Although most pageant girls are extremely friendly and helpful, that’s not always the case. It’s also true that vendors, volunteers, judges, coaches, and even directors might be involved in pageant bullying.
Especially now that the Internet is easily at our fingertips all day long with smartphones, some people have found it easier than ever to bully. So here’s your guide to stay out of the drama and focus on yourself with tips from experts, pageant directors, and contestants themselves.
Where It Happens
According to sociologist and competitive event expert Hilary Levey Friedman, pageant bullies can be especially vindictive when the comments are taken online: “Message boards can be very vicious and often racist,” she says.
These anonymous forums, according to Friedman, started out as a way to help link pageant fans together. “The pageant world is often spread out, and also socially stigmatized in some parts of the country,” says Friedman. As a result, these online communities have stuck around longer than others.
It’s not just anonymous forums, either. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites have been used in countless cases where hurtful and unnecessary comments abound. Cyberbullying is so real that many pageant contestants have it as a platform. Sometimes, these sites are even used to propel ugly rumors about contestants that aren’t even true.
How to Avoid It
To start off with, don’t ever try to access these sites on your own. It’s not going to do anything but drag your confidence down. Especially if you are in “pageant mode” already, it’s not going to help you. One state Miss America finalist says, “I don’t bring my computer to pageant week and I don’t allow myself to access any of those pageant sites while I’m competing. It might throw off my game.”
Another Miss USA contestant said “People are going to talk about you- you can’t control that. You can control your response, though.”
One Miss America state runner up says that some people, like pageant directors, get on these pageant boards with good intentions, but actually end up stirring the pot. She says, “The boards simply are and always will be breeding grounds for hate. Their posts are typically met with cynicism and could be considered fueling the fire.”
One team of directors for a local Miss America preliminary said they choose to show their support for girls online in a positive way, cheering them on at local pageants and wishing them good luck in social media forums. “Our girls feel supported, whether they win our pageant or not.” This team has chosen to fight negativity with positive affirmations and a belief in all contestants.
What To Do If You See It
If someone has made serious comments threatening you or your family members whether directly to you or to someone else, you may have grounds for harassment. Given that it’s difficult to prove these types of cases, you need to speak with a legal professional for more information.
That doesn’t mean you can’t go after someone because of comments made on message boards or social media. I spoke with two parties who had pursued legal action as a result of libel or slander claims against anonymous message boards and the individuals who posted on them.
“I’m not going to say it’s easy,” said one. “But when untrue comments are being spread about you online, you may need to use the law to protect yourself.”
You can avoid pageant bullying by simply ignoring what others say about you. My first interview coach ever told me “When people start talking about you, you know you’ve really arrived.” Let the comments roll off your back like water on a duck. You’ve got bigger things to focus on, right? Leave the haters in the blue-green glow of the computer screen and continue accomplishing your dreams.