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Pageant Basics: What Pageant Judges Look For

by Shauna Smith Duty


The pageant judge holds your golden ticket. If your child can impress the judges, he or she is a shoe in to win! Problem is, how are you supposed to know what the judges are looking for? Furthermore, how are you supposed to get your 2-year-old to care?

Children’s pageants have two distinct sub-groups: babies and children over 4 years old. In baby pageants, a parent is allowed to stand on stage behind the child. Obviously, for non-walkers, the parent holds the child up for the judges to see. Children over the age of 4 go on stage without a parent chaperone. Judges look for a star-personality and award-winning smile in pageant contestants of any age. For contestants’ training and presentations, though, these on stage situations are vastly different.

Rebecca Lowry has participated in pageants as a contestant, a mother of a contestant, and a proud grandmother of a contestant. In holding her grandson, Steven, on stage for judges, she learned some tricks to provoke a smile from him. “I would hold him where my hand was on one of his thighs and I would tickle him in front of the judges!” she says. Rebecca also suggests inquiring prior to the pageant to determine if family members are allowed to stand behind the judges. In baby pageants, this is sometimes allowed. A family member behind the judges can make eye contact with your baby, wave, smile, make faces, or do whatever is necessary to make your baby show off a prize winning smile for the judges to admire.

Shylah R., pageant mother of Emma Starr, says, “Get your child to smile, laugh, blow kisses, or talk (even if it is their own language).” For a baby contestant, Shylah suggests entering as many contests as possible to acquaint your child with the process.

Children over 4 years old
Once a child is 4 years old, he or she has to go on stage without a parent. This can be frightening if the child is unprepared. Rebecca suggests, “Have your child introduce himself to the checkout lady at the supermarket, or to your hairdresser.” For Steven, she set up a pretend stage at home, and he can choose to practice for a few hours each day. While she does not make him practice, the availability of the stage, and her assistance in helping him with whichever skills he wants to work on, encourage regular practice. “We want to make sure that he is very confident in every aspect of pageantry,” she explains.

Shylah suggests having your child practice in front of a mirror or a group of people. Some pageants allow parent and child to practice on stage before the pageant begins. Ask a pageant administrator if this is allowed, and if so, show up a little early to practice.

“For child pageants, [judges] look for a combination of things,” Shylah explains. “They look at [a contestant’s] appearance, ability to stand in front of a crowd without being shy; they look for being personable. When it comes to the interview process, they look for loud, clear voices that speak with few mistakes. When it comes to speech, make sure that your child knows what they are going to say forward and backward, because this way they will be sure not to stumble over words.”

A perfectly schedule bad day
You’ve spent time, money, and invested a wealth of commitment into this day—pageant day. Unfortunately, your little princess (or prince) isn’t in the mood for a show today. What to do? First, don’t get angry. Rebecca suggests avoiding bad pageant days by waking up a little later than usual to ensure enough sleep. Then, stop for breakfast at a special place to set the stage for a great day. Take along lots of favorite toys and activities to keep your child happily occupied.

Rebecca and Shylah agree, the best pageant judges are great with kids. However, you don’t choose the judges. Your job as a pageant parent is to equip and prepare your child for pageants. Wardrobe, financial, and emotional support are required, but practice is also important. If your child loves pageantry, but you don’t seem to have a knack for coaching effective practice sessions, consider hiring a pageant coach.

“I feel that pageant coaches are well worth it,” says Shylah. “But I wouldn’t recommend it until they are a little older, because pageant coaches are there to tell you exactly what you are doing wrong. They don’t sugar coat it, so kids that get their feelings hurt easily may be discouraged.” She says children over 4 years old could benefit from a pageant coach.

Rebecca disagrees. “You are the best coach for your child, because you know your child inside and out, and if you visit a few pageants before you enter, your child will know what is expected.”

Whether or not a judge hands your child a golden ticket, the most important aspect of pageantry is fun. The time you and your child spend working together toward a goal will make lifelong memories, pass down work ethics and family values, and establish a solid relationship that will continue into your child’s adulthood. Of course, as a pageant contestant, your child need to give the judges what they want. But it’s up to you to give your child what he needs.


Comment Pages: 1 2 3

Wed, May 25, 2011 12:56pm

my daughter is in "miss princesita palm beach", I hope she wins if she doesn't it's fine with me, just by looking at her been very happy about it, makes me feel that she is the winner already.

Sat, Dec 11, 2010 7:43am

looking for saint louis mo

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 1:13pm

are there any pageants or toddler contest in pueblo, colorado?

Wed, Jul 14, 2010 9:13pm

Calliemaureen, that is the same pageant I am entering my daughter in. The NES in Cromwell, CT on August 7th. Is that the same one your daughter will be in?

Sun, Jul 11, 2010 4:03pm

Ok so I noticed a lot of questions about pageant locations. I found one in my area that also hold pageants nationwide.... NES pageant. Good luck everyone

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