The first step on your road to the crown is finding competitions to enter. It shouldn’t be hard to get started in pageants since an estimated 750,000 pageants are held annually in the United States alone.
The easiest pageants to enter are theme pageants held locally to select school or college queens, football queens, festival and fair queens, convention queens, parade queens, and product queens ranging from Garlic Queen to Pork Princess. These are ideal contests for beginners to enter to gain experience.
Then there are the major pageant systems, like Miss America, that start at the local level and lead to a national title. A contestant enters a local pageant held in her hometown or college.
These locals can be:
- closed (you must live in that town or attend that college)
- semi-closed (you must live within a certain radius, usually seventy-five miles)
- open (any girl in the state can enter)
The girl who wins the local title competes in the state contest, and that state winner goes on to the national competition. Such major pageant systems are helpful for anyone from beginners who need to gain experience to advanced contestants who hope to move up the runway to win a national title.
Other national or regional contests, usually those that are less established, invite “at-large” entries. Organizers select qualified contestants from mail-in applications and designate each as a representative of a city, county, state, or geographic region, which qualifies them to compete in the upper-level pageant. The Miss Teen of America and Miss Black America pageants allow at-large entries.
Some state pageants also accept at-large entries rather than conducting local pageants. For instance, girls who wish to enter the Miss Florida-USA Pageant submit an application, pay an entry fee if they are accepted as a contestant, and compete in a televised state contest. Whoever wins there represents her state in the Miss USA Pageant. Because at-large pageants are often easier to enter, they help a contestant to gain experience competing at the state or national level without having to battle up an ultra- competitive three-level system.
As you look for pageants to enter, keep in mind that pageants differ in their business status:
- Some competitions are run by nonprofit civic organizations to offer girls in their communities opportunities for personal growth and scholarships.
- They rarely charge entry fees, although entrants may be asked to sell program-book ads.
- Often, these nonprofit groups award scholarships to the winner and finalists.
- Other pageants are money-making ventures staged by businesses.
- Contestants are charged entry fees or sponsor fees ranging from $500 to $1,000 or more.
- Entrants can either pay the fee themselves, hold fundraisers, or find a sponsoring business to put up the money.
Neither a nonprofit or for-profit status guarantees that a pageant will be a quality event, so always check the organization’s reputation before signing any agreement or paying an entry fee. Contact previous winners or contestants to ask if their experiences were positive, or contact a Better Business Bureau or Department of Consumer Protection to ask if complaints have been filed or legal action taken against the pageant.
Tips to protect yourself from pageant ripoffs:
- Always check the pageant organization’s reputation before signing any agreement or paying an entry fee.
- Contact previous winners or contestants to ask if their experiences were positive.
- Contact a Better Business Bureau or Department of Consumer Protection to ask if complaints have been filed or legal action taken against the pageant.
With some effort and persistence, and a few necessary precautions, you should be able to find reputable, exciting pageants to enter. Ultimately, when, where, and how you start your quest for the crown will depend on what works for you. Just as every winner’s experience has been different, your own road to the crown will be as individual and unique as you are.
Find the Right Pageant For Your Skills and Style
One of the most important secrets to success is finding the right fit between contestant and pageant. Pageants differ radically in their philosophies, ranging from beauty contests that look for a beautiful, shapely winner with commercial appeal, to serious scholarship/talent pageants that seek accomplished winners to serve as role models for American youth. Their judging differs accordingly, ranging from scoring based on physical beauty alone, to scoring based on intelligence, talent, grades, community service, and physical fitness.
Beauty pageants usually view themselves as a launch-pad for the glamour careers (modeling, television, films), and thus emphasize beauty of face and figure, personality, and ability to communicate before an audience. Such pageants include Miss USA, Miss Universe, Miss Teen USA, Miss Teen All American, Miss World, and Mrs. America, among others. The judging is usually evenly divided between swimsuit, evening gown, and interview (private, then onstage), with a final question often determining the winner.
Scholarship pageants view themselves as personal development and leadership programs for female students and judge a wider range of qualities. For example, the Miss America scholarship pageant judges talent (40 percent), interview (30 percent), “physical fitness in swimsuit” (15 percent), evening wear (15 percent), and an on-stage interview during the finals (10 percent).
A new emphasis on community service requires contestants to submit a written essay on a meaningful social issue she will address as the winner. Although not judged, per se, these platforms help judges determine which entrants demonstrate the leadership to serve as role models for women.
Another scholarship program, the Miss T.E.E.N. and Teen of America Scholarship and Recognition pageants judge scholastic achievement, volunteer service, creative arts (speech/ skill/hobby / talent), personal interview, and formal presentation, usually of equal weight. ‘TEEN magazine’s Miss Teenage America Pageant judges entrants on leadership, community service, scholastic achievement, poise, and appearance. These teen scholarship pageants do not include swimsuit competitions.
Match Your Strengths to the Pageant’s Judging Emphasis
Is the pageant looking for a gorgeous spokesperson, a fashionable teen queen, or an accomplished role model for women? “Like any other undertaking in life, you’ve got to find your niche,” advises Mike Fifrick, a 1991 Miss World judge. “Everyone has talent and skills in life. You’ve got to find those and become successful in the area of your talents and gifts.”
Consider New Mexico’s Mai Shanley. Mai failed to make the top ten at the 1982 Miss America Pageant, then entered the Miss USA Pageant — and won. The Miss USA image and judging criteria matched Mai’s strengths. Finding the right “fit” for her qualities paid off.
Likewise, Shawn Weatherly’s drop-dead good looks were a mismatch for Miss America, where she lost at the state level. Yet Shawn won the 1980 Miss USA and Miss Universe crowns by a landslide. She found her fit. Girls whose strongest assets are their gorgeous face and figure fare better in bona fide beauty contests like Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe, which emphasize beauty and personality.
High school students with talent, good grades, and a resume of community service fare well in scholarship pageants like America’s Junior Miss, Miss Teenage America, Miss T.E.E.N., and Miss Teen of America which judge school grades, honors, volunteerism, skills and talents, and speaking-but not swimsuit. Girls who succeed in scholarship pageants would probably be a mismatch for Miss Teen USA, which bases two-thirds of scoring on physical beauty.
College women with strong speaking skills and stage talents do well in the Miss America system, which emphasizes talent and interview (70 percent).
Miss America 1989, Gretchen Carlson, now star of TV’s “Fox & Friends”, though attractive, was not a typical beauty queen. A valedictorian, Stanford honor student, and award-winning violinist, her strongest assets – brains and talent – were a perfect fit for scholarship pageant judging. Swimsuit, her weakest point, was only 15 percent of scoring. Although she won Miss America, Gretchen wouldn’t have fared as well at Miss USA, where the judging criteria and image would have worked against her. But, at Miss America, her strongest qualities were a perfect fit.
As these winners demonstrate, the secret to increasing your odds of success is knowing your strengths and entering pageants that look for those qualities. Find your fit.
This section is devoted to tips for competing in the Evening Gown Competition in pageants. Topics include:
- The art of winning the Evening Gown competition.
- What judges look for in the Evening Gown competition.
- The secrets to picking a winning evening gown.
- How to choose the right gown for your body style ( a step-by-step guide).
- Do you need an expensive gown to win? (How a homemade gown beat a $10,000 Mackie original).
- The gown must fit the pageant.
- Evening gown competition mistakes you must avoid.
- How to choose the best evening gown competition color for you.
- What really wins: A list of best colors to wear in the evening gown competition (the colors win the most).
- How to use gown color to convey a specific image to judges.
- Understand the effects of stage lighting on evening gown color.
- Don’t be afraid to be different in evening gown.
- How to gain points for your evening gown walk.
- Rules for choosing your jewelry, bra and undies for the Evening Gown competition.
- What shoes are best in the Evening Gown competition?
- [Read more…]
This section is devoted to pageant tips for competing in the pageant interviews with judges. Pageant tips include:
- It’s a job interview…Be prepared!
- The different types of pageant interviews you need to prepare for.
- What do judges look for in pageant interviews?
- What to do before your pageant interviews.
- Strategies to help you win pageant interviews.
- What judges are likely to ask you.
- Speak like a winner. How to improve your speaking skills.
- I’m a nervous wreck! How to calm interview jitters.
- The importance of mock pageant interviews.
- Pageant question samples
- How to handle those tricky “What is your worst fault” questions.
- Did you know this irritates most judges?
- Help! What to do when you don’t know the answer.
- How to handle difficult judges questions.
- The pageant interview mistakes you must avoid.
- Did you know you can score points for humor?
- Show the judges your personality (How to stand out from the crowd).
- Are you a smart Girl? Use it to your advantage.
- What to wear to your pageant interview
- Interview clothing errors to avoid.
- What is your body language telling the judges?
- [Read more…]
This section is devoted to tips for competing in the Swimsuit Competition in pageants. Topics include:
- What judges look for in the swimsuit competition
- How to pick a pageant swimsuit
- which styles and colors are best (meaning win the most!)
- the best pageant tips from swimsuit competition trainers
- how to build a winning body for the swimsuit competition
- how to correct figure flaws through exercise
- The best diet for swimsuit competition
- how to shape your Body to Win
- Secrets to Hide Your Figure Flaws
- the Winning Pageant Diet.
- [Read more…]
This section is devoted to pageant tips for competing in the Talent Competition in pageants. Pageant tips include:
- What judges look for in talent
- Do you have to be a singer to win?
- talent tips for singers, instrumental talents, and dancers
- how to handle a microphone like a pro
- how to perform like a professional
- how to manage talent competition disasters (yes, they happen!)
- Effective costuming for the talent competition
- The best music for the talent competition (meaning what wins the most!)
- the importance of showmanship
- why talent coaching is so important
- Best talent music for singers, dancers, musicians, classical talents, baton, acrobatics and gymnastics
- Can unusual talents win Miss America? Yes, and we name them!
- what to do when you have no talent.
- Great ideas for the talent competition!
- Read more…