I first entered National American Miss when I was 12, 5 years ago. I used to make fun of pageant girls, and I decided to just do it for fun.
I payed all the fees and entered the Talent optional. I walked away with absolutely nothing at the end of the weekend. I was not angry because I knew I didn't do everything correctly, it was only my first time. Although I wanted to try again the next year, scheduling and other life events got in the way.
This year, I decided to try again in the Teen division. I did my research, I looked at what past winners did, I competed in (and won) a local pageant to get back in the game, I spent hours looking for the perfect dress, and I trained day and night until pageant weekend arrived. I payed the bare minimum fees, plus the $50 fee for one optional, Casual Wear. The only other large expense was my Hair and Makeup, done by a retired NAM competitor at the hotel (this expense did not go to NAM).
The weekend was a blast and I met so many great girls. The production team was exceptional, and the weekend flowed flawlessly. I tried my very best, and I was SO excited for the finale awards show. I always tell myself not to expect anything, so I was so excited to win 2nd runner up in casual wear, top 15, and then 4th Runner Up overall!
I am telling this story because I didn't enter every optional, neither did the girl who won OR any of the girls in Top 5. The judges don't pay attention to money. They pay attention to who stands out and is most confident, and the girl who won was an obvious winner from the beginning with how she carried herself. I'm sorry to all who were disappointed with their results.
I assure you that it had NOTHING to do with how much money the other girls spent. Try again next year!