BELLAIRE, TX --Texas has long been known as a beauty pageant powerhouse. Behind so many of Texas' beauty queens is the king of pageant coaches.
Meet J.J. Smith, Houston's other winning J.J.
His upbringing in Dickinson, Texas was a far cry from the glitz and glamour of pageantry.
"If somebody told me back in those days you are going to grow up and be a famous pageant coach, I would have shook my head and said you need to check your crystal ball again," said Smith.
He has been coaching pageants contestants and grooming winners for years.
"You can't accept defeat," said Smith of the championship attitude he instills in the young women that work with him. "If you do, you'll receive it. I'm a big believer in accepting positivity and bringing that in."
His secret to the crown? Nailing the interview.
For $100 an hour, Smith's secrets to success can be yours. He operates out of his Bellaire designer dress resale and consignment shop Think Twice Fashions.
"The one thing I really concentrate on is being yourself," said Smith. "There's an old saying, 'Be a first class version of yourself and not a second rate version of somebody else.'"
Pageant popularity has had its highs and lows. Now, Smith says the beauty queen scene is red-hot, with young women from a more diverse background taking interest in pageantry.
"It's much more multi-cultural, multi-racial and that's a good thing," Smith said.
His scrapbook of beauty queens covers a lot of runways, from local winners to state, national and international title holders. That success has made his name and pedigree of winners so recognizable, it attracted young competitors like Hannah Johannes. The Lamar High School and Texas Christian University graduate, Johannes is a former Miss Houston Teen looking for her first state crown while preparing for law school this coming fall.
"I thought he was an amazing person, very unique," said Johannes. "I couldn't get enough of him."
Like the mark of an artist, Johannes can pick a Smith girl out of any lineup.
"They know how to answer questions so eloquently and be the best of themselves and I think that's what he had done for the Texas pageant," Johannes said.
Smiths's coaching tips go beyond those vying for a title. He has coached Texans football cheerleader candidates for the interview portion of their tryouts as well as businessmen and women working their way up the corporate ladder.
While it is good to win, for Smith, becoming a winner doesn't always mean taking home a sparkling crown.
"The real point is for you to do something that makes you a stand out rather than blend in," said Smith.
Four of his clients, including two from as far away as Massachusetts and Hawaii, will compete in June at the Miss USA pageant. Smith is currently working on a development deal with Lionsgate Television for a reality show with the working title of "Queen-Maker," taking viewers inside the growing pageant business.