Yesterday was one of the longest work days I’ve had in a long time.  I started at 6:30 a.m. and returned home at 11:45 p.m. I learned a lot about the true hearts of many young women in that time. Yesterday… I judged royalty.

While a veteran adjudicator of over 15 years, I’ve judged thousands and thousands  of art students -particularly in music.  Until yesterday, I was never a pageant judge.  In the course of one day, I judged five pageants: The 2010  Miss Moraine State,  2010 Miss Mercer County,  2010 Miss Butler County, 2010 Miss Mercer County Outstanding Teen, and 2010 Miss Butler County Outstanding teen.  I am glad I had that opportunity as it informed, enlightened, and encouraged me in many ways…

The process of judging is quite is similar, in some aspects, to most of the judging that I’ve done, the main difference in judging the Miss America pageants is that each individual is judged against themselves.  In other words, they are compared to their own ideal of what they could be/are -not the ideal of someone elses’.  It’s a little confusing before the judges training, but it works very well in this type of instance and I’m now convinced of the validity of using it for this type of pageant.

While I could write a book of what future pageant hopefuls could/should do in their interview from this experience, I wanted to write about how I was personally affected by the over-all candor and souls of these fine young women.  The women (and teens) that were competing last night were truly beautiful with regard to every aspect of their being… and that is the heart of the TRUE Miss America contestant.

During the interview process of each “Miss” candidate, from the very onset, it became apparent that the young women we were interviewing had their “acts together” and were thinking and speaking well beyond their years.   The contestants were literally asked any question that the five judge panel created and posed.  These questions came in the form of current events that happened as early as that morning to historical and philosophical beliefs that have had roots for thousands of years.   There were relevant questions about why they chose to wear something to the interview, why they picked their platform, and questions about their lifestyles and the lifestyles of others.  In all of the questioning, the overwhelming majority of these young women interviewed remarkably well and with a demeanour well beyond the “average” women of their age.

Many of the contestants remarked that no matter how the pageant turned out, that the experience itself was worth the time, energy, and journey.  Many commented about how the interview process of the pageant would help them obtain future jobs by preparing them for conversations with their future employers.  Others, when answering questions, answered with such authority and poise that, for a brief moment, it was like watching a press conference.  Even the “outstanding teens” interviewed like seasoned and veteran professionals.  It was wonderful to behold.

In a society that seems to be filled with many self-serving agendas, it is refreshing to see these young women talk about their lives and hearts as servants: this is particularly evident in their service platforms.  On more than one occasion, a contestant would talk about the deep and personal connection to their platform choice.  Without going in to much detail, some of these connections were so personal to them that they teared up while talking about them.  It was easy to see why many of them choose the platforms that they did -they were deeply connected to them and honestly wanted have some impact on their ability to do something about them.   How many young people to today take the time to research these type of pursuits?  The amazing thing about these contestants and their platform choices -most of them had been actively working for the betterment of their “cause” for years by raising money and awareness about them.  Their “platforms” were not something that they have just invented or claimed for their entry into the pageant -they believed and valued their platform as evidenced by the incredible amount of work that they had already put into them.

Because of the importance that society places on physical beauty and attractiveness, many think that all pageants are simply about physical beauty.  The Miss America pageant is different in that regard, physical beauty is just a part of the overall judging process and certainly not the only determining factor -nor the highest with regard to judging point value. 

The young women of the Miss America pageants compete for college scholarships and for self-betterment.  Every single one of the contestants spoke about the roles that they would play in their communities as they would emerge into society as contributors.  The contestants that were in the earliest of their twenties had already accomplished much in that regard and were gainfully employed or working on their bachelors degrees, masters degrees, or even their doctorates.  Those in their teens also had accumulated a remarkable resume as well.  These women and teens are already great role models for their peers.  

As a lifelong musician, I know what it takes to be “talented”.  Many people think that talented people are born with it… I love to be the one to “open their eyes” and tell them that people are not born with talent -they work like mad to acquire it -just like any other worthwhile pursuit: any one can become “talented”  if they work four to six hours a day, five to seven days of the week at something -just ask any of these young women!   While not everyone was at the same level of performance with regard to their individual talents at the pageants, it is safe to say that all of these young women were indeed “talented”.    Again, the overall accomplishments of these “renaissance ladies” were remarkable and a joy to watch and judge.

Even though I’ve had some dealing with pageants over the years in music-related support roles (and certainly have seen many Miss America Pageants), I’ve never had my “eyes-opened” to what the it takes to be a contestant in one these pageants.  I am truly proud of each of the young women that competed last night.  

Very unlike the Hollywood stereo-typical view of pageant contestants, these fine young women were unabashedly honest and truly seeking to better themselves and their communities.   Everyone of these pageant contestants, title-holder or not, will go on to positively impact their spheres of influence -they already have.  Their self-confidence, sacrifice, style, service, success, and scholarship is self-evident after meeting them. They all have the hearts of lions and the souls of champions.

Judging Royalty -really?  Yes, in every sense of the word –last night, I judged royalty.  My hat is off to all of the contestants in the pageants that I judged last night -best wishes for your continued success -you all defined it last night!


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