10 things NOT to do at a pageant

Watching your friends or family compete in pageants can be a nerve-wracking experience. The cheering section comes early to get the best seats, adorned with buttons and posters. As we all know, only one girl will walk away with the crown.

But what if I told you that you, as a spectator, your conduct matters? While it might not directly impact your contestants scores, judges can't help but hear negative comments grumbled by the audience behind them, and pageant staff and directors see tweets and posts on social media.

 awards ready and waiting at Miss NC/SC US International & US Supranational 

awards ready and waiting at Miss NC/SC US International & US Supranational 

1. Don't be late! 

As a spectator, nothing is worse than an entire family coming in at the end of the opening number and settling into the theater in front of you. The ladies work hard to make sure that opening number is entertaining and that they each get their moment to shine during introductions. 

2. Don't trash talk on social media.

I know from experience that the directors, titleholders and pageant leadership are monitoring their location, hashtag and the dreaded Voy forums. Make sure that you remember, as a spectator, you are representing your contestant and your actions could negatively affect her chances. 

3. Share the love, and at least golf clap for all contestants! 

Competing in a pageant for the first time can be scary! Each and every one of those young ladies have prepared and practiced for this moment, so cheer them on! It's okay to clap a little louder and even cheer louder for your girl. I remember small-town type pageants growing up where my mom was too busy trying to take pictures with her iPad (embarrassing, right?!) to clap for me. Thank heavens other people clapped. 

4. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. 

 An afternoon spent judging is more fun with this group

An afternoon spent judging is more fun with this group

I recently judged a pageant where a little brother and his friend were sitting two rows behind the judges. Based on their rude commentary of all of the contestants but one, it quickly became obvious who they were there supporting. My parents have also had the pleasure of sitting in front of some Chatty Cathys, who were trashing contestants' looks and hairstyles. You never know who is listening. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. You can recap the whole pageant in the privacy of your car on the way home. 

5. Don't let small children run around the theater unsupervised.

Contestants and parents spend a lot of money on wardrobe, training, coaches. Don't let your bored toddler distract from the competition, or worse, get hurt. Theaters are often very dark and may have contestants utilizing the aisles throughout the show. For the safety of everyone, keep your child in their seat or happy at a babysitters! 

6. Don't play on your phone the entire time.

Not only is the blue glow distracting for those around you, but spending the pageant staring at a screen not the stage might cause you to miss some big moments!

7. Don't use flash photography if the director or emcee have made announcements!

We get it, you're proud of your girl and want to capture every moment. More than likely, there is a professional photographer ready to do the same. Not only does your flash mess up the lighting for the professional photographers' shots, it can also distract those on stage! 

 before crowning at a pageant. outfit from  El Boutique

before crowning at a pageant. outfit from El Boutique

8. Don't approach the judges after if your contestant doesn't leave with a crown

Not every girl can walk away with a title. It's disappointing, especially when it's not clear to the audience why the winner won. I totally get it. Remember, its 3-5 judges opinions. Different day, different panel, different winner. Do not ever approach the judges after a pageant to ask what your girl did wrong, or to express your displeasure with the results. Feel free to email the director after the pageant to see if they might release judges' comments or to ask if the director has any feedback for you.

9. Don't declare you'll never return or publicly criticize your girl if she doesn't win. 

The pageant world is a small world. Let me repeat that: The pageant world is a SMALL world. Don't pitch a fit or act out when your girl doesn't win. Be happy for the winner, offer your congratulations and go home. Channel that disappointment: practice more and come back better for the next competition. Don't forget, it's just as, if not more, disappointing for the contestant. I remember how devastated I felt after not placing at Miss SC USA last fall. I was so embarrassed my friends and family came to finals and I didn't make the cut. Luckily, I have the best friends and family. After the pageant was over, they said lots of nice things and how much fun the trip was despite the outcome. 

10. If your contestant does get crowned, be gracious in the dressing room and leaving the theater. 

People remember how you made them feel. As parents, friends and supporters, its so easy to get caught up in the moment and squeal your congratulations and excitement. Don't forget about those girls packing up around you and your winner in the dressing room. Be sure to say something nice and genuine to each of those young ladies. As a winner and a loser, I know those fleeting moments in the dressing room can make a loss hurt a little less, or a whole lot more. 

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Pageants can be a lot of fun for everybody involved. A well-run pageant, organized directors, fair judges and prepared spectators can make or break the experience for your contestant. What tips would you offer for friends and family coming to watch?