What is a Pageant?
A pageant is an The American Pageant;” to describe an elaborate play, such as a Christmas Pageant like the Fort Lauderdale Christmas Pageant, or the “Mormon Pageant,” a “spectacular outdoor theatrical event” celebrating the Book of Mormon. However, the most common use of the word today is to refer to a pageant competition where women are judged, such as Miss Universe, Miss World or Miss America, referred to a beauty pageant, although more commonly called “competitions” today.or outdoor theatrical event that event, institution, or historical era, often performed on-stage and involving costuming. Today, the term pageant is used in three general forms: to describe an impressive historical period, such as historical books on the theme of “
How Did Pageants Start?
A beauty pageant is an event that usually involves contestants, most often women or children, being judged on-stage by a panel of judges who score them on judging criteria such as beauty, personality, figure in swimsuit, intelligence, or speaking ability.
Such beauty pageants originally started as “bathing beauty reviews” which became popular beginning around 1917 when cities throughout the United Stated coastline began holding bathing beauty pageants in the summer. These pageants were exceptionally popular in California, Texas, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
In 1921, the businessmen of Atlantic City, New Jersey, decided to attempt to extend their summer tourism season past its traditional Labor Day cut-off by staging a beauty pageant which they referred to as a “bathing beauty review”. A hotel-man suggested, “Let’s call her Miss America!” Thus was born the famous of all pageants, the Miss America Pageant.
In its early form, the bathing beauty review to choose a Miss America was a straightforward beauty contests where the contestants paraded before judges in swimsuits. In the first event, eight young women competed. Judges chose Miss Washington D.C., Margaret Gorman, a schoolgirl as the first “Miss America“.
What Are the Major Pageant Systems?
The famous Miss America Pageant is the oldest and most famous of the pageants and has evolved from a bathing beauty review in 1921 into the Miss America Competition, the world’s leading scholarship pageant for women. In fact, the Miss America Organization, a non-profit organization which is highly respected for its contributions to women’s lives through scholarship awards, founded the very concept of a “scholarship pageant”.
The Miss America Pageant added scholarships to the event in 1945 when its Director, Lenora Slaughter, canvassed businesses during World War II to donate funds toward a scholarship fund for women – a extremely difficult undertaking at the time given the nation’s focus on helping American GIs. Nevertheless, Slaughter prevailed and founded the first scholarship pageant for women, awarding the first $5000 scholarship to Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945, of New York.
The Miss America Pageant judging of contestants has evolved dramatically since its inception in 1921. First, the Talent Competition was added in 1938 to expand the competition’s focus beyond mere beauty – and quite probably as a reflection of the country’s fascination with the Hollywood’s dancing movie stars, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Eleanor Powell, and Shirley Temple. Breakfast and luncheon interviews with judges were then added to allow judges to assess contestants’ communication skills and social graces (One contestant reported that, inevitably, judges would ask her a question the moment she took a bit of food). Private interviews with the judges panels soon followed, along with “easy” and “hard” on-stage questions in the 1950’s to assess how quickly a young woman could think on her feet.
Today, the Miss America Organization describes itself as “a 501(c)4 non-profit organization, is the nation’s leading advocate for women’s education and the largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women in the United States, awarding millions of dollars annually in cash awards and in-kind tuition waivers. MAO is comprised of 52 licensed organizations, including all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.”
Titleholders at the local, state and national levels receive scholarships – some quite substantial – and many other semi-finalists, finalists and runners-up also are awarded scholarships. The woman chosen as Miss America earns a $50,000 scholarship, in addition to whatever scholarships she has earned at the local and state levels.
Judging is based on three levels of competitions, local, state and national. Contestants are evaluated by panels of judges who, at the local and state levels, are put through judging workshops to prepare them to be qualified in the judging process. At the national level, judging is split between two panels: preliminary judges who score contestants during three nights of preliminary competitions, and a panel of celebrity judges who score contestants during the televised finals. Contestants are evaluated using a judging formula that includes Interviews, Talent Competition, Evening Gown Competition, and Lifestyle & Fitness (formerly the Swimsuit Competition).
In addition, contestants are expected to be active in community service and to promote a “platform” advocating a cause, civic organization, or charity of their choosing during their year. At the local, state and national levels, judges ask contestants detailed questions about their platforms and how they would promote public service if selected as the titleholder.
Additionally, since 2007, the official national platform of the Miss America Organization has been Children’s Miracle Network and each Miss America tours hospitals supporting fundraising efforts throughout her year of service.
Miss America’s Outstanding Teen
The Miss America Organization founded its sister program, Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, a scholarship pageant that awards college scholarships to girls age 13 and 17 through competition. Categories of competition include: Scholastic Achievement, Private Interview, Talent, Evening Wear/On-Stage Question, and Lifestyle & Fitness. According to the organization’s literature, “The Miss America’s Outstanding Teen program promotes scholastic achievement, creative accomplishment, healthy living and community involvement for America’s teens.” As of 2017, this organization has awarded over one million dollars in cash scholarships.
Contestants compete in interview, talent, formal wear, and physical fitness. The national winner of the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant wins a $30,000 in scholarship. The program also offers a “Teens in Training Camp” for girls ages 12-17, which provides mentoring to help girls “improve on skills that translate from the stage to the real world and a “Princess Camp” for girls ages 5 to 12 to enhance their self-confidence. >> News about Miss America’s Teen
Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA
The three sister pageants – Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA – are all owned and operated by the same organization, IMG Universe LLC, which purchased the pageants from business tycoon Donald Trump in 1996. Trump, who had substantially built up the reputation of the organization, sold his interests in order to run for the Presidency of the United States.
Today, the Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions are extremely professional, engaging television broadcasts that attract young women of the highest caliber from around the world, from medical and dental students, to lawyers, and television broadcasters. There is no question that young women perceive their participation as a potential life-changing opportunity.
The most famous pageant internationally is the Miss Universe Pageant, founded in 1952 when swimwear manufacturer Catalina held the new Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants together in Long Beach, California. Thirty American women competed for the first Miss USA title, won by New York’s Jackie Lougherty. Twenty-nine international contestants compete for the first Miss Universe title. Actress Piper Laurie crowned the first winner, Miss Finland, Armi Kuusela.
The Miss Universe pageant rapidly increased in popularity, especially after 1973, when the event began to be broadcast live around the world via satellite. Today, the competition includes contestants from some 86 countries worldwide. Miss Universe is now held in different exotic international locations each year. Miss Universe is judged on Interview, Evening Gown, Swimsuit, and On-Stage Question.
In 1965, the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants were separated into two different competitions staged in different locations on different dates. In 1973, the Miss USA Pageant launched its tradition of Miss USA pageants being broadcast from various cities throughout the country.
Miss Teen USA
In addition to the sister pageant, Miss USA, Miss Universe also has a sister pageant for teenage girls ages 15–19, the Miss Teen USA Pageant. That event was first held in 1983 in Lakeland, Florida with Ruth Zakarian, Miss Teen New York, chosen as the first Miss Teen USA.
For years, Miss Teen USA was judged on Interview, Evening Gown, Physical Fitness Attire, and On-Stage Question, but in 2016 organizers dropped the swimsuit competition in favor of the teenage contestants appearing onstage in athletic-wear instead.
The Miss World Pageant was founded in 1951 by Eric Morley as a “festival bikini contest” to promote the Festival of Britain. Originally a full-fledged beauty pageant, the first event featured contestants wearing the new-fangled — and scandalous — “bikini”. The winner, Kiki Haakonson, Miss Sweden, was crowned in a two-piece swimsuit, making her the only Miss World to be crowned while wearing a two-piece swimsuit. The contest quickly switched to more traditional swimwear of the era – one-piece swimsuits featuring a quaint “modesty panel”. In 2013, Miss World officials banned bikinis and required contestants to wear long sarongs in the swimsuit competition to avoid offending the Muslim population of the host nation, Indonesia, and in 2015, Miss World discontinued the swimsuit competition.
Contestants represent approximately 120 nations and are judged on beauty of face, figure, charm, poise, deportment, personality, Interview and onstage communication. In addition to the Miss World title, other titles awards during judging include: Queen of Americas, Queen of Caribbean, Queen of Africa, Queen of Asia, and Queen of Europe.
Over time, the Miss World Pageant evolved and aligned itself with Variety Clubs International to raise funds for world charities. It eventually chose the slogan “Beauty with a Purpose” and heavily focuses on involvement with charitable outreach projects worldwide. “Beauty with a Purpose” charitable projects have been undertaken in more over 100 countries, giving young women “the opportunity to use their abilities to make a real and lasting contribution to the lives of the sick and disadvantaged…Hundreds of millions of pounds have been raised and donated to local and international organisations in aid of disadvantaged children the world over.” (Source: Miss World)
The Cinderella International Scholarship Pageant, a scholarship pageant for children, was founded in 1976, and describes itself as ” largest and most prestigious scholarship oriented pageant system of its kind in the world…awarding millions of dollars in cash college scholarships to young women from the United States and a host of foreign countries.” Cinderella is based on three levels of competitions, local, state and international. Judging evaluates contestants on the wider range of qualities associated with scholarship pageants.
According to the Cinderella website, judges look for “a natural, unaffected young lady to represent our program. She should be charming and personable; well groomed and poised; self-confident; and above all have the character, humility and inner beauty that sets her apart as a leader. A Cinderella winner is at ease in a crowd and is respectful of those around her. Her manners, dress and behavior are age appropriate. It is important to note that the concept of “beauty” in Cinderella is defined as a person’s “inner beauty” and strength of character combined with her personal achievements in at least one area of the performing arts as well as her ability to communicate effectively with others. Cinderella does not place emphasis on physical beauty, but rather seeks to promote the beautiful inner person that should reside in everyone.” (Source: Cinderella)
The competition judges: Interview, Partywear Modeling, Formalwear Modeling, Casualwear Modeling, Photogenic, On Stage Interview (Tot Division), and Talent (Mini – Woman’s Division). Unlike other scholarship pageants, Cinderella focuses on a wider range of ages: Cinderella Infant – (0-11 months), Cinderella Baby (12-23 months), Cinderella Tiny Tot (24-35 months), Cinderella Tot (ages 3-6 years), Cinderella Mini Miss (ages 7-9 years), Cinderella Miss (ages 10-12), Cinderella Teen (ages 13-17) and Cinderella Woman (ages 18-26).
What Are The Different Types of Pageants?
The entire industry of “pageants” evolved from beauty pageants, as described earlier in this post. However, these beauty pageants or beauty contests as they are sometimes called have evolved considerably over the years. In their original form, beauty pageants judged beauty of face and figure and personality.
However, over time, society has come to frown upon judging girls and women based solely on physical appearance as demeaning and exploitative. As a result, most of the major pageants, including Miss America, Miss Universe and Miss USA, started as beauty pageants and evolved over the years to emphasize other qualities. Today, true beauty pageants are less common.
Scholarship pageants have become increasingly popular over the years as society has emphasized encouraging young women to achieve their potential academically and professionally. Today’s scholarship pageants award substantial scholarships to high school and college women, and judge a broad range of categories, from talent and personal interviews, to academic achievement and community service platforms. The best known scholarship pageant is Miss America, but other respected scholarship pageants include Miss Americas Outstanding Teen, Cinderella International, Miss Collegiate / High School / Junior High School America, and MAC pageants.
A children’s pageant is an event that presents babies and children on-stage for evaluation by a panel of judges based on various criteria which can include: physical beauty, personality, OOC (Outfit of Choice), swimsuit, talent, interviews, and on-stage questions.
Children’s pageants are divided into two major types: glitz pageants and natural pageants.
Beauty pageants for children began as early as the 1920’s when they were occasionally held in major cities as small contests to pick prettiest babies. By the 1950’s they became more common, but were still a largely unknown phenomenon. By the early 1960s, children’s pageants were beginning to sprout up as prim-and-proper events to help little girls wearing party dresses develop confidence by presenting themselves on-stage. The first international pageant for children, “Little Miss Universe,” was staged in Miami, Florida and discontinued in 1966.
A natural pageant is a competition for children designed to focus on their natural appearance and to provide opportunities for girls, and often boys, to develop confidence. Unlike glitz pageants (see below), children in natural pageants are required to look and behave in natural, age-appropriate ways. Cosmetics, flippers, hair-pieces, spray tans, body glitter, hair glitter and body glitter are not allowed in any stage of competition. Contestants appear in pretty party dresses similar to what little girls might wear to a party or an Easter church service. At no time is a child allowed to wear any attire that is inappropriate for the age.
Judging focuses on children’s natural beauty and may include competitions such as Party Dress, Talent, Photogenic, Interview, and Personality. Some pageants hold “Playtime” where judges observe, and even play along with, children in a natural setting to allow judges to evaluate children’s personalities in a more natural setting.
One of the best examples of a natural pageant is the Our Little Miss Pageant, a natural scholarship pageant for children founded by Marge Hannaman in 1962 “to promote an outlet for young girls to have a way to better their social, business and personal speaking skills to enable them to grow in the business ‘man’s’ world.”
A glitz pageant is a true beauty pageant for children. Contestants wear heavy makeup, false eyelashes, hairpieces, spray tans, flippers (artificial teeth that slip over the natural teeth), and acrylic nails. They compete in highly-ornate, beaded, glitz dresses that are usually quite expensive. Glitz competition usually feature Talent and an event called OOC, short for “Outfit of Choice”, where judges focus on creativity and originality.
For the Photogenic award, contestants submit photos of themselves in heavy make-up and hairpieces, and which are highly enhanced through Photoshop. These pageants achieved international recognition with the tragic murder of glitz contestant Jon Benet Ramsey, and with the launch of the television series “Toddlers & Tiaras”, which followed little girls as they competed in glitz pageants.