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Jalee Fuselier, Miss Hawaii 2010
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Katie Taylor, Miss Kansas Teen USA 2012, Top 16 Miss Teen USA 2013

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MarkBallas-MissAmerica2Many experienced pageant contestants are asked to judge at some point in their pageant career.  Today’s post is part 2 of a two-part series to help you be the perfect pageant judge!

5Take notes about each contestant.  If there are more than five contestants in a competition division, you probably need to take notes on the contestants.  This will help you to remember any red-flags or stand-out performances during the interview or on-stage competition.  This is especially helpful if you’re judging a multiple-day, multiple-division pageant.  For confidentiality purposes, remember to turn in any notes you’ve taken to the Judges Coordinator when you turn in your judges notebook after the pageant.  Just a quick note here and there will help you remember which contestant really impressed you!

6.  Remember to smile.  Remember to smile at each contestant during your questions and answers in the interview and while they’re competing on stage.  Everyone one appreciates a friendly face during a pageant and this is your chance to practice your “queen” skills by encouraging others.  Directors want all their contestants to have a positive experience at the pageant and it’s not your job to be intimidating or a scary.  Regardless of the contestant’s skill level, remember to give them the courtesy of a smile!

7.  Judge the contestant based on the pageant criteria.  When you’re assigning the point values or actual score for each contestant, keep in mind the pageant criteria.  For example the criteria for a local festival pageant might be less stringent than for a large state USA pageant.  And the expectations for a national pageant are much higher than the expectations for a local preliminary.  Don’t give an inappropriately high or low score based on your personal pageant background or competition experience.  Your scores should be relative to the pageant and the expectations for this particular group of contestants.  Accurate, thoughtful scoring will earn you an invitation to judge again in the future!

8.  Maintain confidentiality of pageant scores.  It’s sometimes tempting to provide a little “helpful feedback” to a favorite contestant or to express support to a contestant you’d like to see compete again. Remember that as a judge you are expected to respect the confidentiality of the pageant and not share your scores or comments directly, or indirectly, with contestants or their family members.  Also, a judge should never speculate or share impressions about how a fellow judge may have voted.  Additionally, while you may be providing encouraging feedback, contestants are so physically and emotionally drained immediately after the pageant that any positive feedback leaves them confused and wondering why they didn’t win the pageant if you, as a judge, said they did a great job.  If you really feel that your feedback may be helpful for a contestant, share your feedback with the pageant director or their pageant coach who can share this information with the contestant under the right circumstances.  Not respecting the confidentiality of pageant scores is completely inappropriate, confuses contestants, always gets back to the pageant director and is the fastest way to shut down your career as a pageant judge.

What Do Today


2013 Miss USA judges NeNe Leakes, Betsey Johnson, Mo Rocca, Jessica Robertson, Larry Fitzgerald, Wendie Malick.

Qualified judges are the backbone of any successful pageant.  Here’s the first post in a two-part series with tips so you can be the perfect pageant judge!

1. Research the pageant philosophy.  Every pageant has a specific philosophy.  Is the pageant “established” with a fully developed message and staff to manage appearances?  Or is it a relative newcomer in the pageant community and focusing on marketing itself through the titleholder’s work?  Do they want the judges to make a final choice based on just one scoring category or are they looking for an overall well-rounded contestant?  Check out the pageant website or ask the pageant director about the pageant philosophy.  Understanding how the pageant is positioning and marketing itself in the pageant community is essential to selecting the best contestant for the job!

2. Thoroughly understand the scoring system.  Every pageant has a scoring system that supports their unique pageant philosophy.  Platform pageants tend to put heavy emphasis on personal and on-stage pageant interview questions, while glamour pageants emphasize stage appearance and fitness level.  Leadership or scholarship pageants typically give top scores for community involvement and academic achievement.  Make sure you fully understand the judging categories and how each category is weighted in the overall score.  You need to be making your final vote based on the scoring category that is most important for that pageant.  If you fully understand the scoring system you’ll be evaluating contestants based on the pageant’s philosophy, not your own personal preference.

3. Understand the interview format.  It’s important that judges understand what questions the director would like asked and which ones are strictly off limits.  Many “beginners” pageants prefer judges to ask pageant interview questions just from the contestant’s resume.  Other pageants include questions from the resume as well as basic questions appropriate to the contestant’s age/division, but specifically exclude political, religious, or controversial questions.  And there are pageants where any type of question can, and will, be asked.  The pageant director should clearly outline what types of pageant interview questions are appropriate during your judging orientation.  If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask the director for clarification.  There’s no worse nightmare than a judge who asks a question that the director told contestants would not be asked.  The contestant leaves the interview, makes a beeline to the director, and complains about the inappropriate question.  A good judge knows what they’d like to discuss with the contestant and which questions are not relevant to the pageant.

4. Pay attention to every contestant.  While it’s tempting to make assumptions based on first impressions, make sure you’re giving the same level of time and attention to each contestant.  Whether she’s a first-timer or an experienced contestant, she’s spent time, energy, and money preparing for the pageant.  Even if you’ve already ruled out a contestant for the title, they deserve your attention during their interview and on-stage competition.  Basically you should be following the golden rule of judging here: give them the same level of focus and attention you would want if you were the one being judged!

Check back soon for part-two of You Be the Judge.