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3 Misconceptions Contestants Have of Pageant Directors

Director Kelly Clay,Maryland United States
Director Kelly Clay with her Maryland United States titleholders. Photo courtesy of Kelly Clay.

“’Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,’ Confucius once said. I’m blessed to have worked in the pageant and modeling industry for more than two decades,” explained Kelly Clay, state director for Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, and Georgia Miss United States pageants. “I’ve worked my way up the ranks from contestant to titleholder to contestant coordinator to production assistant and finally director.”

This will be her sixth year as a pageant director, and during that time she has experienced a few misconceptions from contestants towards their directors.

3 Misconceptions Contestants Have of Pageant Directors

1. Directors have unlimited budgets and resources

This is very true in pageantry. When contestants pay a lot of money to compete, they often don’t realize the cost that directors are putting in for the pageant itself and that everyone has a budget.

“Much like contestants the director’s budget and resources are finite,” explained Clay. “This is very true when it comes to both the pageant production and the prize package.”

Just as you’ll settle for the dress in your budget, a director will also do what they can to provide the best experience within their budget. (Read: How to Budget for a Pageant)

“A nice size stage, ample dressing space, and fabulous ambiance is a reasonable expectation for you to have of your pageant directors,” Clay said.

All pageant prize packages were not created equal, even in the same system. For example, Miss America and Miss USA prize packages vary by state.

Just as you are out searching for sponsors to help with your pageant expenses, so is your director in an effort to make your year as a titleholder as light on the wallet as possible without straining theirs at the same time. Here is what Clay had to add.

“When it comes to prize packages, it’s important for titleholders to read their contracts in full. Prize packages are not created equally – even within the same system. It’s a reasonable expectation that you should and will receive all prizes listed in the package or contract and that anything outside of that contract is your responsibility. If it’s not spelled out in your contract be prepared to handle on your own. My goal is to always be transparent and clear about everything – most importantly the prize package.”

Director,Kelly Clay,DC United States titleholders
Director Kelly Clay with her DC United States titleholders. Photo courtesy of Kelly Clay.

2. Directors “pick” the winners

It can, at times, feel this way for contestants if they experience something that seems fishy during a pageant, but hopefully, directors are not doing this.

“This statement makes me cringe because I hope that 99 percent of directors do not ‘fix’ or ‘rig’ their pageant,” Clay said. “We have all heard stories of ones who have. But we can also state that most directors are good and honest people.”

Directors do, however, often discuss with judges what the pageant is looking for in a titleholder just as the head of a company or search committee would discuss with a hiring team before meeting with candidates to fill a position. (Read: How Pageant Directors Choose and Instruct Judges)

“What does happen though is that directors brief the judges as to the qualities they want to see in their new winner,” Clay said. “This briefing is done to guide the judges. It gives them a bar for them to measure the contestants up to.”

Directors also do their best when choosing judges and making sure that the judges will be fair and unbiased.

“I select judges that I know are qualified, reasonable, and able to provide unbiased scoring,” Clay said. “I will be the first one to tell the judges, ‘My job is to produce a fun, fair, and clean state pageant and your job is to select a quality winner.’”

3. Directors are qualified to coach you for the next level

You would certainly expect this, but this isn’t always the case. Some systems may just be way too big or have a director new to the system themselves.

The system may also be going through some changes and, depending on how large the system is, it may be difficult for a director to understand what exactly the pageant is looking for on a larger stage.

“Directors aren’t coaches and coaches aren’t directors,” Clay said. “Well, sometimes they are, but a good director will understand their limitations and seek out the help of experts to prep their winner.”

Look at your prize package and pageant sponsors to make sure you can get the help you need to be successful at the next level of competition.

“The best directors know that in order to prep your titleholder properly you will need a team of experts to make your titleholder national-ready,” Clay said. “I take pride in building my national level prep team. I have surrounded myself with individuals whose work I admire in the industry, who have an excellent winning or customer service record, and are as committed as I am to making sure each girl achieves her dream.”

After all, your success beyond that pageant stage will help your director grow the pageant and recruit future contestants.

Kelly Clay, Little Miss United States,pageant director
Kelly Clay with Little Miss United States. Photo courtesy of Kelly Clay.

Going Forward

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s not about what the pageant can do for you, but what you can do for the pageant that matters.

If you’re in this for the prizes and the glamour, you’re not in the right business. As a titleholder, you are an ambassador for the area you represent, a spokesperson for the pageant itself, and an advocate for your platform.

With that being said, do not expect your director to wait on you hand and foot and fund everything you hope to do during your year of service. Be willing to help them and support them and they are bound to do everything they can do to make your year memorable and successful. (Read: What Should You Give Your Director for Christmas?)

Clay is currently recruiting for the 2017 pageant season. If you are interested in Miss United States and you live, work or attend school in Maryland, District of Columbia, Georgia or Pennsylvania, please contact Mrs. Clay at pinktiarainc@gmail.com.

Good luck, ladies and directors!

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