A beauty pageant or beauty contest is a competition that has traditionally focused on judging and ranking the physical attributes of the contestants. Pageants have now evolved to include inner beauty, with criteria covering judging of personality, intelligence, talent, character, and charitable involvement, through private interviews with judges and answers to public on-stage questions. The term beauty pageant refers originally to the Big Four international beauty pageants.
Pageant titles are subdivided into Miss, Mrs. or Ms., and Teen – to clearly identify the difference between pageant divisions. Hundreds and thousands of beauty contests are held annually, but the Big Four are considered the most prestigious, widely covered and broadcast by media. For example, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Xinhua News Agency, and global news agencies such as Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse collectively refer to the four major pageants as "Big Four" namely: Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss International, and Miss Earth.The organizers 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. 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. A winner of a beauty contest is often called a beauty queen. The rankings of the contestants are referred to as placements.
Possible awards of beauty contests include titles, tiaras, crowns, sashes, bouquets, scepters, savings bonds, scholarships, and prize money. Some pageants have awarded college scholarships to the winner or to multiple runners-up.
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