A beauty pageant or beauty contest is a competition that has traditionally focused on judging and ranking the physical attributes of the contestants, although some contests have evolved to also incorporate personality traits, intelligence, talent, and answers to judges’ questions as judged criteria.
The term almost invariably refers only to contests for unmarried women such as the Big Four international beauty pageants; with similar events for men or boys being called by other names and are more likely to be bodybuilding contests.
The organisers of each pageant may determine the rules of the competition, including the age range of contestants. The rules may also require the contestants to be unmarried, and be “virtuous”, “amateur”, and available for promotions, besides other criteria. It may also set the clothing standards in which contestants will be judged, including the type of swimsuit.
Beauty pageants are generally multi-tiered, with local competitions feeding into the larger competitions. For example, the international pageants have hundreds or thousands of local competitions. In the United States, there is now a commercial beauty pageant industry that organizes thousands of local and regional events for all ages. A winner of a beauty contest is often called a beauty queen. Child beauty pageants mainly focus on beauty, gowns, sportswear modelling, talent, and personal interviews. Adult and teen pageants focus on makeup, hair and gowns, swimsuit modelling, and personal interviews.
Possible awards include titles, tiaras or crowns, sashes, scepters, savings bonds, scholarships, and cash prizes. However, adult and teen pageants have been moving more towards judging speaking, and many no longer contain swimsuit or talent sections. Some pageants award college scholarships, to the winner or multiple runners-up.