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What to do if You Think a Pageant Judge is Biased

Pageant girls of all ages, it is time to get real. With any competition, there is a fear that all competitors have. What if the judges are biased? Unfortunately, pageantry is no different.

That’s okay, because your friends at Pageant Planet are here to guide you through these rough times. You can’t always change a judge’s mind, but you can be the best you that you can be.

Judge Halima Aden on the red carpet before the opening of The MISS USA® competition. Photo Credit: Patrick Prather
Judge Halima Aden on the red carpet before the opening of The MISS USA® competition. Photo Credit: Patrick Prather

What to do if You Think a Pageant Judge is Biased

On Sunday, May 14, 2017, the Miss USA telecast was aired live on Fox. For the first time ever, a state finalist would serve as a judge. 19-year-old Halima Aden of Minnesota made history by being the first contestant to compete in a hajib and burka during the competition. From there her, pageantry and modeling career took off. (Read: Halima Aden Models at Yeezy Season 5 Wearing Her Hijab Trademark)

However, the question came about, would Halima be biased towards Miss Minnesota USA 2017, Meredith Gould? We are definitely not saying that there was any bias in the competition, but it got us thinking, what should you do if you are competing in a pageant where you believe a judge is biased?

Playing Favorites

There are mainly two types of biases that affect pageant competitors. The first type is a judge that plays favorites.

Sometimes you get a judge that particularly likes one contestant. In small towns, it is not uncommon to have a judge that has coached a contestant, is the school teacher of several contestants or is connected to some contestant in one form or another.

This can lead to a judge playing favorites. The judge may even subconsciously score a contestant higher just because they have some affiliation with that particular contestant.

So, what can you do if a judge is playing favorites?

Remember, that is only one judge out of three or more. You must remain consistent and persistent through all phases of competition.

Also, never assume a judge is playing favorites because they have some relation with the contestant. One day, you will compete in a pageant where you know one of the judges, it could even be a girl you competed against in the past like at Miss USA! (Read: Miss USA 2017 Judges Announced)

Meridith Gould, Miss Minnesota USA 2017, answers her final question as a top 5 finalist onstage with host Terrence J during The MISS USA® Competition at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Photo by Patrick Prather, courtesy of The Miss Universe Organization.
Meridith Gould, Miss Minnesota USA 2017, answers her final question as a top 5 finalist onstage with host Terrence J during The MISS USA® Competition at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Photo by Patrick Prather, courtesy of The Miss Universe Organization.

That’s What I (don’t) Like

The second type of bias one may experience in pageants is the negative bias. There may be a judge that doesn’t like red heads, or pink gowns on misses, or some other third thing. These judges are usually more difficult to sway.

How can you even tell if a judge is biased against a particular styling or “type” of contestant? That is the tough question. Some judges have tell-tale signs with small facial expressions. However, most judges don’t. (Read: 5 Body Language Mistakes You are Making in Interview)

Usually, contestants will be able to tell through word of mouth, which is an unreliable source. A better source is the judge’s comments after the pageant, but this is too late for scoring purposes.

We caught up with Candice Christian, a frequent pageant judge from Florida, and asked what advice she would give contestants who thought a judge was biased. (Read: 5 Reasons You Should Thank Your Pageant Judges)

Christian said, “In pageantry, there’s always going to be wins and losses. All in all, you have to remember that the reason you’re there is to better yourself and to feel more confident about the person you are.”

The Third Bias We Don’t Like to Mention…

Remember how we said there were only two biases to worry about? Well, there is also a third bias that could fall under the second bias, but we think that this one, in particular, deserves its own section. We’re talking about racial biases. (Read: Pageant Question Of The Day: Racism)

Contestants who are women of color are few and far between in pageants, and some of the reason is due to the fear of being racially discriminated against and the awkwardness of being the only one who is “different.”

Dealing with racially biased judges is difficult. It is always hard to tell if a judge really doesn’t like you because of your skin tone or because they simply don’t like your dress. It’s a touchy subject and many pageants do not like to even address it.

However, we know it does happen, and should it happen to you, we want you to know what to do. If you experience racial bias in a pageant, keep your heels high, and your head higher. You have to know that these things happen, and they are bigger than a crown.

The best thing you can do is be an example for other little girls thinking of competing but afraid of what might happen. Show them that you are not afraid and that you can win against all odds. Perhaps you’ll even make history like Miss Missouri USA 2017, Bayleigh Dayton, who became the first African-American to win the title, ever!

So, what do I do?

If you compete in a pageant and you believe a pageant judge is biased, the simplest thing you can do is your best. You cannot control what other people think of you, but you can control your actions and reactions. (Read: Why Your Winning Reaction is Important)

If you feel uncomfortable competing in a pageant where a judge knows a contestant, then simply do not compete. You can also let the director know of this and in some circumstances, a replacement judge may be found.

Have you ever competed in a pageant where you believed a judge was biased? What did you do and how did you handle it? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments section below.

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4 thoughts on “What to do if You Think a Pageant Judge is Biased

  1. I was in a system for years that used the same judges every year and I feel as if that negatively and positively affected their opinions. We also had girls who competed in a neighboring system and their director was a judge of ours. I always had an issue with the judges and way the judging worked.

  2. I found out that one of my boyfriend’s roommates was dating one of the contestants in a local pageant (I was not entered). The roommate’s father was friends with one of the judges. The contestant finished as second runner up. I didn’t know about this connection during the pageant, only afterwards – a couple of weeks later my boyfriend mentioned that the judge in question scored the contestant in first place in all areas for the top five placement. About 8 months later, that pageant was getting ready for the next year’s production and that’s when I mentioned the situation to the director. She was rather shocked – she didn’t know of the connection. I hoped she put controls in place for the next time. It’s always disappointing when those things happen.

  3. I competed in a system where the judges were parents of current titleholders through that same director. Not only that but a lot of the competitors along with the audience said it was a fixed pageant because a Miss who just gave up her title won again, and the way few on them thought it was rigged was a hint on how she did her hair which looked like a witch’s hair…of course until the crown was placed on her head. I also had an experience with an unprofessional judge. One of the questions that I answered she acted unprofessional by rolling her eyes at me while making unnecessary gestures such as tossing her arm to the side and making remarks “under her nose” as some would say. This completely threw me off because she interrupted me in the middle of my response during preliminary interviews. I know on the day of the pageant she intentionally knocked off my points. Had the judge acted professionally she would’ve known why I answered the way I did.

  4. What can u do if there are 4judges. The scores were 39/40. 38/40. 38/40 consistent.. 4th judge. 31/40 no way . This sort of made our mind up to give them a break. U can’t fight judging like that .. x

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