Many NAM-scoring complaints are noted in several reviews. As the author the Producing Beauty Pageants series, by Anna Stanley, I have spent nearly 10 years investigating the top-producing pageants in the U.S.
Allow me to feature an except from from my upcoming book, The Crowning Touch: Preparing for Pageant Competition, so that you can understand how NAM rank-scores it's National pageant (at least in 2014). They may or may not score in this manner at their State pageants; they do at National, at least in 2014. If NAM does score in this manner, at State, it could help you understand how the outcome is so different from what you expected. This is an unedited excerpt from my upcoming book, The Crowning Touch: Preparing for Pageant Competition.
This information can also be found in my book, Producing Beauty Pageants: A Director's Guide, 2nd Ed., now available on Amazon. You can even read many pages for FREE! Rank Scoring Finals When pageant contenders make it to the Finals, ALL Finalists should be fairly judged into the winning positions, i.e., rank scored. Therefore, if there are five contestants in the Finals, each one of the five candidates will be rank scored; if there are ten contestants in the Finals, all ten candidates will be rank scored, etc.
This is not what happens at National American Miss, at least as of this writing, at its National pageant. This is an actual scenario at a National American Miss National pageant: Going into the Finals, twenty-five girls (give or take, depending on the age division) made the Finals. From those twenty-five girls, only five girls with the highest averages (after their Preliminary judging) are predetermined (selected) to be judged for the winning positions. Unbeknownst to the audience and the twenty-five girls who again appear before the judges in the Finals, only the predetermined five girls are judged in this round.
The other twenty Finalists are essentially just going through the motions for “entertainment value,” as noted a NAM pageant official, not aware that they are not being officially judged. Judges are expected to keep an eye on ONLY those five preselected girls during the Finals stage lineup at the National pageant, and only score those Top 5 girls for Queen to Fourth Runner-Up positions. This could mean that the girl who wins may not actually have the highest scores overall — which would explain how a candidate can finish first in two competitions and not win the title. The parents, contestants, and audience would understand this if they knew that this sort of judging and rank scoring was occurring.
Often, most don’t because it’s not in writing…until now. Moreover, they are not told of this “entertainment value” procedure before they signed a contract (Official Application) — at the State or National level. If asked, pageant officials don’t deny this practice. But, prospective contestants never think to ask questions about the scoring procedure, and why they differ at a NAM State and National pageant.
It isn’t fair that pageant officials let the remaining twenty “Finalists” go through the motions of being “judged” for those “winning positions” when they’re not. Pageant systems that employ this judging technique mislead the girls who are not being ranked into the Finals — at least, if they do not tell the candidates, in writing, at a preliminary time (before they even enter the State pageant). The twenty-five Finalists likely all assume that they are competing in the Finals and are eligible to win; but, they are NOT, and they also don’t know that they are just part of the pageant’s “entertainment value.” (While this judging/rank scoring happens at the NAM National pageant, as of this writing, my understanding is that it doesn’t happen at the NAM State pageants.) Still, be sure to ASK for this information before signing the Official Application (contract) at Open Call or online. And, be sure to get ALL pageant financial disclosures and pageant information in writing, as is recommended by the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General.
Rotating Judges Scoring If the pageant you are considering has a judging system that includes rotating judges, at a Local, State, and/or National level, you may want to reconsider participation. When there are approximately seven or eight judges rotated through each competition, and there are different judges for each overall competition phase, the result is that one judge may only see a contestant once! This is known as the Rotating Judge Scoring. The judges really don’t get to know the candidates, and each candidate may end up being scored by fifteen different people!
Parents would prefer that their children be judged by the same panel throughout the pageant, because they spend a whole lot of money to make sure that their kids are known by the judges. The statistical result of having this large of a rotating panel of judges is likely that the scores come in very close, with many ties, and without a clear group of top Finalists. Some pageant systems don’t rotate judges at the State pageants but do at the National. National American Miss is one such pageant system.
Beth Anne, whose daughter was a NAM State Queen, noted, [what] happens at National is there are a different set of judges for each phase of competition. About seven or eight are present but rotated, so you may not have the same judges seeing you in gown that see you in Interview or Personal Introduction. Most people have no idea this happens, but I saw it myself — twice. [Girls] deserve to have a set panel of judges they truly meet and who get to know them, from Interview through Finals, and not these random on-the-spot judge rotations.
Most pageants have one set of judges who judge one [age] division and each phase within that division. Then, another set of judges will judge a different [age] division and each phase within that division. But at NAM National, pageant officials rotate the judges for each phase. NAM puts this in tiny print somewhere in the Magazine, but it’s interesting because it is totally different from its State pageants, where there is just one panel of judges.
It’s the pageant’s choice whether to rotate judges; there isn’t anything illegal about it. However, in my experience as both a pageant participant and as a director, contestants and judges DO prefer the same panel of judges from the beginning to the end of a pageant competition.
Not only do they assume that they will have the same panel of judges judging them; they expect it! Choose wisely when selecting a pageant that you will participate in; after all, it’s NOT a cheap experience!
Product or Service Mentioned: National American Miss Beauty Pageant.
Reason of review: How NAM requires a legally-binding signature on their contract (Official Application) before dispensing complete, written financial disclosures to prospective contestants..