Its a beauty pageant, but it’s not about beauty.
The Mr. and Ms. USF Scholarship Pageant is under new management this year, which has led to several significant changes.
These changes came about after the program disassociated with the Miss America pageant two years ago. Student Government Director of Programming and head of the pageant planning committee Danielle Fox said she considered this a chance to “spread her wings” and try new things concerning the pageant.
Aside from a name change from “Mr. and Miss USF” to “Mr. and Ms. USF,” the alterations include taking the physical scoring out of the competition, changing the policy on candidate selection and requiring every participant to be sponsored by a campus organization.
“The first initiative I took was to completely eliminate any sort of physical component to scoring,” Fox said. “On the ballot, you will not see any scores that say ‘smile,’ ‘poise,’ ‘evening gown.’
“You won’t see any of that. The purpose of that was to make it more of an even playing field. I thought it was a little antiquated that a scholarship pageant was judging people based on their looks. It felt weird to me.”
To replace this section, each participant is now required to pick a philanthropic cause they feel strongly about and create a platform based on that cause. The idea is if the contestant wins, they’ll follow through with that platform.
“You’ll still see the people walking across the stage in their evening gowns,” Fox said.
“They’ll still get to do all the pageantry. It’s just that, during that time, they won’t actually be being judged on their evening wear, we’ll be reading out their philanthropic platform and they’ll be judged on that.”
She said the drive to change the name of the pageant was to encourage diversity in the female participants.
“I want everyone to feel like they can participate,” Fox said. “If it’s a married woman, if it’s a divorced woman who’s a student here, I want her to feel comfortable with that title.”
Fox has also been working on a new method of vetting, which would allow more participants to make it to the actual pageant. Participants will be judged based on their application and attendance to the meetings.
All participants who meet those requirements will be allowed to walk. Currently, about 20 participants are signed up.
“Whereas before, everyone who applied didn’t necessarily make it to the pageant,” Fox said. “They were, I think, eliminated after the interview, to try to keep numbers even.
“This year, we’re trying something out … (everyone who) makes it to all the meetings and follows through with their contract will get to walk across the stage that evening.”
Participants are also required to show their involvement on campus by having an organization, department or club sponsor them. The minimum GPA requirement is a 2.75 and participants are required to submit a resume, which caused concerns that some students may not be able to meet.
“I would say it’s basically the same vetting as every other scholarship,” Fox said. “There’s scholarships that I couldn’t apply for, I’m not left handed … I feel like with any scholarship there’s going to be a level of exclusiveness and that’s kind of the nature of it.
“This is just one scholarship and this is just one opportunity and since we are looking for someone who represents the school, they have to fall under that kind of category; involvement, academics, the well-rounded student.”
All in all, Fox’s goal is to make the pageant and its title one to be proud of in the future.
“I think it helps validate students a little bit,” Fox said. “(They can say,) ‘Not only am I academic, not only am I philanthropic, but I’m engaged.’ It really reinforces the idea of a well-rounded USF student.”
The Mr. and Ms. USF pageant itself will be held April 4 at 6 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center.