Don’t Fall Victim to a Beauty Pageant that Could Break the Bank

Many advertisements seeking beauty pageant participants read, “Win Big Prizes! Scholarships! Cash! Become the Next Supermodel!”  These ads are appealing to parents of young children, teens and others who are convinced they have what it takes to become the next big star. Participating in a beauty pageant may provide a rewarding experience, but many would-be contestants find that some pageant promoters do not deliver what they promise. While there are legitimate pageants, there are also those – whose only purpose is to fatten the pockets of promoters.

Before entering into a pageant, parents and others who want to get involved should consider the following questions:

How long has the company been operating pageants? Who are the directors? Usually pageants are operated by for-profit organizations that solicit participants by mail or print advertising, or by broadcast media, to compete for recognition and prizes from the promoter.

What is the total cost of pageant participation for both the entrant and the chaperone? Oftentimes, family or business sponsors are asked to pay a sponsorship fee, which can vary in size, to the pageant promoter to cover hotel rental fees, awards, administrative costs and salary for company personnel and to generate company profits. Also, keep in mind that there are other costs for entrants, such as clothing, make-up, food and lodging.

Can the location (place of business) of the pageant company be verified? Where and when will the actual pageant be held? What accommodations are provided for contestants? Will there be adequate supervision?

Do all of the details add up? Are there judges and what are their qualifications? Do they have any affiliation with the company? Are refunds possible if a contestant decides to withdraw from the pageant? How are the winners chosen? What criteria are used for selection? What are the obligations of the winning contestant? What do former contestants and winners have to say about the pageant? Ask the company for references. Finally, what benefit will be derived from participating or winning?

Do the winnings sound too good to be true? If so, they probably are. Be sure to read any contract carefully and thoroughly in advance of entering a pageant to understand the rights and responsibilities of the winner or other contestants.

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About Kelsey Owen

Kelsey Owen is the Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Better Business Bureau serving Metro Washington DC and Eastern PA. Prior to December 2014, Kelsey was the Communications and Marketing Coordinator for the Council of Better Business Bureaus based out of Arlington, VA. Kelsey graduated from Denison University with a degree in economics and communication and is currently pursuing a master's degree in media entrepreneurship.