My 7 year old daughter participated in the 2016 California pageant among the Princess age division. I found this pageant to be misleading, inconsistent, disingenuous, and disorganized. I am aware that this was a beauty competition (and a costly one too), but I still feel that NAM clearly has some corrections to make in regards to both morals and management.
I'll start by noting that their claim of "bottom line pricing" is false, and I'm not speaking in regards to anything optional. It costs $480 to enter the state pageant, which they claim is the "bottom line price" for participating in the required contests. However, you are also obligated to pay $20 for a "registration fee" (which was due at check-in pageant weekend) and $40 for the production number outfit. You cannot participate without paying another $60 in hidden fees. This is quite misleading- why not just state that there is a $480 entry fee? Why do they insist and highlight the untrue "fact" that $480 is the "bottom line price" (in heavy bold font) when the bare minimum requires another $60 at least? Oh, and that price assumes that you don't want to attend the finale (where they perform the production number required for scoring and reveal the winners) since only the contestant is allowed to attend for free. Every audience member must pay $15 per ticket.
If you want to do anything more than the bare minimum (which costs $540 alone without tickets), then it quickly adds up. Every optional contest (talent, acting, etc.) is at least $75 (talent costs 100). For the pre-pageant workshop they charged $25. To add a 3 rose bouquet to formal wear (where contestants were strictly forbidden to use their own rose bouquets for the purpose of "uniformity"), it costs $20, and for the boutonneire it's another $10. To get the group photo, it's another $20. While I wasn't expecting it to be cheap (I knew that the hotel, clothing, and prep would be costly as well), I still don't think they should boast "bottom line pricing", and they should be more upfront about how expensive the optional additions are. I was shocked when I received the order form for photos/video and all the options were over $100, even the cheapest photo package! Complete rip off!
Secondly, it was rather disorganized. Important details were incomplete and scattered across 4 "magazines", each referencing the other for a form or for particular details. The information within the magazines overlapped a lot, so I don't understand why they couldn't have just consolidated the information into one easy packet. We were supposed to get #2 and #3 at the same time but they didn't have it and eventually mailed out #3 several weeks later. They changed the schedule the day before the pageant and made it more demanding on the Princess contestants. I replied to let them know I wasn't thrilled and why, and the director responded in a way that made me question his knowledge regarding children. He seemed to assume that every contestant was staying at the host hotel and that every child goes to bed like an angel, even after being over-stimulated on stage. Furthermore, I received an email saying I hadn't turned something in but was then told that they did in fact have the form I sent. They were also inconsistent in regards to requirements, such as what to say for the personal introduction. This could have gone much more smoothly to say the least.
Lastly, I do not believe that they practiced what they preached. In every magazine, on every information sheet, and in every letter they stated how their goal is to build confidence, poise, and communication skills (but the award ceremony was highly discouraging). They heavily encouraged age appropriateness, authenticity, and originality (yet most of the winners had suspiciously mature and uncharacteristic responses/performances aimed at crowd approval). They stated that they wanted the contestants to use their own material without sounding over-rehersed (yet most winners sounded scripted). These were values that they drilled into us, and yet I honestly don't feel that the the judges picked contestants that embodied those values. I'm not claiming that my daughter did, and I'm not saying she should have won (my kid is wild), I'm simply stating that I did not recognize NAM's mission statement among most of the winners that were chosen. And the same 6 girls won all the trophies (to the point where they had to unload their full hands at least twice) while the other 50 contestants were lucky to get even one trophy outside of their consolation one. Half of the trophies awarded were really for the parents because most 4-6 year olds are not selling tickets or advertising (or writing thank you cards) without a lot of help. The same girl won both of the only two optional contests available to the Princess division, and while she was good, I don't think she was the best nor representative of NAM's supposed ideals (my daughter wasn't up for either trophy, so I'm not saying this as a parent but rather as an audience member). And the awards were vastly varied- for sales related awards, they got these colorful big trophies, a sash, and a tiara, yet miss personality got a small one-color trophy and most spirited got a plaque. These young girls were visibly devastated. Yes, I understand that this is a competition and I was prepared for my daughter to experience dissapointment, but this seemed dragged out and unnecessarily harsh. As an elementary teacher, I have many criticisms and suggestions regarding the execution of the award ceremony.
I just felt robbed and cheated in the end, and I went in with very realistic expectations. I felt like the pageant was not upfront and that the information they provided was unreliable. They seem great on the surface, but in my experience, they did not uphold the values advertised.
Product or Service Mentioned: National American Miss Beauty Pageant.
Reason of review: Bad quality.