She took a less-traveled career path

Photo courtesy Kim Antos

An actress in Magic Mike, an anchor with NBA TV and a model in a Super Bowl ad all had the same coach in common:  Kim Antos.

“What I did is to help them become the best version of themselves, rather than what someone else thought they should be,” said Antos.

Antos taught young women life skills at beauty pageants in Florida. That was before the 30-something-year-old public affairs specialist joined the American Forces Network (AFN) Broadcast Center, this year in Riverside, California.   

Young women came to Antos because she got results. In eight years of coaching she had nine state winners, 14 runners-up and 22 semi-finalists in the Miss Florida USA, Miss Florida Teen USA and Miss Earth Florida competitions. She coached one woman who went on to win Miss Nebraska USA and the Miss Earth Florida, winner, Nicole Kelley, went on to win Miss Earth United States.    

Antos personally competed in Miss Florida Teen USA at the age of 17, but lost.

“I was all right. I learned a lot. Before, I could never have a one-on-one conversation with somebody,” she said. “But after competing I became comfortable in my own skin and was able to communicate much more efficiently and effectively.”

The pageant experience stuck with her like a tight new shoe. Antos was so impressed with what she called all the “well-spoken overachievers” that she volunteered to help at the local Miss America pageant. She did so well that at the age of 18, the Miss America board asked her to become the pageant’s executive director at Daytona Beach, Volusia County, Florida.

“All of a sudden I was in charge of a non-profit organization, running a budget, planning events, hiring vendors and motivating a staff of 100 non-paid volunteers,” Antos said as she laughed.  “I had to inspire them with the passion I felt for the organization.”

But serving as director wasn’t enough. She decided to dive back into pageant pressure one more time, as a Miss Florida USA contestant. This time she was second runner-up, after which she traded in her tiara for a pair of Army boots.

“I was interested in becoming a veterinarian,” she explained. “Then I was exposed to the world of television and event planning and I had to rethink my life direction. That’s why I went into the military to become a broadcast journalist.” 

After four years, that included a stint as a disc jockey in Wuerzburg, Germany, she left the Army for a video production specialist position with Central Command in Tampa, Florida. Once again one challenge wasn’t enough, so she started moonlighting by coaching beauty pageant women for $125 an hour.

Antos worked with them on everything from communication, leadership and networking to hair, make-up, the right walk and physical fitness. The key communication concepts she taught included extemporaneous speaking and how to be clear and concise. 

“You have no more than 20 seconds to answer a question in a pageant,” said Antos. “You have to trust yourself 100 percent, visualize the question, then come up with an answer that is what you truly feel, and not use your parents’ or someone else’s answer.

One of the reasons Antos said she left pageant coaching was that the game changed. A woman’s ability to communicate was no longer as critical as looking good. Beauty pageant bloopers went viral, such as a contestant who received a question about making euthanasia a legal practice, only to respond, “I need to look up what that means … but I do know that’s a vaccine.”

“In one pageant, organizers selected nine out of 15 semi-finalists independent of the judges,” Antos said. “One of the girls I coached, Emily Kucher, now the wife of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke, is an intelligent, well-spoken, beautiful girl. She won Miss Photogenic, but didn’t even place.”

Kucher recommended her good friend, Micaela Johnson, work with Antos. Johnson went on to become Miss Nebraska USA and was in the movie Magic Mike and TV’s Modern Family.

Many other Antos “graduates” went on to make a big splash in life. Jessica Rafalowski appeared in a Super Bowl commercial and is an accomplished model. Kristen Ledlow is the host of NBA Inside Stuff.  Erin McKinnon was chosen for a feature in Maxim magazine. Three Antos “grads” became doctors, two psychologists and four attorneys. Some went on to public relations or marketing positions with Porsche and other international firms.

Antos is proud her coaching helped contribute to the young women winning, and responds with habanero-fiery passion to detractors who say the women are doing well in life just because they are pretty. She points out while there are plenty of attractive women, it takes someone special to have the courage, self-confidence and skill to win a pageant.   

“You are about five times more likely to have your son selected in the NFL draft as you are to have your daughter take the stage in the Miss America pageant,” she said.

But while Antos sees the positive side of pageants, she’s no fan of “Toddlers and Tiaras” parents who push girls to compete.

“I would never work with little girl pageants, ever,” she emphasized. “They can be damaging to self-esteem and they really haven’t figured out who they are yet. I worked with women who were doing it because they wanted to, not because they were forced into it by their parents.”

Today, Antos, herself a parent along with husband James, have two daughters: three-month-old Alyssa and 15-month-old Scarlett. But if they want to compete when they’re teenagers, Antos is all in. 

“I said I wanted to be Miss America when I was five,” Antos said. “My mom told me maybe I could when I was older, but that Miss America listened (to her mother), got good grades and had a talent. Miss America was my role model,” she said. 

Antos now uses her communication and coaching skills to collaborate with peers on how to best serve the American military serving overseas with quality radio and television news and entertainment. Her team responds to more than 2,500 different audience questions every year from Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and family members. One thing you’ll notice when she answers:  it’s clear and concise!