Beauty Pageants: How to Have a Happy Ending without Getting Ripped Off

TOPSHOT - Miss Puerto Rico Stephanie Del Valle (C) reacts after winning in the Grand Final of the Miss World 2016 pageant at the MGM National Harbor December 18, 2016 in Oxon Hill, Maryland. / AFP / ZACH GIBSON (Photo credit should read ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Nationwide beauty pageants are a $5 billion a year industry. There are more than 3000 pageants held each year, drawing at least 250,000 contestants. Pageants are held in nearly every state, including Alabama. Often parents and children are draw by promises of scholarships, prizes, cash, popularity, and bragging rights. There is an ongoing debate between parents and detractors of the pageant industry as a whole. However, parents argue that their child, win or lose, benefits from the discipline and skills developed as a contestant.

While legitimate pageant companies will do their best to provide each contestant with the best experience possible, unscrupulous operations are simply out to siphon money from parents. According to Bankrate.com, “Pageant entry fees run from $25 to more than $500. Many pageants also have “optionals.” They are the contests within the contest for titles such as “Most Photogenic” or “Best Costume,” which tack on even more to the parents’ bill…. A week of … training costs $5,000; a day goes for $1,000.” With all of these extras, costs can spin out of control quickly.

Before entering your child into a pageant, always go to bbb.org to check on the pageant operator and make sure you have answers to the following questions.

How long has the company been operating pageants? Who are the directors? Usually pageants are operated by for-profit organizations that solicit participants by mail or print advertising, or by broadcast and social media, to compete for recognition and prizes from the promoter.

What is the total cost of pageant participation for both the entrant and the sponsor? Family or business sponsors are asked to pay a sponsorship fee, which can vary in size, to the pageant promoter to cover hotel rental fees, awards, administrative costs and salary for company personnel and to generate company profits. Also, keep in mind that there are other costs for entrants, such as clothing, make-up, food and lodging.

Can the location (place of business) of the pageant company be verified? Where and when will the actual pageant be held? What accommodations are provided for contestants? Will there be adequate supervision?

Do all of the details add up? Are there judges and what are their qualifications? Do they have any affiliation with the company? Are refunds possible if a contestant decides to withdraw from the pageant? How are the winners chosen? What criteria are used for selection? What are the obligations of the winning contestant? What do former contestants and winners have to say about the pageant? Ask the company for references. Finally, what benefit will be derived from participating or winning?

Do the winnings sound too good to be true? Be sure to read any contract carefully and thoroughly in advance of entering a pageant to understand the rights and responsibilities of the winner or other contestants.

Sources: BBB North Alabama, BBB.org, and Bankrate.com

BBB News Release: Beauty Pageants: How to Have a Happy Ending without Getting Ripped Off

To learn more, go to The Cost of Winning a Beauty Pageant. If you would like to report a scam, call your BBB at 256-533-1640 or go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.