel again to make more of an impact, but even if it does not I plan to volunteer here in Serbia and make an impact in any way I can. I want to leave a legacy of service and kindness.
11. Tell us about a non-pageant goal you're hoping to achieve this year
I hope to be able to volunteer in-person again at the Refugee Aid Sebia Workshop, a place I have been involved with for more than three years now.
Mikell Reed Carroll is the reigning International Ms. USA and is a 43 year old mother of two, currently residing in Belgrade, Serbia for her job with the US Department of State.
Originally from Maine, Mikell and her husband Dan have been married for over ten years and have traveled to over 40 countries together as well as living in Nicaragua, Vietnam and Croatia prior to their recent move to Serbia.
Mikell is a graduate of St. Joseph’s College and the University of Maine School of Law.
NYC pageant coach Jackie Schiffer is passionate about helping women find their voices. Her international client roster includes women competing at the local, national and international level. Currently, she serves on the national coaching team for Miss Earth USA, USA National Miss, Miss Global United States, Mrs. Universal, and more.