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Educational Consumer Tips

Beauty Pageants - Questions and Answers

Author: Rachel Gelb
Category: Service

Consumers ask Better Business Bureau many questions about beauty pageants; this report addresses these concerns and suggests points to consider before entering a pageant. Information on a specific organization and its directors may be obtained from your local Better Business Bureau.

"Who operates pageants and how do they work?"
Pageants are usually operated by for-profit organizations that solicit girls and young women (some solicit boys, men and babies) by mail or print advertising, or by broadcast media, to compete for recognition and prizes from the promoter. The competition may be based on several categories such as: personality, appearance, talent, civic achievements, judges' interview, and writing ability within an age group. Some promoters may also encourage contestants to sell ads for pageant programs and tickets to the pageant by offering cash prizes, awards or titles at the pageant for the one who sells the most. A national pageant may run a local pageant or grant a franchise for a local pageant to be conducted by state directors. In areas where there are no accommodations for a pageant, the company may advertise through local media for contestants-at-large. Winners of local pageants affiliated with national pageants and contestants-at-large may be entered into the next level-state or national.

"Will the proceeds of the pageant go to a charity?"
Some pageants claim a charity will receive proceeds from the pageant ticket sales. If you are solicited in this manner, be sure to ask what portion of the fee will go to the charity. According to the Internal Revenue Service, you can deduct only the share directly benefiting the charity. If a pageant is conducted on behalf of a charity, check with your local Better Business Bureau for additional information on the charity involved. Your state's charity registration office (usually located in the state capital) should be able to tell you if the charity needs to be registered to solicit in your state and if the charity is in compliance with state laws. Check with the charity to determine if it has given the pageant permission to use its name in fundraising.

"How did the promoter get our daughter's name?"
Many pageants ask contestants on the entry form for names of friends or relatives who would be interested in competing in the pageant. Some companies may even offer a prize for the referrals. The company might purchase mailing lists or solicit schools and civic groups for lists of names. As a result, your daughter may receive a letter stating she is being considered as a possible contestant for a pageant with later notification of this selection. At this point, she may already be considered a "finalist" without having undergone any competition with other contestants.

"What is a sponsorship fee?"
This fee, which can vary, is paid to the pageant promoter in full or in part by business sponsors, friends and family depending on the promoter. It generally covers the cost of the pageant, hotel rental fees, awards, printing, administrative costs, salary for company personnel and company profits. For each subsequent pageant level, a winning contestant may be asked to provide another sponsorship fee.

"What other costs can we expect?"
Consider costs of clothing, costumes, make-up for the entrant as well as travel, food and lodging for both the entrant and a chaperone, if necessary. Find out if talent competition costs extra. Photograph packages may be offered at an additional fee.

"The prizes sound great! What's the catch?"
Prizes vary depending on the pageant. At a local or county level, the only "prize" received may be recognition and a chance to represent that specific area. As the level of pageant increases, other prizes may be offered by the promoter. Typical prize items may include watches, cameras, radios, or bicycles. At higher pageant levels, cash or scholarship awards may be given. In one national pageant, the grand prize featured a screen test at a major film studio. Another national grand prize included an expense paid trip to Hawaii. Be sure to read carefully what the prizes are. Are tuition scholarships limited to a particular institution designated by the promoter? Are cash prizes split among the top winners? Are prizes promised orally listed in the promotional literature and/or contract? Are the "tangible" prizes presented at the time of the pageant or after the winner's "reign"? Determine what, if any, obligations a contestant undertakes in winning the pageant.

"Do winners need to sign a release allowing the use of their name and picture in advertising?" "What personal appearances, if any, are mandatory for the winning contestant?"
Read any contract carefully in advance of entering a pageant to understand rights and responsibilities of the winner.

"Has Better Business Bureau received complaints?"
Better Business Bureau has cited several complaint areas with respect to beauty pageants. Reports have been filed stating that a promoter advertised an upcoming pageant, requiring advance fees, and then skipped town. At least one state has a bonding requirement for new promoters within that state to protect contestants who submit entrance fees in advance. In another pageant, a contestant claimed problems receiving a refund of her $200 entry fee after an initial conversation with the promoter had led her to believe a refund was possible. In other instances, parents claimed that activities promised never materialized, such as a coronation ball with live music. Other complainants alleged the contestants were asked to have suitable clothing for their interviews with the judges. Additional clothing was purchased, but the interviews never occurred. One parent complained the promised hotel accommodations were unavailable and contestants ended up being bussed between their nightly lodgings and the pageant. The same parent claimed a lack of chaperones for the event further stating that midnight bedchecks of the contestants never took place. In another pageant, local businesses were left holding the bag when payments by a pageant promoter for services rendered were returned by the bank marked non-sufficient funds.

BBB TIPS-Questions to consider before entering a pageant:

  • How long has the company been operating pageants? Who are the directors?
  • What is the total cost of pageant participation for both the entrant and the chaperone?
  • 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?
  • Who are the 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?
  • Finally, what benefit will be derived from participating or winning?

About the Author: Rachel Gelb is Communications and Marketing Manager for BBB serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont. Find Rachel on Google +.

Questions and Comments

Comment Submitted 3/7/2013

I think this is a god collection of pageant questions you have to consider before joining a beauty pageant. Sometimes, pageants can be dangerous too and expensive. Be sure to ask yourself if you have the chance of winning or if the expected prizes you may get is far much bigger than the actual expenses you may incur from joining. Here is an article that also discusses Questions you have to consider before one decides to join a pageant. Together with the above article, read it and you will never get it wrong.
Views expressed on this page are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Better Business Bureau.

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