The past three winners of the Miss America Pageant have at least two things in common. They were all from New York and they were all coached for the competition by a man from — of all the unlikely places — Andalusia, Alabama.
That man is 53-year-old Bill Alverson, a lawyer in his day job who on the side is a red-hot consultant to beauty pageant contestants of all ages. He coached eight of the 53 entries in last year’s Miss America Pageant, including three who finished in the Top 10. His clients include winners and finalists in numerous other contests at various levels, including a Miss USA.
Alverson specializes in preparing his clients for the interview portion of the competition. The interview is critically important because it represents a significant portion of the final score and — perhaps most important — it creates the contestants’ first impression on the panel evaluators. “If you bomb in the interview, you’re not going to win. End of story, ” Alverson said during a recent ABC Nightline segment.
More than 25 years of practicing law has seen Alverson on the winning side of major cases, including litigation before the Alabama Supreme Court. He prepares his beauty contestant clients in much the same way he would prepare them to testify before a judge and jury.
His style is extremely personable and engaging, yet he can be brutally direct with his comments and advice while preparing his pageant clients. “You’re blonde but your eyebrows are black as coal, ” he tells one girl on the Nightline segment. “Lighten your eyebrows.” He tells a nine-year-old that’s she’s cute but warns her not to oversell the cute. “When you do that, it’s kind of like too much sugar in a dessert, ” he says. “I start to get a little nauseated.”
As Alverson likes to say: “This isn’t Christmas, and I’m not Santa Claus. We can’t just make a wish and have it come true. This requires planning, strategizing and hard work. ”
A graduate of Auburn University with a law degree from the University of Alabama, Alverson moved to Andalusia in 1990. His first successful foray into beauty contestant consulting came when a client he met through his church’s choir director won the Covington County Junior Miss Pageant. That led to more contacts, more clients, more wins and eventually his involvement in the Miss Alabama organization and much more.
Alverson charges beauty contestant clients $125 an hour. “Some people think that’s a little bit high, but if you went to a therapist, you would pay a lot more money, ” he says. “I can tell you that what I make doing this is not significant. It’s clearly a part-time job.”
From his perspective, practicing law gives Alverson the opportunity to make his clients’ lives better. It’s the same with his consulting work. “What I do with contestants is really more of being a life coach, ” he says. “I want the girls I work with to be successful women in whatever endeavor they choose. I want them to develop so that they know they have the skills set to achieve their goals.”
There might be “TV activities” stemming from his beauty pageant work in the days ahead. “There may be a reality show, maybe a scripted show, ” Alverson says. “I have an agent in Beverly Hills, and I’ve got some contacts in place, but we’ll see if it becomes worthy of a show. I hope it does.
“If it does, it won’t be like some of the pageant shows that are out there. It will be about personal development and empowerment and inspire others to stay in the game and enhance themselves and be better.”
Through his involvement with beauty pageants, Alverson has seen his clients succeed in front of the brightest lights and glitter on some of the world’s most pressure-packed stages. Living in Andalusia made that possible. “If I lived in a larger city or worked with a larger law firm, I wouldn’t have the freedom to be what you might call a Renaissance individual and work with so many different people in different areas, ” he says.
Charlie Ingram and Matt Coughlin are freelancers for Business Alabama. Ingram is based in Birmingham and Coughlin in Pensacola.
text by charlie ingram • photo by matthew coughlin