When one thinks of a beauty pageant, the first things that usually come to mind are gowns, crowns, pretty girls, and a ton of makeup and hair spray. Some people are under the impression that beauty pageants are for girls who are vain, and just want to show off their looks. That assumption is incorrect, at least for the girls of the Miss Manatee County pageant.
Behind the scenes of the pageant, there is a lot more considered than who looks best in their dress. Little do people know that the contestants must first survive an interview with the judges. Contestants are asked questions about themselves; therefore, the answers are solely opinion based. This may seem like a piece of cake, yet the judges are not listening to just their answers. They are judging the contestants on their appearance, posture, speech, manners, personality, intelligence, and body language.
There are four different age divisions: Mini Miss, Little Miss, Junior Miss, and Miss. In the Miss division, ages 16-21, the competition is the toughest. The contestants are interviewed, have to walk the runway in heels and a floor length dress, and also have to give a speech in front of the audience. Painful high heels, nerve-racking public speaking, wardrobe malfunctions, and stiff competition make pageants sometimes very stressful. Why then would girls choose to put themselves through it?
Bailey Mosley, a Miss contestant from Palmetto High School, has been competing in the Manatee County Pageant for five years now.
“The pageant is so much fun each year. It helps prepare you for the future by teaching you interviewing and speaking skills, and also helps to boost your self-confidence,” Mosley said.
The winner receives the usual crown, flowers, and trophy, but they also receive a $1,000 educational scholarship and many great opportunities. Quin Kalish from Manatee High School was the Junior Miss winner of 2010. She agreed that the experience is a lot of fun.
“I learned how to present myself correctly. I also got to meet a ton of people like the county officials, and I got the chance to see how they run the county,” Kalish said.
Other queen duties include parading with the conquistadors, as well as getting to present certain awards at the fair.
Girls of all ages come from many different areas of the county to participate in the event. Karissa Sammons, a 17-year-old at Palmetto High School, has been returning to the pageant every year since she was two, and has received many different awards.
Placing in any division in the Manatee County pageant is a very respectable title that many girls long for, and it isn’t an easy thing to earn. But behind the ball gowns, big hair, and done-up faces, each competitor fights for the title that can only be given to one girl -- the one who can win over the judges and take the crown.