Pageant interviews are difficult enough for many contestants, but there are certain mistakes that every contestant must avoid in interviews with the pageant judges.
First, remember that difficult pageant questions are revealing… and point-losers if mishandled. Pageant judges do not expect contestants to be perfect — but they do expect them to show good judgment and speak with intelligence. Obviously, during the titleholder’s year, any slip of the tongue can end up in headlines, so a contestant’s diplomacy and tact are critical to her duties if chosen as the winner. Therefore, before answering, consider the impression a statement will leave in judges’ minds.
For instance, a judge once asked a student, “Who is your role model?” “Goldie Hawn is my number-one role model,” she replied, adding, “but I don’t know much about her.” Duh. The young woman’s answer made her sound insipid and unqualified to handle the public speeches and media interviews required of a titleholder.
Consider how your answer will make you sound.
Pageant questions that ask for your personal opinion about a subject that is controversial in nature must be handled with special care. The traditional judging guideline for pageant interviewing has been that contestants are not to be penalized if a judge disagrees with their viewpoint, but are to be judged according to how well they defend their own view.
Recent development have indicated that on-stage interviews during national broadcasts where celebrity judges (rather than experienced local and state judges) are on the judges panel, that general principle of judging will probably not be in play. Consequently, contestants must use their own judgement in answering highly controversial questions in a way that protects them for being potentially penalized for their views.
Consider the situation that Miss California USA, Carrie Prejean, faced at the Miss USA Pageant, where judges asked extremely controversial questions, during the live on-stage final interviews. Prejean, a political and social conservative, faced a particularly challenging scenario, when celebrity judge Perez Hilton, regarded by many as a same-sex activist, asked Miss California USA what she thought about same-sex marriage: “Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?”
Prejean answered honestly: “In my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be, between a man and a woman.”
Prejean placed as the first runner-up and Miss North Carolina, Kristen Dalton was crowned Miss USA. In an article published by ABC News, Hilton admitted, “She lost it because of that question. She was definitely the frontrunner before that.”
The incident ignited further controversy as Miss California USA pageant officials were upset by her pro-traditional marriage stand, and tensions increased to a point where Prejean was fired for issues related to breach of contract. That controversy, in turn, led to the media publishing some risque photos and a video that publicly embarrassed Prejean. It became one of the worst controversies in pageant history.
Of course, we would like to see such situations prevented through better judging structure. Pageants can prevent unfair judging situations from occurring by: (1) avoiding questions about the most controversial subjects on-stage, (2) screen all questions before they are asked on-stage, (3) ask all finalists the same question so that the young women face the same risk.
Handle pageant questions asking for your personal views tactfully
Questions about controversial subjects must always be handled with dignity, good taste, diplomacy and tact.
Consider the response of a national contestant who was asked in a national interview, “What is the difference between discipline and child abuse?” Without thinking, the young woman launched into a vivid explanation to the effect:
“Discipline is when a parent takes a kid out back to the shed and uses a switch or smacks ‘em around on the leg with a stick. Child abuse is when there’s blood all over the place and broken bones and stuff.”
The judges were so shocked they nearly fell off their chairs. If only someone had explained to the poor girl that there are many ways of stating the same point.
Her opinion could have been expressed in far better taste. Use tact.
Pageant Questions about your most embarrassing moment
Another area that leaves lots of room for embarrassing mistakes is when judges ask contestants to describe their most embarrassing experience. The answer reveals whether the young woman’s sense of humor is wholesome or bawdy, and what she considers to be proper topics of conversation (what might she say in public during her reign?).
In response to this question, one local entrant launched into a story about a series of risqué mishaps she had endured on her way to a bar. In conclusion she exclaimed, “I looked like a hooker or something!” In one moment she blemished the lovely image she had created.
Avoid mentioning words or subjects that have negative connotations:
- going to bars
- bad grades
- your first speeding ticket
- the time you got suspended from school
Obvious? You’d be surprised how many contestants detonate otherwise fine interviews with such bombshells. Judges want the titleholder they select to possess the qualities of a winner. While they are charmed by sincerity and candor, judges are turned off by a girl who is so candid or untactful that she shocks the judges.
Never express your views in a way that will place you in an unflattering light. Use good judgment when expressing yourself.
Remember, the only thing judges know about you is what you choose to show them. Every remark you utter creates a picture in judges’ minds. You decide what picture you paint. Have you portrayed yourself as a Rembrandt-or something from the comic page? Don’t place yourself in an unflattering light that might cause judges to question your suitability to represent your community as a titleholder.
Memorize this: “She who guards her mouth and her tongue keeps herself from calamity.” (Proverbs 21 :23, paraphrased).