Within pageantry, there are certain unspoken rules that can influence the judges' decision when it comes to who will walk away with the title. Proper pageant etiquette is essential for all serious pageant competitors and can make the difference between winning the crown and placing in the Top 5.
Although figuring out pageant etiquette can come naturally while you compete, it's always easier to have some things spelled out for you. Pageant Planet's daily newsletter, in addition to this article, will let you in on some etiquette tips and general pageant tricks that you can use to be successful at you next pageant. This is a daily email sent straight to your inbox with new tips, industry news, product features and titleholder features every day! If you aren't already signed up, this is the first step to gaining insider tips that will set you above your competition.
Don't steal from your coach
Coaches can be one of the best resources when you are preparing for your next pageant. A coach can provide you with unique tips and tricks that they have developed throughout their experience competing in pageants and coaching other contestants. Being coached can help push you over the edge and transform you into a stand-out competitor. (Read: Top 10 Pageant Coaches of 2017)
After you have won your title, it may seem obvious to start coaching other contestants and teach them what you have learned. While this is a kind gesture, it's important to keep in mind that, even though your coach shared their tips with you, they aren't yours to share. Your coach worked hard to develop their strategies and coaching techniques and they should continue to receive credit where credit is due. If you believe your coach has helped you win the crown, try connecting them with other contestants rather than attempting to coach them yourself. In the end, both your coach and the other contestants will appreciate this gesture. If you are seriously considering joining the business of pageant coaching, talk to your pageant coach first.
Even if they support you, make sure that all your coaching tips are original and not "borrowed" from past coaching sessions. If you have a coaching business, make sure you are familiar with these etiquette rules for pageant coaches before your next coaching session. (Read: Etiquette Rules That All Pageant Coaches Should Follow)
Are you in need of a pageant coach? Check out our directory of pageant coaches to find a coach near you.
Titleholders from the Miss USA system pose with coaches from PR Pageant Coaches. Photo: PR Pageant Coaches Instagram page
Should you hold more than one title at once?
For successful pageant competitors, it isn't uncommon to hold multiple titles during their lifetime. Olivia Jordan, Miss USA 2015, has represented the United States at two international pageants. Prior to competing at Miss Universe 2015, Jordan competed at Miss World 2013 while representing the United States. While holding various titles at different times is a common practice that doesn't receive much criticism, the same cannot be said about pageant girls who hold more that one title at once. (Read: Former Miss America to Compete for Miss World America)
When you hold a title in a system, it is because they chose you to represent them for the next year. Your personality, determination and achievements made you stand out to the judges and director as someone they want to be involved in their pageant. In some cases, this means that your director won't want you competing for other titles while you still hold one in their system. To ensure this, your contract will most likely have a "non-compete" clause that prevents you from competing in another pageant until your reign is complete or until you compete in the next level of competition.
This is generally true for titles in bigger pageants, such as titles within the Miss America or Miss USA pageant systems. If your contract doesn't have a "non-compete" clause, or if there is a certain time frame for it, you may be wondering if you could compete in another pageant before you crown your successor. The answer to this is completely circumstantial since every pageant, director and contestant has a different view on the topic. The best thing to do in this situation would be to ask your director, and the director of the other pageant, if you are allowed to compete while still holding your current title. This way, you can avoid any mix-ups regarding your contract and can prevent coming off as a "crown chaser." Here are the etiquette tips that your director should be following. (Read: What Directors Need to Know About Pageant Etiquette)
In some systems, there aren't any "non-compete" clauses, which means that you are allowed, and sometimes encouraged, to compete in other pageants. International United Miss is one system that encourages its titleholders to compete in other pageant systems. International United Miss Teen 2018, Alyssa Manthos, recently competed for the title of Miss New York USA 2018 with the full support of International United Miss.
Nicole Swerdloff currently holds the titles of 2018 International United Miss New York, 2017 Miss All American Diva Collegiate, and 2018 Miss New York East Coast USA Grand Ambassador. Photos: Nicole Swerdloff
Timing is everything
In nearly every situation, being on time is essential for success. When you arrive somewhere on time, you're making a good first impression on those who are greeting you. At a pageant, this means being on time to check-in, rehearsals and the different phases of competition. Since a pageant schedule is usually packed, there isn't much time for wiggle room, and being late can inconvenience the director and other contestants.
At every pageant, your schedule should be your best friend! Keeping your schedule handy will ensure that you'll always know when and where you're supposed to be throughout the pageant. If you're allowed to keep your phone on you, take a photo of your schedule for easy access. If you really want to make sure you're on time, set alarms prior to each scheduled event. Sometimes, this level of commitment can pay off! Getting ready for each event with time to spare is one of the best ways to make sure you won't end up running late. If you leave some time for any unexpected mishaps or complications, you won't be in a rush when it comes time for you to leave. Before your pageant, practice getting ready to find out how long it takes or talk to the hair and makeup artist beforehand so you can plan out your schedule accordingly. (Read: Top 10 Makeup Artists of 2017)
Amanda Daley, director of the Miss Spirit Organization, weighed in on how being late can impact you and the pageant. "Pageant day is especially important because the day is so planned out that if you miss something, it messes up the flow of the day," Daley said. "In the past few years, I’ve had a rule where you lose points if you’re late or miss something because at the end of the day it’s not fair to those following the rules if someone does abide by them." To ensure that the pageant runs smoothly and that you do your best, it's important to be on time to each event. At the very least, plan to be everywhere 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled arrival time. In pageants (and other areas of life), we often hear the phrase, "If you are early, you are on time, and if you're on time, you're late." Don't be late!
Kelsey Swanson, Miss Rhode Island USA 2017, getting her makeup done during the 2017 Miss USA pageant. Photo: Miss Universe Organization
Manners still matter
While this may seem obvious, make sure you continue to use proper manners throughout your entire pageant. This includes when you are backstage, relaxing with other contestants or having a meal with your family. You never know when the director or a judge is passing by, so you should always make sure you're showing your best self. Generally, acting as if you're in the presence of someone you admire, such as Miss America, can help establish the standard for how you should act. Keeping your voice at an appropriate level, putting your phone on silent, refraining from gossiping and being on time are all a part of maintaining proper manners. Being aware of your actions is the first step to making sure you are acting properly at all times.
If you go out for a meal during your pageant, especially when wearing your sash, make sure to always keep all of the table manners you were taught in mind. This includes the basics, such as keeping your elbows off of the table, chewing with your mouth closed and only speaking when you aren't chewing on food. Don't stress too much about acting perfectly; just remember to be polite and act like there's someone around to impress. These manners will impress your pageant parents and show them that you were truly paying attention when they taught you how to behave. Here's the etiquette rules that pageant parents should follow. (Read: Etiquette Guidelines for Every Pageant Parent to Follow)
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Miss Universe 2017, chows down on some pasta. Photo: Miss Universe Instagram page
Keep your paperwork neat
All experienced pageant contestants know that every pageant comes along with a stack of paperwork. In the past, this paperwork was usually sent out to contestants and they would be asked to send it back to the director or bring it to check-in. While some systems continue to do this, most have moved to electronic forms or paperwork that contestants can print at home. To make sure this form is the neatest it can be, typing out your answers is recommended. By doing this, you will ensure that your answers are legible and the judges and directors can read them with ease. (Read: 7 Common Mistakes Girls Make on Pageant Paperwork)
In addition to making sure your paperwork is legible, typing out your paperwork can help the judges get to know you a little bit better. Neat paperwork shows that you are organized and detail-oriented, both of which are qualities that are valued in a titleholder. Remember, you should use every opportunity to show the judges and the director that you would be the perfect addition to their system. (Read: 5 Secrets to Make Your Pageant Paperwork More Interesting)
Julia Scaparotti, Miss Massachusetts USA 2017, and Mikaela Shaw, Miss Wyoming USA 2017, signing items during rehearsals at Miss USA 2017. Photo: Miss Universe Organization
Timing is everything...again
While making sure that you are on time for all scheduled events is essential during your pageant, turning in all of your paperwork on time, or even early, can give you an edge during the competition. Adhering to the deadlines your director sets shows that you are responsible and respectful, two qualities that directors often look for in a titleholder. Mikaela Gillespie, the national teen coordinator for Miss Earth United States, knows firsthand how important it is to turn in your paperwork on time.
"When we sponsor clothing and shoes for our girls, it’s super important to get sizes back to our sponsors in a timely fashion so every girl has something to wear on stage," Gillespie said. "Everything really plays a role in putting together the perfect pageant. If you are on the ball and you turn everything in on time and maybe sometimes even ask if you can do anything else, you’ll definitely have a high place in their eyes and they’ll know they can depend on you as a titleholder if you are to win" Since pageant prep can be stressful enough already, turning in your paperwork early will make sure that you have one less thing to worry about. (Read: 8 Pageant Preparation Mistakes You are Probably Making)
Don't chat with the judges
Before every pageant, judges are told to not speak or interact with contestants or their families. This is often done to ensure that the final decision is unbiased and that all contestants are playing on the same field. Since the judges know not to do this, you should not try to grab their attention or chat with them while you aren't competing. Remain respectful of the rules set forth by the pageant and show that there's no need for you to cozy-up to the judges in order to win the crown. While you should refrain from approaching the judges before, during or after your pageant, don't be afraid to offer them a smile in passing. Being your friendly self won't come across in a negative way as long as you try to stay aware of the invisible line you shouldn't cross. Remember, offering a friendly smile shouldn't be a problem, but don't try to have a conversation with one of the judges. These are the etiquette tips that judges should follow. Make sure that you don't accidentally cause them to break one. (Read: Etiquette Rules That Every Pageant Judge Must Know)
The judges at Mrs. Canada Globe 2017. Photo: Wayne Slinn Photography
Tips for parents of younger girls
When a contestant is on the younger side, her parents tend to be just as involved in the pageant as she is. If you are the parent of a younger contestant, there is a good chance that you will come in contact with directors, staff and other parents. When doing so, it's important to keep a couple of important pageant etiquette tips in mind. If you ever have any questions during pageant weekend, you will probably go speak with the director to get answers.
While it may seem easy to "buddy-up" to the director in order to give your daughter a better chance at winning the crown, this is never recommended. Experienced directors have most likely had this happen before and know when to spot a parent who is trying to influence the outcome of a pageant. Keep interactions with the director professional to prevent any mix-ups concerning your motives. If you truly believe in your daughter as a pageant competitor, "buddying-up" to the director won't be necessary for her to win the crown. Even if your daughter does not win the crown, maintaining proper pageant etiquette is still important. Refrain from speaking negatively about the winner, judges, director or other contestants at all times during the pageant. Unsportsmanlike conduct is never appreciated, especially at an event that is all about confidence and building self-esteem. (Read: How to be the Perfect Pageant Parent)
Remember to always set the example that you want your daughter to follow. If you are behaving with proper etiquette, it will be easy for her to behave with proper etiquette as well.
Bringing your A-game to a pageant weekend can help set you apart from other contestants and help you bring home the crown. While trying your best during the various phases of competition can improve your chances, the way you act when you are not competing can also impact the final decision. You never know if the judges or the director will be around during your pageant, so practicing proper etiquette at all times can ensure that you're never caught off guard. In fact, this can even help show the director that you possess all of the qualities that make for the perfect titleholder. Signing up for Pageant Planet's daily newsletter can help continuously prep you for your next pageant and provide you with some more pageant tips and tricks to make sure you are always acting with proper pageant etiquette leading up to and during your pageant.
Her tip is: "Take the title seriously, but don't take yourself seriously!"Learn More