The only thing I knew about pageants 6 years ago was that my kids would never, ever be in one. Pageants represented everything I didn’t want my girls to be — superficial, shallow, and all about appearances. Then there was the show Toddlers & Tiaras.
So pageants were a hard no. Until they weren’t…
It just so happens that 6 years ago I was working as an Account Executive for a local TV station, one of my accounts was the MS Gulf Coast Coliseum. Every year our station hosted a talent competition on the opening night of the Crawfish Festival, Search for a Superstar. The whole production tied in with American Idol on FOX. Then American Idol left Fox and we needed a replacement event.
We brainstormed and I came up with the idea of a pageant. Many festivals have some kind of Queen so it made sense — except, we had never produced a pageant before. Enter Debra Godber, Pageant Director extraordinaire! Debra and her partner at the time reached out once they heard we were working on a pageant for the Crawfish Festival and we went on to produce a successful show together.
After we wrapped up the Crawfish Festival Pageant, Debra asked me about my girls competing in a pageant. It was still a hard no for me. She was very gracious and did a little more probing to find out why. So, I shared all of my thoughts and my disdain for the show Toddlers and Tiaras (total transparency: I watch it, but there was no way my girls were participating in that.) She laughed and went on to explain why I should reconsider.
Our honest conversation and everything she said made sense and I decided to enter my three girls in a local pageant.
My girls loved it and honestly, so do I. I had a lot about the pageant world wrong, and I am grateful to have had someone like Debra not only introduce me but also become my mentor as I am now a pageant director. Who would have thunk it? Me the hard no on pageants, now a pageant director??!!
I want to help dispel some of the myths about the pageant world.
ALL PAGEANTS ARE GLITZ
There are two types of pageant systems: Glitz and Natural. Glitz pageants are mostly what you see on TV shows, etc. Glitz pageant kids wear full make-up, flipper teeth, fake nails, they do choreographed routines, etc. They are typically more expensive to compete in as the dresses can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Most people enter the pageant world through natural pageant systems which are way less intimidating. Debra introduced me to natural pageants. Natural pageant systems especially for the 0-11 age range do not allow full make up, fake hair, nails, etc. The attire is special occasion dresses that you can buy at Target or TJ Maxx.
Rather than a choreographed routine the judges are looking for personality and poise. Once all of this was explained to me I was a little more open to trying a pageant.
PAGEANTS ARE SUPERFICIAL
For the 0-11 year olds in a natural pageant system, they really focus on the kids being comfortable on stage and showing their personality. What really sold me on pageant life is when I had the opportunity to watch 12 year old girls interview at a state level pageant. I was blown away!
These girls really have to go through a real interview process with different judges who look at their resume. I was so impressed at how poised many of these young ladies were and any one of them would be highly successful in a college interview and/or job interview.
I want my girls to be able to command a stage and also perform well in one-on-one situations, pageants really help develop these skills.
MOST KIDS HATE GETTING ON STAGE
Most kids actually love being on stage! Not all, but most in my experience. My kids were shy and timid at our first pageant. I had no idea what I was doing and I just didn’t want my girls to walk away crying like I have seen on the TV Show.
My girls had an amazing time, all of the kids received a crown, sash, and goody bag. They did crown winners but my girls had so much fun meeting the other kids and walking on stage, they asked me immediately when the next pageant would be. They didn’t care who won.
I have now directed and judged pageants. I have seen a few kids cry on stage, but the majority of them really love getting their moment to shine. It’s actually fun to watch.
I would say the people who can ruin a pageant are parents who are too competitive and who are pressuring their kids to perform. This kind of energy changes the experience for the child — I don’t recommend that. I encourage my parents to let their kids be themselves and not to over coach.
One year at state pageant I told my daughter to show her pretty bloomers, I meant to say spin and show your pretty bloomers. She went on stage and pulled her dress over her head, we laughed. That same daughter went on to win a state title in 2019.
ALL PAGEANTS REQUIRE TALENT OR A SWIMSUIT
A common misconception about pageants is that you have to perform or walk in a swimsuit. That is not the case because there are hundreds of pageant systems for all types of people. They all have different rules and requirements.
The Magnolia State Pageant system does not require talent or swimsuit and is open to all ages, and boys up to age 11. I love the inclusivity of that. There are women who are 70 years old that compete in the Mrs division!
YOU ONLY GET A CROWN
Most large pageant systems offer cash prizes! My daughter won $1,000 when she won the title of Little Miss Magnolia State in 2019. Older girls win a cash prize, an amazing trip, along with some other great incentives.
If your teenager is looking for scholarship money, pageants can definitely help pay their way through school. Once they get older, it costs more to participate but that’s where those great social skills they develop come in and they get sponsors to help offset costs.
THERE ARE CLIQUES
As with any sports team, dance, or gymnastics, the more you participate the more people you meet. I remember one year being backstage as a helper for the teens competing, one of the young ladies had a problem with her casual wear outfit and did not have a back up. She was devastated and crying. The other girls rallied around her and pulled an outfit together for her to wear. It was truly amazing to watch these young ladies put their own interest aside to help a friend. That’s really been my experience in the pageant world, just meeting genuinely nice people.
Have I piqued your curiosity?
I am directing a pageant for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Aquarium on July 25th! There are cash prizes but most importantly we will have fun. Not only will we crown a Little, Junior and Miss Mississippi Aquarium but we will be sending some of the high scorers to the Magnolia State Pageant in Vicksburg, MS.
This is a great pageant for beginners. You can find more info about the pageant at Miss Aquarium Pageant.
If you still have questions contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org