So long Pageants and Welcome a New Age
School is back in full force across the country and though we are still going through this global pandemic, students are trying to get back to learning in the classroom and seeing their friends, and have a safe & successful school year! But now as the kids head back to school, I have a few moments to reflect on the summer season and what's happening in pageants.
After 65 days on the road to seven states and driving 4,000 miles, not only did I learn where the best gas stations are and best rest stops and experiencing great sun sets and sun rises, I also learned a lot about how pageants are shifting and the "traditional" pageant experiences is almost going, going, gone. Though I could speak for HOURS on all of these topics, here are a few of the biggest topics to spark conversation.
A judges panel is essential to a great outcome of a pageant but the panel doesn't always "blend." What does that mean? Well perhaps the panel itself doesn't have the same idea of what they are looking for or perhaps that means the panel isn't as well versed on what the pageant itself stands for in order to find the right girl to be the representative. It's kind of like having the right outfit but having to find the right shoes. The shoe might fit, but does the shoe do the outfit justice?
A judges panel should also cover different areas of competition instead of being from all the same side of pageantry. So what should you watch out for? Each judge should have an expertise in an area of judging: Communication, Talent, Modeling, Fashion, marketing, etc. If a judges panel consists of only queens from one pageant system, then that means the entire style of the pageant shifts: modeling is one-sided to a certain "style," as well as fashion being one-sided to a certain "style," or even paperwork, speaking skills, and marketing plans. It also means that if you do your research deeply enough then you're bound to find a connection between a judge and delegate because either they coached together or even reigned together, if the judges are former queens. A judges panel should also have 'non-pageant' judges plus some with knowledge of pageants & responsibilities of titleholders.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is how many judges there are for a competition. Typically there are an odd number so there aren't ties. So if you see an even number of judges, I would probably keep an eye on that. We also like to watch the judges during the show: if they have smiles or expressionless, write a lot or distracted, etc.
Are they too chatty-Cathy with each other? (They shouldn't be.)
Are they passing notes to each other? (They shouldn't be.)
Are they paying attention to the delegate while they are on stage? (They SHOULD be - duh!)
Are the judges hanging out together too much after the shows in public? (They shouldn't be at all because it allows too much wiggle room for them to start having open discussions about the delegates and that could sway the other judge's opinions.).
Lastly on judges, directors sometimes provide a judges manual to their delegates so everyone is aware of what the judges are being told in regards to what to look for in competition. (Definitely much appreciated!) BUT, I would also ask the directors (1) Do the judges know and understand the difference between 'natural', 'glitz' and 'semi-glitz' styles of clothing and modeling? and (2) Do the judges understand what to look for when they need to deduct points for rule violations? (More on that later.)
How many times have you competed in a pageant and one of the following happens:
You get your scores back
You get your scores back plus everyone else's scores (Like a spread sheet)
You get your scores back and the highest scoring-score in each category or a min/max
You only get your overall ranking back
You only get judge's comments back
You get NOTHING back.
This is the MOST annoying part of pageants. Look, I know we are trying to build up the confidence of these young ladies in competition but let's face it ... you PAID MONEY to be in a competitive sport that gives a numerical value on different areas of competition. You paid to get results back. You paid for feedback. You paid to know SOMETHING and to definitively know where you need to focus on for improvement. You didn't pay for an expensive slumber party or for everyone to go home with a crown and spotlight time. (I mean you could do that at home and save THOUSANDS of dollars!) Each director will have a different reason as to why they handle scores differently and YES, it is the director's choice, BUT, you also PAY them and without YOU and YOUR money those directors have NO PAGEANT! For a coach (and you as a pageant parent), scores are vitally important and without them we are only GUESSING at where we need to improve. Was it clothing, modeling, hair and makeup, speech, personality? Who knows?
Now the discussion turns to Tally Genie vs regular paper score sheets. First off, if you are getting the entire, unedited score sheet from each judge in each category, then I am ALLLL for that! And there are some pageants who do that! (Thank you!) You get scores and comments written by the judges, sometimes in the raw form, too. Your biggest red flag is if you DON'T get scores back AND they are on paper instead of a virtual format. I'll repeat that - IF YOU SEE JUDGES WRITING ON PAPER SCORE SHEETS AND YOU DO NOT GET ANY FEEDBACK AFTER THE PAGEANTS (numerical scores or comments) THEN THAT IS A RED FLAG! The opportunity and possibility is far too great for SOMEONE behind the scenes to alter the scores or change the outcome of the pageant. This means that Sally Sue might have won but because someone else wanted Bobbie Jo to win, the opportunity and possibility is there. Now, I am NOT SAYING that someone did do it, BUT you will always carry that shadow of a doubt with you and share that with other parents. That alone could one day kill a pageant system because of a bad reputation of cheating - even if they didn't. A pageant system's best & worst nightmare of publicity and marketing is the chatter of pageant moms.
NOTE: Tally Genie is a virtual format that allows judges to input their scores into a program and everything is done. Results. Rankings. Judges can even type in comments, if there is time. Just make sure you are getting a copy of these as well, otherwise, you're back at "no scores" scenario.
Rules are made to be broken - NOT!
Rules were made so that we don't have chaos and though in some areas of life, rules are meant to be tested so that things evolve, but in pageants, rules are made so that everyone is given (or supposed to be given) a fair start and chance. So what happens when rules are broken or the rules are changed (by the directors) to favor certain delegates?
We were faced with this a lot this summer. The handbook is law. If it is written in the handbook then the pageant system is supposed to uphold the law, but who is actually policing these rules and regulations? Well I can say that after this season, I don't think anyone is, honestly! Remember earlier when I mentioned "Do the judges understand what to look for when they need to deduct points for rule violations?" - Well now it's time to explain that.
Though the handbooks say whether you can or cannot wear makeup, or what type of clothing is or isn't allowed, or if you can or cannot have someone backstage helping you, or if you can or cannot take pics/videos in the dressing rooms, or even what type of modeling you can do and how long you can remain on stage, WHO IS POLICING THIS? Well it SHOULD be the director, but they are pretty busy for that job, so they SHOULD have a judges chair who enforces these rules and relays that info to the judges. At least to me, this is how it SHOULD be, but again, NOPE! So why should we follow rules if there are no consequences? Why are there rules in the firsts place if no one enforces them?
You might even read in the pageant handbook that point deductions are left to the judges discretions, meaning if the rule says "No NOTICEABLE MAKEUP" and Sallie Sue wears a full face of makeup on stage that anyone from the audience can clear see she's wearing makeup! ... (1) Do the judges know of this rule? (2) Who is reminding them to enforce this with a point deduction? (3) How much are they deducting if "left to the judges discretion"? (4) Do the points come off the total score at the end of competition? (5) What if the judges don't feel it should be deducted and decide to NOT deduct, even if aware of the rule?
That is too much "what if's!" so that is why I personally am in favor of the directors stepping up and being a DIRECTOR and set straightforward consequences for breaking rules. Whether it's a full point off the total score or half point deduction from each judge, or anything else they can make clear-cut, make a indisputable consequence for breaking rules. Otherwise, delegates (or even the moms telling the delegates) WILL IN FACT break the rules because they KNOW they will not face consequences and still make the finals or worse, still win the pageant.
You're probably thinking "I would NEVER do that!" ... well, then you weren't at some of the pageants we were at because we saw it FIRST HAND! Do directors really want rule breakers as their representatives? I guess some do, sadly. But if they don't want rule breakers as their queen then some directors get rid of that rule altogether - during competition - so then technically no one broke any rules. (Insert frustrated face and annoyed expression.)
When the Pageant World turns upside-down
Here is where I am just going to put all of the other stuff we faced during our 2021 Summer Season:
Prelim scores didn't count at all at some places.
You don't need someone inside of the interview room to keep time, unless maybe it's Round Robin. But, when the interview is private panel, your timer really should be on the outside of the interview room. Otherwise, they could very well send messages to later delegates or get too chatty-Kathy with pageants friends about everyone's interviews. Discretion is important.
Is social media a required category, or not? In some pageants it is stated that social media activity is a scored, required category. Excellent! We love IG and TikTok! BUT, if social media isn't a required category for the queen's title, then there is no excuse why directors are picking social media influencers for the free publicity. Now if they were the most qualified candidate overall in all areas of competition - GREAT! Let's celebrate her win! BUT when it's clear that there are other shoes that do the outfit justice .... then the judges or director picked the winner based on one factor instead of being well-rounded. Sadly, pageantry is going that way so if you aren't good with social media, you might want to find a Master class or find a youngin' to give you some lessons!
Favoritism is never a good look for a pageant system. You know pageant mommas talk!
Pre-determined winners. This happened a lot around the country in several different pageant systems. Moms and delegates took to social media and publicly call out pageant systems and directors who did this and more!
In closing ....
Yes, if there is so much that is wrong with pageantry, why do we stay in it? Well, we love it, and some could argue that we love it to a fault. I've had conversations with the directors expressing concern of these issues and more. Some listen. Some dismiss me. Some accept fault and make the changes to better their system. Some tell me that in time it'll blow over and those pageant moms will bring their money back for another try at their system. (....WOW....) But until YOU - the pageant parent - becomes vocal enough to make your concern heard, nothing will change, except the change of all these issues listed and more!
When I would visit other pageants, I would be asked about experiences at our previous pageants. We would sit and chat about experiences and opinions. While at Pageant Rainbow and you're discussing Pageant Unicorn because it went so horribly wrong - that is NOT how you want your pageant system to be talked about.
So when you're looking for a new system to try, do your research - ESPECIALLY if it's a newer system. Ask other moms for their first-hand experience. Talk to the director. Read reviews. Check social media for how active and well-represented the reigning queens are. Read the handbook and see if the categories and score breakdown benefit you as a contestant. Bring up these concerns to the director and see how they address them or if they have a policy in place. When you go, keep an open mind that not all pageants are bad BUT also keep an eye out for any discrepancies. If you wait until after the pageant is over to shed light on these issues then there is nothing anyone can do about it. It's your money, your time, your experience, but I would want my money's worth and a fair shot.
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