How to Judge a Beauty Pageant

Tips for Being a Good Judge

I’ve had a lot of experience with pageants. I’ve served as a judge and a coordinator. I've been a pageant mom too. My grandchildren and my niece have been active in beauty pageants as well and I’ve helped coach and prepare them. I’ve been in the audience, so I’ve done my share of “seat judging.” I've been involved in many types of pageants: glitz, natural, charity, scholarship, face, semi-glitz, and low-glitz. I’ve also had a hand in choosing and designing outfits and stoning winning dresses.

Early on, I learned the importance of how to judge a pageant fairly. If you’ve been asked to judge, consider these tips.

Judging beauty pageants is a serious task.
Judging beauty pageants is a serious task.

How Important Are the Judges?

First of all, you need to realize how important your job is as judge. Even small pageants should be taken seriously. The event might not seem like a big deal to you, but I assure you that it is, indeed, a big deal for most of the contestants and their parents. These people put a lot of time, money, and practice into competing and they expect to be judged fairly. In view of the circumstances, they deserve to be judged fairly.

Of course, no matter how fairly the competition is judged, there will be some hurt feelings and some disappointed contestants. There’s no way around this, as everyone can’t win the crown. Just do the best job you can possibly do in your capacity as judge.

Contestants and their parents invest time and money into competing, so it's important to take your role seriously.
Contestants and their parents invest time and money into competing, so it's important to take your role seriously.

Stick to the Judging Criteria!

Before agreeing to be a judge, ask the director for a score sheet that lists the judging criteria and guidelines of the pageant. Make sure you understand all of the information. Know what’s allowed and what isn’t allowed, and stick to it. For example, if the rules state that the girls aren’t allowed to wear flippers, makeup, wigs, or falls, you’ll have to deduct some major points for any contestant breaking the rules.

It’s a good idea to talk to the director before the event. Ask her what she’s looking for. Some directors are pretty specific in what they want. For example, she might tell you she is looking for a natural-looking contestant in a simple dress. On the other hand, she might tell you she wants a winner who’s polished and high-glitz, and that makeup, glitz dresses and gowns, flippers, and "pageant" hair is encouraged. If that’s the case, don’t give high score to contestants who don’t fit the criteria.

Pageant gowns and dresses should fit well.
Pageant gowns and dresses should fit well.

Beauty Pageant Dresses and Pageant Gowns

Pageant dresses and gowns usually make up a hefty portion of the overall score, so judge them accordingly. You can’t judge the dress on its own, however. You have to judge the dress on the girl. You might see a gorgeous dress on stage, but if the color and style don’t match the girl well, points should be deducted. Dresses and gowns also have to fit the contestant well. Consider whether the dress is too short, too long, too tight, or too loose. Also, ask yourself if the dress is age-appropriate. Dresses for little girls should have a “sweet look” and not look sexy. Gowns for older girls shouldn’t be too revealing either.

Baby beauty pageants can be difficult to judge.
Baby beauty pageants can be difficult to judge.

Baby Beauty Pageants

Baby beauty pageants are tough to judge. You’ll probably be required to award points for stage presence, personality, and maybe even for poise. How much stage presence and poise can a baby have? Before agreeing to be a judge, ask the director for guidance. She’ll probably tell you that you can lump stage presence and poise in with personality. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to judge a baby’s personality, too. I usually tried to determine whether or not the baby was happy on stage. In some cases, that’s really the best you can do.

Beauty Pageants for Toddlers

Beauty pageants for toddlers are fun to judge! They don’t yet understand the concept of winning and losing, so they’re usually not under any pressure. In most cases, personality should play a big part here. Most judges will award more points to a toddler who’s happy and having fun on stage, as opposed to a toddler who’s too “stiff.” I never liked to see little “robots” on stage. It’s fairly easy to tell if a toddler is enjoying herself by her smile and level of animation. A lively, smiling, giggling contestant should get a good score on stage presence and personality. In my opinion, these things are more important for toddlers than missing a cue or not making a proper turn.

My oldest granddaughter loved competing!
My oldest granddaughter loved competing!

Child Beauty Pageants

Most of my experience has been with child beauty pageants. For me, it is harder to judge children than toddlers. Some of these girls are serious and the competition can be fierce. Even at an early age, many contestants are polished and seasoned, so poise really begins to count, although personality should still be a major factor.

You’ll see kids who “own the stage.” This is hard to explain, but you’ll know it when you see it. Such kids have the “wow factor”—not just for their dress and physical appearance, but also for their confidence and ease on stage. Such a girl should definitely be awarded major points.

My niece represents the total package.
My niece represents the total package.

The “Total Package”

Some directors will tell you that they are looking for the “total package.” What does that mean? From my experience with glitz pageants, most directors looking for a total-package girl want her to have a great dress or gown, a tan, perfect teeth and smile, appropriate shoes, the right earrings, and a perfect hairdo. Even their nails should be neat and manicured. Younger girls should have some sort of bow or other hair adornment and it should be in keeping with the dress. The package also includes natural beauty, poise, confidence, stage presence, and personality.

Pageant Swimwear

There is often a swimwear category. If you are a judge, there are several points to ponder. How does the suit fit? How does the color and style go with the contestant? Is the swimwear unique and attractive? In addition to the outfit, you’ll need to judge how the contestant presents herself. In other words, how well does she do modeling? It’s also important to keep in mind that swimwear should be age-appropriate.

Casual wear, costume, and outfit of choice can include almost anything.
Casual wear, costume, and outfit of choice can include almost anything.

Casual Wear/Costume/Outfit of Choice

Many pageants include competitions for casual wear and/or an outfit of choice. Some might include costumes as a separate competition or as part of outfit of choice. Some of these outfits can be amazingly elaborate, and they might even include some serious props. Consider creativity and originality here. One again, age appropriateness should be considered, along with how the girl models her outfit. In other words, you’ll need to judge her routine in addition to the outfit, in most cases. Don't get too hung up on the prop though. It should certainly be considered in the score if it helps the theme of the outfit, but it shouldn't get more of your attention than the outfit itself.

Some pageants might have a holiday wear category.
Some pageants might have a holiday wear category.

Write Helpful Comments

I think it’s extremely important for judges to make written comments on score sheets. You’ll have only a minute or two to judge the girls, so your comments will need to be short and to the point. Even so, such comments can provide great feedback for contestants as a way to improve for the next pageant. I always used this opportunity to provide constructive criticism and tried to include at least one positive comment along with the criticism. Most parents don’t like their children to be criticized, so I think a positive comment helps to soften the blow, so to speak. For example, if a girl’s dress is too long, you might say, “dress too long,” and add “great smile” or “beautiful girl” to it. The parents will know that they need to alter the dress before the next round of beauty pageants.

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Comments 16 comments

Mmargie1966 profile image

Mmargie1966 4 years ago from Gainesville, GA

I had no idea how much goes into judging pageants! Fun read, thanks!

wetnosedogs profile image

wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

Wonderful pictures.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

It would so hard for me to judge a pageant as I find all the contestants to be beautiful and talented. Loved the photos posted and the article.

leros003 profile image

leros003 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

This is definitely eye opening to me!

roxanne459 profile image

roxanne459 4 years ago from Washington

Very informative! Thanks

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Easy to tell from all this well-written inside information. Holle, that you have been a pageant judge many times. Your oldest granddaughter is gorgeous, BTW. Does she still compete in pageants? Just wonderin'.

Felina Margetty profile image

Felina Margetty 4 years ago from New York, New York

Wow I am flabbergasted, a lot of work goes into one of these pageants. I had no idea. This is an insightful hub. Thank you

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

Super interesting! It's a whole other world and culture - truly unique. I like your point on the importance participants place on competitions; people need to remember the emotional effort that goes into them as well as the time and money!

habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Margie, I always took judging beauty pageants very seriously!

habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, wetnose!

Teaches, judging a beauty pageant is tough! I want to give the crown to everyone. lol

habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Leros, it was for me, too, at first. Thanks for visiting!

habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Rox!

Doc, the oldest girl (Asian) is my niece. She still competes. Thanks!

habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Felina, beauty pageants are a lot of work for everyone involved. This especially true for glitz pageants!

habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Marcy, you're right - beauty pageants can be very emotional. Thanks for reading!

Katie6875 3 years ago

I am going to be in a pageant and i was wondering where you can get that holiday wear outfit. I love it!!!

vibesites profile image

vibesites 2 years ago from United States

You have definitely beauty running in your blood... Lovely children. The swimsuit shown above is proper.

Thank you for your tips. Who knows, I could be invited to a beauty contest as judge (if not as a contestant lol just kidding). :)

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