The Life of a Teen Beauty Pageant Host

Has Zak Slemmer found his calling? He’s not sure. He loves Korea and politics, teaching and comedy—but he’s really, really good at hosting Miss Teen pageant contests. Laura Shin shadowed Slemmer for Narratively.

It’s the rehearsal for the New York City Miss Teen pageant. Though he is giving the same spiel for almost the 20th time, he makes it fresh, and people are not only paying attention but laughing. When [Jen] Klem, the pageant director, who participated in and won teen pageants herself, demonstrates the spins that the girls will do on the Xs marked onstage, Slemmer asks the audience, “Did she do this?”—and here, he walks bent over at the waist, head down like he’s hunting treasure, until he reaches the X, at which point he stomps his feet on it. Then he shows how he would do the spins instead—and does them while keeping his head aloft, eyes forward and tossing his head this way and that, as if it were a delicate, fluttery scarf.

Behind me a woman laughs, and a girl says, “He’s very funny.”

Read the story