Beware bogus pageantry

Posted: Thursday, August 08, 2002

At malls and hotels across the country, kids and young adults take the stage, smiling and cooing for judges, hoping to be the next beauty pageant winner. Many parents spend thousands of dollars on pageants hoping that their child will become the next super model or a famous movie star. The truth is that few are discovered that way.

The Better Business Bureau receives thousands of inquiries each year from consumers about beauty pageants. Before entering a beauty pageant, parents should consider the following questions:

How long has the company been operating pageants? Who are the directors? Usually pageants are operated by for-profit organizations that solicit participants by mail, print advertising or broadcast media to compete for recognition and prizes from the promoter.

What is the total cost of pageant participation for both the entrant and the chaperone? Oftentimes, family or business sponsors are asked to pay a sponsorship fee, which can vary, to the pageant promoter to cover hotel rental fees, awards, administrative costs, salary for company personnel and company profits.

Can the location (place of business) of the pageant company be verified? Where and when will the actual pageant be held? What accommodations are provided for contestants? Will there be adequate supervision?

Who are the judges and what are their qualifications? Are they affiliated with the company? Are refunds possible if a contestant decides to withdraw from the pageant? How are the winners chosen? What criteria are used for selection? What are the obligations of the winning contestant?

What do former contestants and winners have to say about the pageant? Ask the company for references.

Finally, what benefit will be derived from participating or winning?

If you're approached by a pageant company, contact the BBB first, for a reliability report on that company. You can also visit the BBB's Web site at for more information about beauty pageants.

Be sure to read any contract carefully and thoroughly in advance of entering a pageant to understand rights and responsibilities of the winner.

Al Tobin is CEO of Better Business Bureau of Alaska, Inc.

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