I am driving out to the Denver Tech Center, a vast sinister land of giant hotels and chain restaurants. And there is the Hyatt, so I park and head upstairs. Even before I make it to the top, I can tell I am at the right place. There are girls ranging in ages three to twenty-something prancing around in all sorts of gowns and costumes. They have glitter on them and chatter excitedly. There is a photographer on hand telling his subject to do generic posey poses.
“Hold your head up, put your hand like a fist underneath your chin, cute, GREAT, cute!”
I stand there and don’t know where to go. My judge itinerary says to go to the Grand Mesa Ballroom, but all I see is a booth with candy on the table. I look through the candy and select a Now & Later. BOOM! There she is without warning, suddenly in front of me. Until now, I have no idea what this woman’s name was. She seemed to be some sort of pageant organizer and spent the entire day breathing hard saying “things are so stressful” when they didn’t seem all that stressful to me. She has gigantic, intense blue eyes. She herself is intense.
“ARE YOU MICHELLE FERGUSON FROM JOHN CASABLANCAS?”
She hurries me over to the Grand Mesa Ballroom. There are two other judges. I am Judge #3. It turns out we aren’t really the important judges. The important ones (judges 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) will be judging the next day, Sunday, on evening wear and will also ask the contenders questions like, “Who is your favourite American?” and “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I have no idea why anyone would ask a three-year old such questions. When I was that age, I wanted to be a cowgirl and my favourite American was Judy Garland as Dorothy. Anyway, Judges 1, 2 and 3 will rate the girls’ acting, talent and sportswear. 50 is the lowest score and 100 is the highest. I am cautioned against giving someone a score below sixty: “Just remember, you know, it’s hard to get up on a stage in front of all these people you don’t know.”
It turns out I am a pretty forgiving judge in comparison to the other two. Judge #1 is Miss. Colorado Galaxy. That’s like the pageant for older chicks– people in their thirties and stuff. She actually is rather good looking. She has red hair and green eyes. Her red hair is short, and short hair is something not a lot of females can pull off. Judge #1 is extremely into pageants. She’s been doing them for 40 years and knows tap, jazz, ballet, et cetera graduate of Colorado Christian University et cetera. She asks the organizers too many questions, and wants very much to take control and serve as the mama bear character of the group, which is certainly fine with me.
Judge #2 owns her own tanning salon company. She is, as expected, very tan. She tells me she got her MBA in Australia, which is sort of neat. She has long manicured nails and they make me nervous when she speaks animatedly and waves her hands around near my face. She also tells me she needs to lose 30 lbs. Yes, that is true, but I don’t want to be rude so I say, “Oh…don’t be silly. A tan always makes a bikini body look even better.”
“Yeah, well,” Judge #2 snorts, “I’ll have to be black to be bikini ready.”
“Please welcome the judges,” the announcer says over the microphone. We walk in, and people are clapping but the audience is definitely not packed. I don’t know why I thought it would be. Then a spotlight is blasted on each individual judge while the announcer gives a brief biography. Oh God, how painful this is. Judge #1 and #2 push back their chairs, stand, turn, smile and wave enthusiastically to the crowd. The announcer tells us about how glad they are to be here to enrich young womens’ lives and to give them confidence.
I didn’t put any crap like that in my biography, so mine is a lot shorter than the other two.
“Last but not least, Judge #3 is Michelle Ferguson. She was born in Hong Kong and is a graduate of New York University. She is a bookings agent at John Casablancas Modeling and Acting Agency, and is trying to learn how to be a better cook.”
I don’t want to stand up because I am scared so I crouch sort of like I am about to sit on a toilet raising my bum just inches off the cushion and flap my hand in the air quickly. The older contestants begin first. Some of them are pretty, some of them are not. There are a pair of twins- half Japanese, half white- who are competing against each other (which doesn’t sound so fun to me). Some of the sportswear outfits are well put together and creative, but others are disastrous like leopard print and plaid capris (score: 55/62). I give the pretty girls high scores and the ugly ones so-so scores unless they impress me with some sort of dancing or singing act or perhaps incredible gymnastics.
Two ordinary girls in the teen division get 90-something scores from me. One does a dance to “Fever” and man, it is such a great dance and also she has nice legs. She is barefoot and her costume is cool. In addition, she spots her head on time while doing turns and she never stops smiling. Smiling goes a long way in these sorts of competitions. I give her a 99. The second girls sings “Castle on a Cloud” from Les Misérables. That’s a hard song to sing without sounding really really annoying and also, her audio recording messed up a little and she didn’t lose character. I gave her a 96.
As the girls get younger, the “talent” section becomes dumber and dumber. One ten-year old girl does a dance to “Whip It” and she like, has no idea what is going on. She doesn’t even know the dance! So her mother is in the audience frantically doing the moves and the girl is just watching her with much confusion and following the moves like she is in an aerobics class or something. Score: 60 because I feel bad giving a child such a lousy score.
Another “talent” is a magician. I feel very excited when I see her bringing out her magician box as I too dabbled into the world of magic as an eight-year old. She is also eight, but her tricks are lame. During one, she puts a pink handkerchief into her magic velvet bag and then instantly pulls out a blue handkerchief. The audience cheers and claps. Uh, if I am not mistaken, I do believe the blue handkerchief was in the velvet bag to begin with. What kind of trick is that?! Another is where she puts a retractable sword in her mouth. All I have to say about that is: a magic trick a pedophile might enjoy.
Later in the day, I walk out of the restroom stall and wash my hands. One of the contestants, a six-or-so-year old girl is standing at the sinks staring at me with big eyes. I remember her. Her sportswear had been a dress from the American Girl Victorian Samantha Dress Collection. I had coveted the same dress from the same catalogue a long, long time ago. White with lace and pink bows. “Good taste in your Samantha dress,” I tell her, “I gave you a good score.” She smiles <her teeth=”” look=”” like=”” little=”” chiclets=””>, and this is the highlight of my day.</her>
Was judging at a pageant better then a day in the office? Yes, by far even though I had to listen to one girl screech out Annie’s “Tomorrow” for more than three minutes.
TA- MAW- WOWWW!
I LAV YA!
These girls were all nice girls, not like the scary ones you see on shows like “Toddlers in Tiaras”. They all wanted to sing, dance and model clothes, which are all things most girls love to do. What astounded me the most was when we had to score the girls’ professional headshots, thank-you letters, volunteer service and transcripts. Then I started to get bored. It was just too much unimportant stuff to go through. Getting three signatures from the principal, vice-principal and dean of your high school? What for? You either have it or you don’t. People can tell by just looking at you once.
Miss. Colorado 2011, I do so applaud you for your disdain and aversion towards laziness. I could learn a thing or two from you.