Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pageant Polls: Where have all the contestants gone?

With only five women competing at Miss Miami Valley and the need for a very strong local to extend its deadline, pageant circles I still chat in have been wondering, where have all the contestants gone? After a long day of sharing the magic of movie making with tourist, I’ve decided to relax with some mindless blog research…

Below are the contestant amounts from Ohio locals in the 07/08 and 06/07 pageant seasons (according to my records). As it turns out, three of the five locals that have taken place this year actually increased the amount of participants. Then why does it feel like the numbers are down? Because this is the second year in a row they’ve been down, in comparison to the 2006/2007. Not all that long ago Miss Ohio local pageants averaged 15 to 20 women and a former contestant just reminded me of wait lists to compete in popular programs! Participants used to do the begging, now it's the E.D.s who have to...

Pageant Name – 08/09 - 07/08 - 06/07

* – 11 - 12 - 14
Greater Cleveland/Open City - 13 –12 - 18

West Central Ohio* – 13 - 9 - 8

Ohio Valley* – n/a - 6 - 9

North Coast – 9 - 6 - 14

Lake Erie/Northern Ohio – n/a - 13 - 12

Miami Valley – 5 - 8 - 12

North East Ohio – n/a - 9 - 14

Clayland – n/a - 7 - 15

Portsmouth/Scioto Valley – n/a - 9 - 13

Maumee Valley/AAC/FT – n/a - 14 - 15

Northwestern Ohio- n/a - 10 - 14

Maple City – n/a - 11 - 16

Mansfield – n/a - 12 - 8

Central Ohio – n/a - 17 - ?

Hamilton* - n/a - 9 - 10

* Closed pageants

Why the drop in numbers? I can think of a few very obvious reasons off the top of my head… I know the there isn’t one “right answer” and that the issues are all interconnected, but, when forced to choose, what do you think is the greatest contributing factor to the decrease in local constants in Ohio?


  1. The BS of Miss Ohio to sum it all up.

  2. It's NOT just Ohio -- the Miss America Organization (MAO), on all levels, is a complete mess. It's no longer the prestigious program it once was.

    Although the lack of effective TV coverage may play a small part in contestant numbers, it's more likely that numbers are affected by:

    -- The MAO Mess, in general (Younger girls no longer want to grow up "to be Miss America". The "pomp and circumstance" is gone and the pageant finals that are aired have become a big joke. Most kids don't even watch it.)
    -- The lack of dedicated local EDs
    -- The lack of experienced local EDs
    -- The CMN donations
    -- The fact that Talent remains 40% of the contestants' score
    -- The economy (e.g., entry fees, addition "sales" requirements for contestants -- program ads, event tickets, raffle tickets, etc. IN ADDITION TO talent assistance, coaches, wardrobe items

    It's important to note that ALL pageant systems are being affected, NOT just MAO.

  3. I think the mass amount of paperwork can make a difference too. I helped a girl to prepare the one year and was shocked at the length of the application. It used to be two pages maybe three maximum and now it is way too much.

    CMN is a big contributing factor too. With the economy and contestants working and going to school it is so much harder to do. I never would have been able to compete if they did this way back in my day ;)

  4. As a former contestant(2000/2001) I can remember when programs such as licking county, ashland, central, and southeastern were premier programs with waiting lists. As a contestant it was a joy to compete at these locals. I think a lot of the problem lies with the CMN donation. Lets face it, its an entry fee. MAO and MOSP really need a revamping, new leadership and with the ongoing economical situations today the donation just isn't feasible...

  5. Hey everyone, thanks for your comments! I think you all have great points.

    Andrew, as I said in my post, I agree that it's a variety of factors. However, I think the poll results and comments here accurately point to the biggest cause of low contestant numbers - the CMN fee.

    Carrie- I HATED the paperwork!!! I was always hugging the deadlines because it was such a pain, I'd put if off as long as possible... And the reality is many E.D.s are unorganized too, or maybe it's just too much paperwork and red tape for VOLUNTEERS to handle.

    Anonymous, that was also my first year of competing and I was wait listed for Miss Ashland. My parents drove me to the forum, just in case... It was amazingly intimidating, but I still remember the outgoing Miss, Kathy Black, spoke and was so inspirational. Seeing how prestigious and competitive it all was really solidified how much I wanted to be in the program! I doubt constantly hearing "extended deadline" does that for women today. :( I didn't get in that pageant, which Natalie Witwer went on to win, then Miss Ohio that year...


  6. Several people have mentioned the CMN fees. It's "ONLY" $100 -- and I realize if a contestant competes in more than one local, it's $100 per local. In some states, it may be more since MAO locals can now crown 2 or 3 titleholders and, in most areas, the CMN fee is $100 PER CROWN/TITLE so it can be costly.

    But again, keep in mind, that MAO is about the ONLY "adult" pageant system that still holds local pageants where winners advance to state thereby allowing contestants actual interview and on-stage experience for VERY reasonable prices.

    If you simply subtract the $100 CMN fees, you STILL have wardrobe, support in the way of coaches, trainers, etc., and anything else a local requires -- ticket and ad sales, etc.

    As for the "poll" I'm not sure what poll you're referring to. =)

    As for the paperwork, I've been involved with MAO programs since the late 60's and the paperwork has ALWAYS been overwhelming, especially once you've won a local and advance to state.

    So, honestly, with the economy the way it is, the $100 or $200 or, worst case scenario, $300 CMN fees do NOT make up the bulk of the competition costs OR the major part of the confusion.

    If a young woman REALLY wants to compete, she'll raise the money to cover the CMN costs, just as thousands of contestants have done re: other pageant expenses for over 80 years.

    Again, just my observation.

  7. Hi there Andrews,

    Again, your point is well taken, but from what I’ve read and heard over the past two years, I think you’re in the minority. (Of course the poll I was referring to is in the post above… Sorry, if your smiley face indicated a joke or something, I didn’t get it.)

    Sure, there are lots of expenses in pageantry, but instead of thinking of the CMN fee as the least of them, for many it’s become ‘the straw that broke the camels back.’ One of the things that separated the MAO and the mentality of its contestants was that there was not an entry fee. It’s like if they turned a highway you have to travel everyday into a toll road – sure, it’s not much money and it goes to a good cause, but it pisses you off and tightens your budget and some people will find a new road! Women who do not win their first two or three local pageants will pay the $400 local cap, then once you do win a local, I believe it’s another $250 to go to state.

    I competed in Ohio USA twice, so I certainly understand that in comparison to other pageant systems, a few hundred bucks is nothing. But as someone who tries to keep tabs on the contestants, I can tell you many Miss Ohio women are NOT doing other pageant systems. Ohio isn’t a big pageant state and they are simply not used to paying entry fees.

    I appreciate your comments because you’re showing that like anything in life, it’s all about attitude: Your mindset is that it’s not that much money, committed girls will find a way to raise it, paperwork is just paperwork…

    I can’t help but sympathize with the arguably negative, whiney or perhaps more realistic (depending how you look at it) attitude that it IS a lot of money, fundraising is unbelievably difficult and time consuming, the paperwork is unnecessarily tedious…

    These ARE the feelings, or complaints, that contestants and their parents have. Many women suck it up and deal with it in order to achieve the greater goal, but again, I think the drop in numbers show that many others do not.


  8. I think the important thing to remember is that the Miss America Organization is no longer what it was when there were NO entry fees!

    The programs have changed DRAMATICALLY -- as recently as the early-mid 70's, state and local franchises were FREE, usually owned and operated by philanthropic organizations like the JayCees or Altrusa Clubs. A local pageant was a annual project for the non-profit organization, there were no local EDs.

    As the MAO program changed, so did the local and state operations. Although still promoted as being "not-for-profit, local personnel were now individual volunteers who were fundraising on their own or with volunteer boards and by the late 90's contestants were required to sell a specific number of tickets to the event or purchase program book ads. Other fundraising activities began to be a major part of state pageant week -- dinners, golf outings, etc.

    What was once the ONLY pageant where there were NO entry fees AND where the local organizations would help prepare their contestant for state competition with the sponsorship of area merchants -- photographers, formalwear shops, hairdressers, modeling agencies, etc. -- became basically the same as all the other pageant programs that had existed or were being founded. ONLY TWO THINGS set MAO apart: NO entry fees AND a talent presentation.

    Now, the Miss America pageants, at all levels, are no different than the others except a talent presentation is required.

    My original point is that, ten years ago, as new pageants were introduced, numbers in all systems soared.

    Take Illinois Teen USA, for example.

    Although there were no local prelims and state entry fees were nearing $1,000, prior to about 2000, the Teen division boasted approximately 70-80 contestants. Between 2000 and 2005, there were nearly 200 (!) teen contestants at state. The past two years, numbers are "down" and entry fees are up -- with entry fees well over $1,200 +, there numbers are still in the 120's-140's, but that's a tremendous DECREASE in the past 2 years.

    Another example, the Mrs. International state pageants. In 2002 - 2004, there were over 20 Mrs. contestants at the state pageant. The past three years there were FEWER then TEN!

    So talent, or not; Teen or Mrs.; "Beauty" or "Platform", numbers ARE down. Acorss the board. BIG TIME.

    Perhaps those affiliated with only the MAO system feel their numbers are down because of the CMN fees, but if you step back and look at the "Big Picture" and consider ALL the pageant systems and stats, you'll realize ALL systems have been affected -- quite probably due to the economy.

    As for my reference to the "poll", I thought perhaps you'd posted a multiple-choice questions online, asking MAO contestants to respond re: "why" they may not be competing this year or not competing as often as in the past. So the smiley face didn't indicate a "joke", but was meant to show I wasn't being critical.

    Over the past 16 years I've worked with directors and contestants and judged oor served as auditor at national and state and local pageants in more than 30 systems in 20 states and 3 countries.

  9. Andrews,

    Again, you raise some great points, but keep in mind that most of the poll respondents and other commenters specifically had Ohio MAO in mind.

    Note, the second poll above is for current contestants, in attempts to let the rest of us know what is going through their minds. I am surprised the "not competing this year" option has received a few votes; I would assume most women who hang up their heels would also stop reading publications like this... I suppose their level of continued interest or support depends on why a women chooses to stop competing.



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