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Beware the ugly side of beauty pageants


YOU MIGHT remember a couple of years ago when Houston Better Business Bureau worked with Randy Wallace of FOX26 in a joint effort to expose a modeling-and-acting school that was attempting to lure customers by dangling Disney Channel television roles in front of them.
The radio ads advertising the casting calls were very enticing. They made it sound as if all that the children and parents needed to do was to show up and turn on the charm and they would have a legitimate chance at stardom.
However, when the families arrived, the children were worked into a fame-frenzy while the parents were hit up for expensive modeling-and-acting-school packages by the staff of John Robert Powers Company.
The parents were told that their children basically didn’t have a chance unless they enrolled with the school. Parents who couldn’t bear to disappoint their children signed them up but, of course, it is extremely unlikely that a child will achieve stardom simply through a casting-call process.
Beauty-pageant scams work in similar ways. Many advertisements seeking pageant participants read: “Win big prizes! Scholarships! Cash! Become the
next supermodel!”
These ads are appealing to parents of young children, teens and others convinced they have what it takes to become the next big star. Participating in a beauty pageant may provide a rewarding experience but many would-be contestants find that some pageant promoters do not deliver what they promise. While there are legitimate pageants, there are also those whose only purpose is to fatten the pockets of their promoters.
Before entering into a pageant, parents and others who want to get involved should consider several questions.
How long has the company been operating pageants? Who are its directors?
Usually pageants are operated by for-profit organizations that solicit participants by mail or print advertising, or by broadcast media, to compete for recognition and prizes from the promoter.
What is the total cost of pageant participation for both the entrant and the chaperone?
Often, family or business supporters are asked to pay a sponsorship fee, which can vary in size, to the pageant promoter to cover hotel-room rental fees, awards, administrative costs and salary for company personnel and to generate profits. Also, keep in mind that there are other costs for entrants, such as clothing, make-up, food and lodging.
Can the address of the pageant company’s place of business be verified? Where and when will the pageant be held? What accommodation is provided for contestants? Will there be adequate supervision?
Do all of the details add up? Are there judges and what are their qualifications? Do they have any affiliation with the promoting company? Are refunds possible if a contestant decides to withdraw from the pageant?
How are the winners chosen? What criteria are used for selection? What are the obligations of the winning contestant? What do former contestants and winners have to say about the pageant?
Ask the company promoting the pageant for references.
Finally, what benefit will be derived from participating or winning?
Do the winnings sound too good to be true? If so, they probably are. Be sure to read any contract carefully and thoroughly in advance of entering a beauty pageant to understand the rights and responsibilities of the winner and other contestants.

Jordan Rzad is the senior director responsible for internet marketing at Houston Better Business Bureau.

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