The contest domain - http://wilmingtonpageant.com - is ‘private’. That is something that doesn’t point to a reputable organization. After all, a business domain is normally public. And make no bones about it, this is a business. This is not a community service. This is not a non-profit.
According to the Nationals Inc, website , the ‘mission’ of these pageants is to raise self esteem, to teach the girls poise. It’s not about their ‘looks’, and there is no talent competition. There is a formal wear division, but that’s just because the girls like dressing up. You aren’t expected to pay any money, you just need to go out and get some ‘sponsors’. Sounds okay, right? I mean, it sure doesn’t SOUND like those little girl pageants that JonBenet Ramsey shed light on with her untimely murder.
So what’s the deal with these things?
Putting aside all the issues I have with pageants for children in general, the major red flags regarding this pageant are the following:
Money, Money, Money
In the letter, it states:
The Miss Teen Wilmington Pageant is sponsored through different businesses and organizations in Greater Wilmington and surrounding areas.
Of course, none of these businesses are listed in the letter. The “local sponsors” are businesses you and your child have to go out and seek in order to raise the $495 fee they charge you to be in this ridiculous thing. But it doesn't stop there. The $495 for your child to attend isn’t where the money stops. They frequently charge between $15-20 a person to go and be in the audience. So this means if you invite your friends and family, they’ll each have to pay their way in.
So what DO you get for your $495? Not much, unless you raise additional funds through paid ads in their 'Program Books'. Heck, you don't even get entrance into all of the competitions, like Miss. Photogenic. Entering that one will run you another $125.00
So, is the pageant in general was worth the $495? This former judge doesn't think so.
From the Judge: (Contact information on file and available to media on request with written confidentiality agreement.).
The pageant was a cattle call that cumulated in a 4 hour production with no intermission. As a judge who took the time (and money) to provide nice prizes to the winners, I didn't have the opportunity to give them to the girls. It was really annoying. The staff was very small and they travel to do this pageant each weekend in a different city. It's a boxed pageant - meaning the same thing over and over again and they don't get to know or prepare their girls for the next level. You're not cared about, you're just a number and a fee.
All pageants are businesses, but this one is just all about the money. The judges were treated horribly and told exactly how to score.
We want you
to pay us money because you're special, like a unique snowflake! Your naive parent inner beauty is what we're looking for!
When you get the letter saying that your daughter has been 'selected' to participate in this pageant, you might think that she was lucky to get chosen. You'd be thinking wrong. Everyone who registers to attend the information session gets 'picked.' Even those that didn’t go. I called the pageant with a sob story about not being able to make the information session, but that my daughter, Wilfina (Wolfie) already has the money and she would love to be in it. And they LET ME REGISTER. (I should mention that Wolfie is my 2 yr old Pomeranian. In their defense, he WOULD look pretty cute in a tiara.)
There is something very important to understand when considering ways in which to satisfy your child's taste for show business and not get sucked into things that do nothing but waste your time and money:
Reputable Agents or Pageant Productions don't send out mass mailings.People are practically beating down their doors to get in. They have waiting lists that are typically MONTHS long, and that's just for an appointment.
Good Advice from the Crimes of Persuasion Website.
- Beware of any newspaper classified or display ad looking for any kind of model or talent. Modeling agencies have plenty of hopefuls coming to them so they don't have to advertise for models.
- To avoid being ripped off, aspiring models should look for and attend “open calls”at reputable modeling agencies. Well-known agencies in large cities usually have open calls on a weekly basis.
- Do not respond to subway, bus or classified ads that promise modeling and acting jobs to people with no experience, or of all ages and sizes, etc.
- If an agency has to charge money up front it usually means they do not have enough modeling work for either the agency or the model to survive on.
- You should be free to go to any photographer you want to. Legitimate agencies will provide you with a list of photographers that you could go to.
They also don't need to charge fees. They actually have the connections and resources to provide the exposure Nationals, Inc. makes claim to.
Is there an entry fee to compete in the Miss America system?
No, there is not an entry fee to compete in the Miss America system.
How about Miss Delaware or Miss USA?
You absolutely have to pay fees for this, but they don't attempt to hide behind non-profit status. In fact, they're fairly open about their commercial affiliations. They're a business and they say they're a business. Also, if you win this thing? Well, they're offering a heck of a prize package.
These Nationals, Inc. pageants describe themselves as a stepping stone to the Miss American and Miss USA programs, but they are unaffiliated. Not that that would better my opinion of them, but at least those pageants are up front about the stupid crap they do.
Just for fun, lets do the the math so far...
- $495 Pageant fee
- $125 Miss photogenic
- $100 formal gown
- $100 business attire, formal shoes, etc.
- $40 mom and dad’s ticket to the pageant
TOTAL = $860
See how that works?
EXPOSURE! (Or, really, lack thereof)
Think you'll get to hang with important folks in the modeling industry? Maybe meet a fashion phtographer who sees that 'spark' in you?
Fat chance. The judges for these things are often provided by vendors– that’s right, once you pay your way in you’ll be bombarded with pamphlets about photo packages, modeling schools, formal dress boutiques, etc. They offer paid booths to these various vendors so they can solicit you, and 'extras' to the ones who can offer up
To add insult to injury, some of the judges are just staff filling in to look the part. In fact, some of them have been caught working the registration desks. That’s called conflict of interest, people.
And you would think they could do better (@$495 a pop!) at getting a least one or two experienced judges:
If u look at the brochure for the pageant, the girls who had the large number of sponsors ended up in the top 10. 2 of the pageant contestants were sponsored by two of the judges businesses they own?
Well, the winner of the local pageant gets a trip to Orlando, right? Right? Yep. She sure does. The girl's trip is all-expense paid 5 nights, but what about you? They fail to tell you that part. The CHAPERONE is responsible for their own hotel, airfare, etc. AND she must have an adult chaperone to attend. They make it seem like the parent is automatically included.
So free vacay? Not really.
Add about another $1,000 to your tab if she get's picked to attend this thing in Orlando.
And the pressure to keep going once you've registered is pretty intense. I mean, you’ve likely already sent out a nifty letter to your local press about your child being ‘selected’ like they recommend you do, so you’re invested in her winning at this point.
So, there's something else, right? Scholarship money?
In a feeble rebuttal to this expose, they wrote on their FB page:
One of the highlights of our prizes is the opportunity to have the winners represent their particular city at the National COA competition that takes place in Orlando, Florida. Those participating at this level compete for over $60,000.00 in prizes including $40,000.00 in cash scholarships.Do you get money at the local level? Who knows. They certainly don't seem to be advertising that for Delaware, at least. Maybe you'll need to pay that trip to Orlando to be eligible for that.
And, after contacting the BBB (Better Business Bureau) there is a string of contestants who won Nationals, Inc. competitions who NEVER RECEIVED A DIME of their ‘scholarship’ money over the last 36 months, or only resolved the issue after having filed a complaint. They are indeed a BUSINESS, and not a BBB accredited one. These pageant companies are profit making companies. I f they gave away a lot in prizes, they wouldn't make any money. It costs them to put on the pageant and stage the 'free' information sessions and send off all the mailings. After these costs and their profit, how much do you really think is available for prizes?
But what about the ‘modeling contract’ ? It's with John Casablanca. They essentially get people to pay to take their classes, have them sign a contract, and then likely you never hear from them again. One of the complaints filed was that even if you 'won' this contract, you were expected to enroll in a 22 month program,
Enlightening Stuff here about how Casablanca treats their models: : (From easybackgroundchecks)
Thus John Casablancas of Elite was quoted referring to rates lower than 20% as follows: "Everybody does it. But there is no point doing it unless it is secret. When we started we had telephones and nothing else. It was spooky. A few of the top girls got a . . . discount." (emphasis added) This kind of covert variation from a standard price is flatly contrary to what one would expect in a competitive market – and exactly consistent with the existence of an industry-wide agreement on prices that individual defendants might opportunistically violate to keep a particularly lucrative account.
And what about Anna Klejnowski?
Last year at this time,after receiving an unsolicited letter, my wife and I took our 12 y/o daughter to the same venue you will be attending tomorrow. At that time a Mrs Anna Klejnowski gave the presentation. She was in her 40's, a self proclaimed pageant veteran (in my opinion she didn't have the looks) with years of wins. She also stated that she was a child psychology major and a volunteer who worked with drug addicted teens with AIDS. It was a real tear jerker. There was also a heartwarming story about her grandmother wave from her porch wearing her banner.
Well, if you thought the judges were iffy, AT LEAST, they're real people:
This year we received another letter and out of curiosity we responded, so tonight, a year later in Gainesville a different Mrs Anna Klejnowski gave the same presentation. This time she was an attractive 26 year old blond who was the reigning Miss Colorado (no confirmation of this on the internet anywhere) and she was a full time psychology student and a volunteer who worked with troubled teen girls. Coincidentally she shared the same grandmother story with the woman of the previous year. Are you starting to see something fishy here?
And when I pull the company file, there is no Anna Klejnowski listed. So either Anna is really generous of her time or I think we should maybe write her off as a make believe front woman. I guess it makes sense. But why a fake? Well lets, take a look at who is really behind Nationals, Inc.
Nationals, Inc is a private company categorized under Consultants-Business (Unclassified) and located in Hermitage, PA. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $720,000 and employs a staff of approximately 10.
HQ, Branch or Single Location
Single Location (Wow, so when you said you had to contact 'Corporate where were you, out to lunch somewhere?)
Annual Sales (Estimated)
10 (TEN PEOPLE!)
So who owns this? A guy by the name of Joseph Yourchisin. A businessman.
Who also owns these:
Northeast Medical Consulting Inc Test Development and Evaluation Service in Hermitage, PA
American Alternative Technolog Environmental Consultant in Hermitage, PA
Clean World Inc Environmental Consultant in Hermitage, PA
Wpi Wallace & Pancher Inc Environmental Consultant in Hermitage, PA
On Line Consulting Systems Engineering Consultant, Ex. Computer or Professional in Hermitage, PA
Probably not as enticing to get a mass mailing from some dude named Joe in Pa who wants you to dish out five hundred bucks to get dressed up and romp around on stage for people that only want to sell you things. Not as enticing, but a heck of a lot closer to the truth.
This is the part where I say.... RUN! RUN LIKE THE WIND!
This company, like many others, preys on little girls with stage dreams. They take advantage of parents wanting to support their children in this, and they should be treated like the predators they are. I urge legitimate businesses to steer clear of these people and parents to contact your local Attorney Generals office if you've already given them money thinking they were a non-profit.
I'm making fairly simple statements in this post. It wouldn't be all that difficult to rebut if it was the truth. But it isn't. So I won't hold my breath.
Agents who work reputably within the industry charge you either very little (35$ one time fee to assist in overhead) or nothing. They only get paid when you do. NO LEGITIMATE AGENCY will contact you out of the blue. Unless you're already famous in some way, the chance of that happening is pretty much nil.
FYI, this expose was prompted by these people making an attempt to scam my Goddaughter. And just so you know, Hell Hath No Fury like a Fairy Godmother who is more than willing to stick her magic wand up the a-- of scammers that attempt to mess with her babies.