Recently I was invited to judge a beauty pageant. “Are you kidding me?” you say. No I am not thankyouverymuch, but I also had reservations regarding this task for, as I pointed out to the kind woman who recruited me, I know less than nothing about pageants.
“I am probably not your girl. I will screw it up for you. I will embarrass you. Really. I will pick the wrong girl and screw it up.” She persisted however, pointing out that I would be good at the talent evaluation and that I knew fitness well (why thank you!). I told her that I did not want to screw it up for their organization and she assured me that there would be plenty of judges’ orientation and that by the end of the day I would be a pro. So I agreed with trepidation.
The day approached and I received my judges’ packet in the mail. Inside was a plethora of information about the contestants, judging guidelines and a schedule. I was to report at 8:00am on the day of the event wearing business attire, although a suit was not required. Good thing too. I would be oriented, fed, put to work interviewing contestants and then given a break during which I would change into “evening attire,” which to me means pajamas. Clearly, I had a little work to do before the big day. By the time it arrived however, I was ready. I arrived fifteen minutes early so that my business attire high heels and I could make it up the stairs in time for the kickoff. Not to mention, I was wearing red lipstick. Nothing says beauty like red lipstick, so needless to say I was feeling pretty darn confident. As the other judges began to arrive I started to lose just a touch of my mojo. The first one to arrive was the most glamorous woman I have seen in a long time. She had a long history in and around pageants and was wearing full throttle makeup. Her lips were as red as mine but more plump and less wrinkled. Her skin looked airbrushed and her every move seemed effortless. Here’s the kicker. She was several months pregnant and I didn’t even know it. Next to arrive was a woman who was some sort of celebrated leader of the pageant world. At least she was older than I and she was very kind. It went on like this until we were all there. Everyone knew everyone else except me, but they welcomed me into their world anyway. We chatted over coffee and pastries until time to watch the training video. None of the guidelines surprised me too much. What did surprise me was the requirement to sign an affidavit stating that I would never discuss the contestants, my opinions or the judging process with anyone. If anyone should ask about it I was simply to say that I had signed an affidavit agreeing not to discuss any of it, but I wished all the contestants the best of luck. Then we were told not to react during the competition. We were allowed to smile at the television camera when they called our name, but that was all we could do. No clapping. No smiling. No winking or leaning over to make a comment to the other judges (as if!). No body language. Nothing. Nada. Poker face. They reiterated this over and over. I got it. I got it! No problem. I watch Homeland. I know what to do. No problem.
Following the afternoon break I reappeared in my silk evening attire and bigger red lips ready to smile for the camera. Still feeling dumpy next to Mrs. Gorgeous Pageant Veteran, I seated myself as far away from her as possible. We were sequestered in a little room until the show was ready to roll. We were briefed again and asked if we had any final questions. I sheepishly raised my hand.
“When do I go into the isolation booth?” Silence. “You know. The booth that is soundproof. When do I get to go inside it?” Gentle chuckles filled the room as Imperial Grand Wizard of Pageants smiled and shook her head.
“Honey, there is no isolation booth. They don’t use those anymore, but if they did only the contestants would go inside them. These days the girls each get a different question.” Shoot. What fun was there in a pageant that didn’t even have an isolation booth, huh? I ask you. Where is the fun in that?
“I knowwwwww that. I was just joking. Hahaha! Haha! Isolation booth! Hahaha! Gotcha!”
And the night flew by. Visions of beauties in bikinis, high, high shoes, evening gowns and spray tans whizzed past me in a flash. Before I knew it, the night was over, my lipstick was faded and my evening attire was wilted. We did our job as a panel and we had a winner. No blood was shed and all I had to do was make it to my car without being interrogated by angry mothers. I made it to my car just fine without even having to play the affidavit card. As my head hit the pillow that night I thought of Bert Parks and Mary Ann Mobley and Vanessa Williams. Ah, the times they may have changed for some, but for others, the parade goes on. I have my own thoughts about it all but, well…I signed an affidavit agreeing not to talk about it so………