I had the opportunity to judge the Miss LSU pageant on Sunday evening, and it was an experience that I did not expect and will not forget. I do not have any prior history or experience with beauty pageants – attending or judging. The only pageant ‘experience’ I have is what I have watched on Miss Congeniality. (By the way, the young lady who won Miss Congeniality on Sunday evening totally deserved it!) I easily accepted the invitation to judge, because it was something for LSU, and I love to be involved in new ways with our university.
Let’s be honest, I also like any excuse to pick out an outfit and get dressed up on a Sunday evening. I pulled out this oldie but goodie of a dress from my closet and decided on bright blue hues for accessories. I wish I had more glitter and sparkles on hand…it would have been the right night to wear it!
The judging process was a two part event stretched over a full day. We held the interview session of the pageant on Sunday morning. It was a whirlwind to say the least. We met all 19 contestants back-to-back and individually asked them any questions we chose. Each girl had five separate interviews since there were five judges. Even in the brief four minutes of each interview, I learned so much about each participant. These ladies are doing some amazing things and have some of the most interesting backgrounds. I was very impressed to say the least.
One of the things that struck me was that many of these young women have already started non-profit organizations and other community relations groups. Y’all, that’s amazing! I thought I was active in college, but these girls are so hands-on in their community. Many of them identified an issue in their community and acted on it. If it wasn’t an issue they saw in their community, they shared specific issues they each faced personally and how they would use the platform as Miss LSU to help others experiencing similar situations. I was floored to hear each one of the girls’ stories and how they wanted to be a part of change for our university and community.
During the interview portion, I asked one of the contestants how she would explain the pageant to someone who feels that Miss LSU is only a “pretty face” competition. She explained to me that the only part of the pageant the audience sees is the evening wear and swimsuit sections, while the interview portion is just as important in deciding a winner. This is true. Each part is weighted as the same amount of the final total. As someone who has wondered this in the past or has wondered the motivation for young women to compete in pageants, she totally got me to understand a different viewpoint.
Throughout the interviews, you could easily tell the love and passion these ladies have for LSU. Each one of them stepped on campus from a different situation and they are all experiencing LSU in a different way. The one thing in common though, was how they could all articulate what LSU means to them and why they would be proud to represent this university.
The judges were seated as close to the stage as you could get during the pageant. I couldn’t help but smile myself as each contestant introduced themselves and went through the evening gown and swimsuit portions of the program. It was kind of like when people ask you to take a picture and you automatically smile even though you are behind the camera. We had to score quickly, but had guidelines to help guide us to which score we chose.
I KEPT THINKING TO MYSELF, “THESE GIRLS HAVE GUTS.”
And, I am proud there are young women on this campus like them to represent our beloved university. LSU is in good hands.
I don’t know how other pageants are run or operated, but I was impressed with the professionalism of Miss LSU and the Delta Zeta chapter at LSU, who puts on this event each year. It wasn’t just about swimsuits and pretty dresses. These young women are making an impact in their community and taking their time to help others. Having the title of Miss LSU is one way for them to be able to promote our university, our community and positive change. It might sound cliche, but it is exactly what they are striving to do.
One of my favorite parts of the experience was meeting the others judges who are all active in our community. I did not know a single judge on the panel, but by the end of the night we were all laughing and joking together and talking about how we each experienced the process. This was a total benefit for me branching out to do something completely new.
There is no doubt this year’s Miss LSU, Alyssa Ceasar, is going to be a fabulous representative for our university. She is intelligent and has the poise and passion for change and making our university the best it can be. It was fun to be part of such an exciting night for her!
I don’t think I will be entering a Mrs. pageant anytime soon, but I have a different view towards pageants after being a part of the Miss LSU pageant. Being a judge feels like a bucket list item that I can now cross off. Each of these young women has a purpose, and if we are lucky enough, they will share it with all of us.