The Cost of Competing in Beauty Pageants Is Going to Blow Your Mind

I already knew from watching too much Toddlers and Tiaras (I was curious a few years ago about what the big deal about it was, so I started watching it to find out — and got addicted for a brief amount of time. Whoops.) that pageants for kids could get pricey enough; as such, I feel like I should have been prepared for the cost of competing in pageants as an adult.

I was not.

I am horrified.

In the wake of last weekend’s Miss USA pageant, International Business Times went and picked the brains of a whole bunch of pageant experts to find out exactly how much it’ll set you back if you want to compete in the big time. The whole article is definitely worth a read, but here’s a brief by-the-numbers summary for you:

  • Dress: $700 - $1,000 off the rack; $5,000 bespoke; $8,000 - $10,000 for the major pageants
  • Pageant coach: $100 an hour times three sessions a week = $300 a week
  • Hair and makeup: $250 an hour
  • Spray tan: $75
  • Wig or extensions: $200
  • Entry fees: $300 - $500 on average, though sometimes as much as $1,000

So, at the very minimum, say you buy a $700 dress, do one week’s worth of coaching, have an hour’s worth of hair and makeup, get a spray tan, and a put on a wig for a pageant with the lowest possible entry fee. That’s still a total of $1,825 — more than a lot of people’s monthly salary. It gets really scary when you start using the numbers on the high end, though: Assuming you have a $10,000 dress custom made for you, do a month’s worth of coaching, schedule three hours of hair and makeup, get a spray tan and a wig, and enter one of the most expensive pageants, and you’re looking at a whopping $12,325.

That is more than some people make in an entire year. And that’s also not counting any additional outfits you might need for things like the swimsuit competition, the interview portion, and so on and so forth, or the cost of travel, or any of a dozen other expenses that up the price of participating in a pageant. The kicker is that even if you win, often you’ll still spend more than the prize just entering the dang thing in the first place.

Of course, according to those who really love the pageant world, there are other benefits that make competing worth it: You could get a major scholarship; it might open up future career paths; it might give you poise and the ability to perform well under pressure; and, as Kim Gravel of Kim of Queens notes, “There’s so much more than money. The money is nice, but it’s about giving it all you’ve got.” As for myself, I’m not sure any of that would be worth what it would cost just for the chance to win, let alone to actually win; but that’s just me. If pageants are what make you happy, more power to you. In the meantime, I’ll be squirreling away every last penny so I can hopefully retire before I die of old age.