By Diane Ako
For someone who's long intersected with the pageant world, I have never been involved in it. I got my first chance this month, when asked to judge a pageant.
Most of my association is with the queens. Many intern in newsrooms, and some go on to work in them. We cover pageants on TV, so queens make morning show guest appearances, or reporters go out to cover a big pageant. I covered the Miss Universe when it was in the Hawaii Convention Center.
KHNL News8 televised the Miss Hawaii America pageant for years, and my co-anchor Howard Dashefsky was always the emcee. I then, for years and years, would be the one to report the pageant recap the next day. I was very aware of who was Miss Hawaii for that reason.
Oddly, while in news, I was never asked to judge a pageant. Not that I minded. It never crossed my mind. It only occurred to me when I was asked to judge Mrs. Hawaii this year. Now that I think about it, the only pageant I've ever really wanted to judge or attend was Miss Universal ShowQueen, but I never went because the hours conflicted with my work.
There were five judges this year, and five contestants. I'm told there are usually double, but the economy affected turnout. We had two nights: the preliminary, and the final.
During the preliminary, we only did the interview phase. Each judge met with each contestant individually, for a five minute interview. We read their bio and then asked them questions based on that.
I'm not supposed to reveal too much about the judging process, but I think it's OK to say that I myself was surprisingly nervous when the event started. Why? I think I was picking up the vibe from all the contestants, and then I got nervous for them.
I think everyone did very well under pressure, though it does become clear within seconds who is comfortable with and/or experienced at this form of public speaking/formal interviewing, and who isn't. It's probably like the way news directors can pop in a resume tape and tell within ten seconds which reporter candidate has "it" and who doesn't. This phase was pretty fast; just an hour.
On the second night, for the finals, the organizers put on a show. This night was not an hour. It was about four hours (prep + the event itself). It was pretty much as you envision any pageant: music, singing, dancing, and the swimsuit/ ballgown phases.
My friend Cindy insisted I should run in next year's pageant. As flattering as that is, I'm just not sure I'm cut out for the stage stuff; specifically, feeling comfortable walking in heels and a swim suit down a catwalk. I totally give those ladies props!
Though, it's a tempting idea, because I looooove the sparkly crown. I'm like a bird. I like shiny stuff.
I modeled in a wedding dress show once and I tripped on the stage (at the seam where the stage is pieced together) and that was totally embarrassing. I can't imagine if I was getting judged on that, on top of being looked at by hundreds of people. Gack!
To that end, congratulations to all the contestants who put so much time and energy into training for the event. I tip my hat to you ladies!
My experience as a judge gave me greater appreciation for the poise and grace these women need to have. They have to speak well, look good, walk elegantly (in heels!!), and project confidence and charisma. A lot of people don't realize how hard it is to own ALL those skills; it's probably because the ones that make it to the stage make it look easy.
And big congratulations to Alicia Jones, who won this year's contest. She'll represent Hawaii well in the Mrs. Hawaii America contest this summer in Tuscon, Arizona. It's August 31st through September 7th.
I enjoyed meeting the other judges, too. It's a nice way to get to know people I otherwise wouldn't have met. And it was a very interesting look into the world of beauty pageants!
What's your experience with pageants? Have you run? Has your friend or family run? What do you think of it?
Also reach me via DianeAko.com