Since a pageant winner’s reign involves press conferences, interviews, and speeches, her ability to think under pressure, analyze complex and often controversial subjects quickly, and discuss them intelligently is critical.
Judges use high-gain pageant questions to determine if a contestant can think.
High-gain pageant questions call contestants to reason, analyze, or share your opinion. Since high-gain questions cannot be anticipated or completely prepped for, a girl can’t regurgitate memorized answers. Thus, they reveal her true views and values, analytical skills, and mental alertness.
Often, that’s the only way to pry behind the facades of contestants who give pre-rehearsed answers to hide the fact that they can’t think under pressure.
“So many contestants are prepared or programmed by their state pageants with memorized answers and opinions for any and everything,” observes Sam Haskell, a veteran national judge and senior vice-president with the William Morris Agency, who was hired to run the Miss America scholarship pageant. “Often when I’m interviewing I try to ask questions that the contestant will not be prepared for. That’s the only way I can find out who she is.”
Rex Holt, of GuyRex’s Miss United States, explains that today’s judges try to ask questions that require a contestant to share, not merely facts about a subject, but what she feels about the issue and how she would respond to the issue if personally involved. “We’ll build a situation and ask you an either/or and a why so that you can express yourself,” says Rex. “We encourage you to be opinionated – but be knowledgeable enough to back up your beliefs.”
He offers a sample pageant question about conflict in Korea. “It’s not about how much you know about politics in Korea at the moment, but about how you’d feel about your boyfriend or husband being called into service to go fight in Korea. It’s to find out how well you express yourself, how well you carry on a conversation, how well you express your thoughts. Your verbal expression is shown through that type of question.”
Related: Check out our complete library of pageant questions on hundreds of subjects.