So, you have decided that you want to do a pageant. Whether this is your first pageant or your 21st pageant, picking your system is a tricky thing to do. Where do you even start, how do you even find what systems are available and suitable for you. Well, first things first, have you checked out our page on the website where we list all the current UK systems? We allow free listings for all UK contracted systems to promote themselves so you can easily find all the options. Some of the systems have also submitted further information, so you can dig deep, all in one place. If you are a director reading this and you've yet to submit your details or don't see yourself listed please do get in touch ASAP so we can promote you too. Please note this page is only for UK based contract add systems, unfortunately we can't list all the charity systems that happen in the UK because there are just too many and the details and information change too often us to stay on top of.
Now you know where to find all the UK systems, what do you really need to think about before you pick one?
The first question you should be asking yourself is why do I want to compete in the first place. Maybe you have a platform that you would really like to promote through your time as a finalist and hopefully a Queen. Maybe you like competing as a way of raising money for charity, maybe you're looking to have fun and gain confidence and meet new people. Whatever your reason it's important that you identify and fully understand it. If you don't know your why, you don't know where you should be (as in which system you should be in).
Let's take a look at some of the more common “why” reasons for competing and what you should think about if that is that “why” that connects with you.
Confidence & Making Friends
If you are looking to grow in confidence or make new friends some of the things I would consider are… the location of the pageant. It might be nice if you choose a pageant that is local to your area as much as possible. This can help increase the chances of meeting other local pageant ladies and it can also reduce the stress of travel. Pageants can be a very expensive hobby and staying local can help reduce some of these costs. Some pageants also run events in advance, and these are likely to be held near to where the pageant finals are taking place. If you are local you're more likely to be able to attend some of them which will help you grow your confidence and meet other pageant ladies in advance of the big day. The next thing to consider is a personal one. Are you the sort of person that flourishes in a really big pond or do you prefer to be a big fish in a little pond? You may prefer to compete in a smaller division with less ladies allowing you to build closer relationships, or you may be the sort of person that really wants to be on stage with lots and lots of other contestants. Think about which one would work best for you and then seek out a pageant system that matches.
If you are looking for a system that would help you promote your platform consider systems that get a lot of press and have directors that will actively support you in promoting your platform the most. Some systems value platforms more than others and looking at the visibility of the current Queens can be a great indicator. Have the current Queens been featured lots, have they appeared in national press, have they been featured on national TV. These systems are likely to give you a bigger voice to help you promote your platform. It's also important to consider whether you are allowed to promote your own platform or advocacy with a certain system. Some systems have very tight rules and it's worth asking to see the Queens contract before you commit to a system, particularly if you want to stand up for something and be a Queen of substance. The last thing you want after all that effort of competing is to find out that your voice is going to be stifled by a contract and your whole purpose for competing in the first place goes out the window you could also speak to past Queens, not the current ones. Go back a few years and ask how supportive the director was with their platforms and their advocacy or awareness projects.
If your main focus is raising money for charity the first thing you need to decide is do you have a charity in mind or is it that you just want to raise money for any charity. Certain systems have a specific charity that they raise money for and although you can still also raise money for your chosen charity it might not be considered toward the side award of becoming Miss Charity in that system. If you have a specific charity in mind it might be worth choosing a system that allows you and encourages you to choose your own. While it's not impossible to raise money for your charity as well as the system's charity it can be a little confusing for your followers on social media and in real life if they don't know which charity they are supporting when they support your fundraising events. Having just one charity that you focus on creates a much clearer message. Some people do choose the system specifically because they like supporting the charity that that system already fundraises for. However, it is worth checking with the system before you sign up that they always raise money for the same charity. You don't want to part with your deposit only to find out they changed charities each year and you're now stuck fundraising for charity you're not that interested in.
Learning New Skills & Going Beyond Your Comfort Zone
Competing in a pageant is a challenge in itself and goes beyond the comfort zone of most people, however, if you are looking for a real challenge and lots of personal development then try and find a pageant that really encompasses this. Look for a system that does additional workshops or maybe has some extra special side awards. Side awards don't usually count to your overall score, but they can be a great way of achieving so much more from competing in a pageant. There is only one winner in each age division, so I am a big believer in having goals beyond the Crown and these could also be linked to the side awards. More systems are now stepping up with workshops for the finalists, which I think is a really wonderful move that makes it less about competition and more about the personal growth and development of the finalists. For me it is very important if we want our industry as a whole in the UK to grow. I'll be honest sometimes the systems aren't great at promoting all the wonderful things they do and you might need to do a little extra digging. Talk to some of the current finalists or past finalists and Queens find out what was really involved in their time competing with the system. Many systems do not shout loud enough about the amazing things that they get up to in the run up to the competition and what's even better is many of these systems have embraced things like zoom during lockdown, allowing you to take part in these bonus workshops without having to travel far or even leave your home and your pjs.
Lastly, I want to jump into some specific things to consider that are important no matter your goal from competing. Firstly, do you want to go to an international final. Some UK systems lead to internationals and some don't. Don't have the time or finances to support an international final? Then look for UK systems that are just offering a national title and don't then require you to go abroad. We are lucky in the UK to have a couple of European systems, this means you will have a European title, not just a UK title. Some of the European titles still go to internationals, so make sure you've done your research.
You need to consider what date the final is happening and if you are required to be there for a certain number of days before and after the date of the actual final. If your pageant does go to an international, make sure that you can also make the date of the international final. Some international finals can be as long as a month if not more, especially if you then win or place highly at the internationals. Make sure you are aware of all the dates in advance and that you are only committing to systems that you know you can take part in.
Next look at your finances. Yes, it costs more in certain systems than others do, and I don't just mean the entrance fees. Look at what rounds you will have to take part in and how costly it will be to borrow or buy these outfits. For example, an evening gown is usually going to be more expensive than swimwear or sportswear and fashion wear, well fashion wear can be a whole other complicated issue. Pageantry doesn't have to be extortionate, but it will cost you either time or money and probably a bit of both. Make sure that you can afford what your system is going to require of you before you commit your deposit. Also look at the area the pageant is taking place in because hotels across the UK vary massively in price. For example, if your pageant is in central London… Wow, your hotel bill is going to be pretty high, whereas in certain parts of the country you can pick up an Airbnb for as little as £30 a night.
It's also important to consider the contract when signing up to a pageant. What would be required of you if you win? What is required of you as a finalist? Does everything in the contract align with who you are and what you want to get out of entering a pageant? Be very careful of systems that won't let you see the contract in advance of entering.
Last but not least get some feedback from people that have competed in the system before. Not just the current Queens or existing Queens, it's important to dig out some finalists who didn't win and have therefore had a different experience from competing in this system. You don't have to have won a Crown to have had an amazing experience with a pageant. Pageants where the finalists are gushing just as much as the winner are more likely to give you a good experience than ones where no one has a good word to say except the current titleholder. What will you gain from competing in this system even if you don't take home the Crown? Did the finalists feel like they got good value for money? Was it well organised? Was it fun and will they be returning next time? It's important to note you can't please everyone, so there will usually be at least a little bit of bad feedback about a system and this is perfectly normal. One person having a bad experience or even a couple of people having a bad experience doesn't always mean that this system isn't the right system for you. Systems evolve and change and grow and learn just like we as individuals do, but if all the feedback you're getting is bad, then it might be a bit of a red flag.
I hope this has helped you start that journey to finding your next or first pageant system. If you would like any more help make sure you check out the podcast for episodes around this topic, as well as many, many other useful bits of information including interviews with guest experts across all areas of pageantry. And if your question still hasn't been answered you can always hit us up with an email firstname.lastname@example.org