The Other Side of the Judges Table: Miss Central Florida’s Heart of Christmas Pageant
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Please excuse the car selfie. A beauty queen’s gotta do what a beauty queen’s gotta do when it comes to documenting her year. I’ve been a contestant on stage many times, but I’ve always wondered what it was like on the other side of the judges’ table. As a delegate, you learn the alleged tips and tricks for winning over those who complete your scorecards through trial/error, stage coaching, and advice from fellow contestants. For the first time ever, I got to test these theories first-hand when I was asked to judge the Miss Central Florida’s Heart of Christmas Pageant as Miss Tampa Bay USA last month.
This Miss Heart of USA local was held at the Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort, and it featured contestants ranging from “little princesses” (ie. babies) to a “senior division,” which was entertaining to say the least. This diverse group of ladies competed in the areas of personality, stage presence, and seasonal outfit of choice. I was instructed to give each contestant a score from 1 to 10 in each category, and since the score sheets were available to participants after the pageant (a luxury not offered in either of the systems I’ve competed in), I wasn’t allowed to write any comments or suggestions on the ballots… which was tough. You always want to justify why you gave someone a less than stellar score, so I struggled a bit with that aspect of the judging process.
Sherry, the state director of the Miss Heart of Florida system, was incredibly sweet and provided all the Miss Central Florida’s Heart of Christmas Pageant judges with a warm welcome and generous gift bag. Who doesn’t love a new purse and wallet combo? Also, I collect coffee mugs, so I was elated to receive this fun and functional memento. Now every time I drink my morning coffee, I think about my MHOU winners!
One great thing about the Miss Heart of USA system is their dedicated advocacy for, “Stomping out hunger one county at a time.” I genuinely enjoy recognizing those who devote their free time to making a difference in the lives of others, which is probably why being a member of the International Reading Association’s Service Awards Committee has had such impact in my life. Many of these ladies have made huge strides against hunger in their communities, and I have to admit, all outfits aside, the girls with community service substance received my highest scores.
On the other hand, qualities which did not receive high scores from Judge #2 included: age-inappropriate outfits, piercing staring/prolonged eye contact resembling that of a victory performance in a blinking contest, excessive eye batting, total lack of eye contact, robotic mechanics, and too much makeup. One of the main reasons I was so excited to help judge this pageant was that it’s as far away from a Toddlers & Tiaras competition as you can get; hence, I scored those who broke the well known rules of a natural beauty/non-glitz pageant accordingly. Rule stickler up in here.After about an hour of competition, the winners from each of 10 divisions were announced, including Most Photogenic and Best Outfit of Choice. These crowns were actual replicas of those used by the Miss America Organization, so seeing the sheer joy in these ladies’ eyes as they received their royal accessories was so rewarding. I won’t lie, though; the look of disappointment on the faces of the non-finalists was hard to take. If I could’ve, I would’ve given each and every little girl a pink rhinestoned crown. I did end up letting a few of the little ones try on my MTB sash, which swallowed them whole and remains one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen.
All in all, I’d say my first experience as a pageant judge was entirely positive. As a competitor myself, I learned more about what not to do on stage (Moral of the Story: Creepy staring, including prolonged eye contact and excessive blinking, is the #1 way to scare people and is never attractive). Also, I’ve made up my mind that after my pageant run comes to an end, I would love to stay involved through the judges’ circuit. It’s fun, rewarding, and a great way to recognize those deserving of the crown! Plus, you meet some incredible community leaders, like this accomplished attorney (above) I got to spend my Sunday afternoon with.
Have you (or would you) ever judged a pageant? If it sounds like something you may be interested in, let me know. They’re addicting, I tell you! Oh, and don’t forget to enter in my Valentine’s Giveaway for a chance to win a huge $1,000 cash prize! Giveaway ends February 14th!