A pageant queen is the winner of a pageant, also commonly called a beauty contest; achieving this status often requires a significant investment of time and money along with dedication and determination. Although these contests rely heavily on the physical appearance of the contestant when selecting the pageant queen, many do look at other factors, such as poise, talent, public speaking, and community service. Contestants compete for a huge variety of reasons, such as scholarship money, show business exposure, or the desire to serve the community. There are many different levels of pageant competition, ranging from small regional contests to international spectacles, such as the Miss Universe Pageant. They usually have a level of expected attention to beauty and grooming, such as "glitz" or "natural," and some may also have a thematic element, particularly those for younger contestants.
Contestants in a pageant can range in age from babies up to mature older women, and the winner is commonly referred to as a pageant queen. Winning a contest such as this usually requires a great deal of concentrated effort. Typically, the contestant spends hours every week on rehearsal of routines, receiving coaching or advice, as well as beauty maintenance and enhancement. Many pageant queens and their families also spend large sums of money purchasing special outfits, paying for travel expenses and fees, and financing beautification efforts like tanning or highlights. For these individuals, the goal of being chosen pageant queen is a huge motivation.
The judges select the pageant queen based on a variety of criteria, but beauty is always a major component of a contestant's overall score. Some of the other factors that judges consider include poise, talent, and public speaking. Particularly if it is a scholarship pageant for young ladies, criteria such as the academic grades, community service, and future goals of the contestant may also influence the final outcome. Contestants compete to become pageant queens for numerous reasons, some of which may include winning cash prizes and scholarships to finance an education, the desire to get noticed by agents for a show business career, or the chance to have a visible platform to work for a cherished cause.
There are many different levels and types of competitions for the hopeful pageant queen to enter. There are smaller local and regional pageants for varied age levels ranging all the way to huge competitions such as Miss America or Miss Universe. Prizes typically consist of sashes and crowns, plus money and other valuable items; usually the overall value of winnings increases as the size and scope of the pageant grows. There is also an expected level of grooming required in certain pageants, ranging from "full glitz" with heavy makeup, elaborate hairstyles, and glamorous outfits, to "natural," where the glitz is toned way down. Some pageants may also have a thematic element such as fairy tales, or winter holidays, particularly those that cater to children.