If you have ever had the privilege of judging a Miss America preliminary pageant, you know that it is a wonderful opportunity and a huge responsibility. When you are asked to join a panel of judges, you are being asked to choose a titleholder who will represent a community for an entire year and go on to the next level of competition. It's not an easy job, or one that should be taken lightly. Be an able, competent judge by using this guide.
Know the Scoring System
The Miss America Organization has its own unique scoring system, like all pageant systems. Before the day your pageant begins, familiarize yourself with the scoring rubric so you give thoughtful scores to each contestant.
For preliminary competitions, each contestant is judged in all phases of competition (interview, talent, onstage question, swimsuit, and evening wear) and given a score ranging from one to ten. There is no hard and fast rule on what kind of performance deserves a certain score–that is up to your discretion. It is a subjective scoring system, but McNeil Chestnut, a volunteer in North Carolina who often teaches judging seminars, suggests that you start with a five. Before a contestant steps on the stage or in the interview room, is is at a five–average. From there, her score can go up or down. Very low scores (one to three) or very high scores (eight to ten) should be reserved for extreme performances. A good way to avoid comparative scoring is to act as if each contestant is the only contestant in the pageant.
Know What You Are Looking For
Each titleholder within the Miss America system has the same basic job–represent her community during her year of service, work on her platform, and compete at the next level. However, each local or state title has unique responsibilities and requirements. During your judging prep at the pageant, ask pointed questions to the judges chairperson or executive director on exactly what kind of contestant they are searching out. For example, some titleholders do intensive school tours during their year. You will need to find a contestant who is willing and able to travel constantly, can speak to large, diverse groups, and thinks quickly on her feet. You are always searching for the next Miss State or Miss America, but the reality is this: only one contestant goes on to hold that title.
Know the End Game
When you judge a pageant and see your titleholder crowned, it can feel like an ending. In actuality, it's all just beginning for the newly crowned titleholder and the pageant that will support her. In the moment that crown is placed on her head, her entire life has changed. It is imperative that you take your job of judging very seriously. You are giving a pageant system a titleholder that will help further their message and forever be a part of their history. You are making a difference.
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