Ms Beautiful Pageant 2009
For three months the women who have been participating in the Ms Beautiful Pageant at Classic w/Style have been maneuvering for position for one event. The ten women in the top ten of the overall standings competed today for a share of 200,000L in prizes.
And it only cost them 650,000L for the privilege.
The Top Ten
Here’s the breakdown as of just before voting closed on Friday night:
|AngelbabyJen (no show)||64369||5260|
|Aspasia (no show)||85130||4000|
|Rhapsody (no show)||27600||1987|
|Steffany (no show)||14050||618|
To be fair, not all that money was paid by the individual models. There was at least one day where the organizers matched 500L contributions in what they called a “Double Trouble” event. Some of this cash was undoubtedly contributed by them – back to themselves. The net result was to make the continuum of contributions wider for those who were playing along without really reflecting much in terms of actual contributions.
This kind of picture contest really is about money. We’re treating it as if it were about fashion, but it’s about who pays — or can arrange to have paid on their behalf — the most money. That money is translated into a corresponding number of votes, and the relative rankings provide a score. (I’ve written about how the scoring works before.) Anybody with deep enough pockets can buy into the top ten at the 11th hour and there is no other qualification required.
Once the preliminaries are over — and one might argue that the willingness to lose vast sums of Linden Dollars helps identify serious participants — the pageant is argued to be about style, fashion, and grace under pressure. The participants are judged by impartial experts in the field of fashion and modeling, and the results tabulated so that the prize money and bragging rights can be distributed.
In today’s pageant, the six women out of the top ten who showed up were judged by a panel consisting of a photographer, and two fashion designers. On the surface, that looks like it might be a decent panel except, where’s the runway modeling experience? Runway modeling and photography modeling are very different. Designing clothes may give one some insight into how they might be displayed, but almost none as to the technicalities involved in actually wearing the clothes and modeling in them while moving through the heavy lag of the typical show. Or pageant.
On another front, the panel failed the “impartial” test as well. One of the key members of the panel employs of one of the contestants as a model trainer. Moreover, all three judges are tenants in the Classic w/Style Mall, and derive at least some portion of their incomes from business funneled their way by the Classic w/Style relationship. Being in a fiduciary relationship with one of the contestants or the organizers would disqualify a judge in real life for conflict of interest. The same rule should hold true for this contest. Failing this aspect of impartiality raises questions of how much influence the organizers might have over the judges’ responses. This fact becomes more problematic when the event is actually scored.
The pageant itself was a pretty typical quartet of events. The contestants led with a “creative outfit” wherein they were tasked with putting together some kind of outfit that meant something to them or said something about their sense of style, and then to write an explanation about it for the judges to consider. This was followed by a swimsuit, an evening gown, and a question-and-answer segment.
By and large, the first three events were largely predictable. The creative outfits ranged from “haute couture” to “holy mackeral.” The swimsuits were a step up from the band-aid and dental floss designs. Four of the six evening gowns were created by a single designer, who — just co-incidentally — happens to be a Classic w/Style sponsor as well.
The pageant itself came off the rails with the question and answer session. The organizers asked each model a question and the judges scored the responses. In normal pageants these questions are geared toward allowing the contestant to demonstrate some level of higher order thinking. They’re often general questions with the opportunity for the contestant to show some personality and wit and to give the judges a chance to see how well the contestant can think on her feet by giving her a complex question in front of the audience.
Here are the questions offered to tonight’s contestants:
- Have you fallen in love in rl and sl as well? If you did tell us your different feelings you had in rl and now in sl.
- As a slave wife in sl , Do you obey whatever your Master will tell you on what to do and to honor him all the time? what would you do if your Master will ask you to quit being a model because he just wants you to spend time with him. Would you obey him?
- You mentor someone in secondlife and taught her all the good stuff that she need to learn in modeling. Now she is famous and have been winning lots of award and never even credit you as mentor. What would do and what would you say about that?
- You have a lot of sense of humor Erica. Could you tell us jokes. What kind of joke you will tell us?
- You are so in love in sl very in love with your partner and you and your partner decided to be married but on the day of the wedding your partner told you , I am sorry I can’t marry you because I am really a woman. Would you still love her? What would you do?
- Is secondlife is just a game for you? What is your opinion about secondlife?
There are three very disturbing aspects of this set of questions. First, one might reasonably expect that all models would be on the same footing in terms of being asked to respond on the fly. The reality is that the top three contributors to the event purchased their questions in advance. The information – that the top three were given the questions in advance — was not given to the audience, and there is some question as to whether or not the judges were aware of the practice. During the event itself, the organizer announced, “Also PLEASE! refrain from chatting in open chat, during the question and answer our finalists needs to concentrate on answering the question.” While it was true that three of the contestants needed to answer the questions on the fly, the other three had their responses ready to cut and paste.
Second, in a normal pageant the questions revolve around issues significant to life in the metaverse, topics relating to higher order thinking, or even issues of style. In this contest, half the questions were pandering stereotypes asking the contestant to reflect on their perceptions of love and marriage in the grid as if women have only this single dimension beyond appearance with which to be concerned. A couple of the questions seem fair, although remember that the last three on that list were provided to the contestants in advance and the responses were canned.
Last, one might reasonably expect the questions might have been assigned randomly and could have been asked with equal fairness of any of the contestants. For the most part, that expectation held up except for the question about being a “slave wife.” This question was the most troubling of all. It was clearly selected to embarrass the contestant and to expose her private relationship and lifestyle choices to the public. While the contestant in question gave an excellent answer, this question could not have been asked of any other contestant. It had to have been formulated specifically for her and one has to question the motivation of the organizers in posing such a personal question.
Following the question and answer session, the judges’ tally sheets were assembled in a process which took twenty minutes and, when completed, demonstrated more disturbing details on the organization and execution of the pageant.
The process of scoring was accomplished by giving each judge a notecard which, presumably, contained the contestant’s name and the attributes on which the particular event should be scored. We have no idea how those cards were organized or what they might have contained other than an announcement before the beginning of the pageant: “no need on writing their names everything is set, just keep scroll down.” Between each of the four events the judges were given upwards of five minutes to add notes to their scoring. In spite of that, after the final event it took twenty full minutes for the results to be calculated while the contestants stood on stage. Moreover, this process was not done by a third party but rather the judges’ notes were turned over to the organizers for calculation.
Before I go on, let me be very clear that I am not accusing anybody of anything. There is no evidence of wrong-doing, no way to determine the actual outcomes. The lack of transparency and accountability raise questions of validity and should be brought to the fore in the interest of fairness.
First, why did it take a full twenty minutes to tabulate the scores? A spreadsheet set up in advance and loaded as the show progressed would give the results almost instantly. One might argue that the judges discussed the results among themselves to determine the winner, but in that case, why bother with tabulating numeric scoring? It should also be noted that at least one of the judges left almost as soon as the question and answer period ended and could not have participated — unless remotely — in such discussion. This twenty minute gap introduces troubling questions about what was going on during that time.
Second, the people with the most to gain from the results, were the ones actually tabulating the scores. The gain, in this case, has nothing to do with the actual Linden dollars. Regardless of the order, the amount taken in and the amount paid out in total is the same regardless of who wins. The troubling issue here is that this process allows the organizers to reward some and penalize others purely on factors over which neither the judges nor the contestants have any control. I am not suggesting that this actually happened, only that the potential exists for that to occur and the organizers, by doing the tabulation themselves and not having it done by a disinterested third party, leave themselves open to charges of an engineered outcome. Financially, the revenue stream from the event is the same regardless of who wins and who loses. Politically, that is hardly the case.
In reverse order, the winners:
- 5th Runner Up: ChelleBby – 2,000L
- 4th Runner Up: Arica – 5,000L
- 3th Runner Up: Arialee – 10,000L + 3,000L
- 2nd Runner Up: Ghost – 25,000L
- 1st Runner Up: AngelSmiles – 50,000L
- Winner: Lovena – 100,000L
My heartfelt congratulations (and condolences, as appropriate) go out to the six participants in the pageant. The cost to them in time and money was substianial and my congratulations are no way colored or reduced by my criticism of the process by which the outcomes were determined. If there are problems with it, every one of these women are victims.
What I Think They Should Do Differently
Perhaps the nature of these contests is so subjective that it’s impossible to come up with a definitive answer on who should win and who should lose. Even in real life, there are frequently controversies over the outcomes. However, the organizers leave themselves open to accusations of unfair competition — and taint the results for all the participants — by failing to follow good procedure in providing adequate checks and balances in their pageant.
First and foremost, the judging pool needs to be taken seriously. It should include a judge who has runway modeling experience. The technical aspects of pose selection and stage craft are crucial to this effort. It should not include anybody who has a fiduciary relationship with any of the contestants, the organizers, or each other. All three judges are tenants in the Classic w/Style Mall and should, in my opinion, have been disqualified on the basis of conflict of interest. Their fiduciary relationship to the organizers created an opportunity for undue influence on their judgement.
Second, the tabulation of scoring should be done by a disinterested third party. The problem is that the actual detail results cannot – in fairness – be made public, so the next best possibility in service fairness and accountability is to have the tabulation done at arms’ length. In RL pageants, the organizers retain the services of an accounting firm to serve as agents and to verify the outcomes are based solely on the judges scores, as free of outside influences as can be possible.
Third, the organizers should minimize the effect of “deep pockets.” Participants should not be allowed to buy into the top 10 at the last minute. Perhaps, there should be some moratorium set on joining the contest. I am not suggesting registrations be closed when the contest opens, but the practice of allowing people to violate the rules regarding weekly voting levels should be curtailed. Further, permitting individuals who are relatively inactive in a pageant to then buy their way to the top as the final approaches needs to be controlled. Given the large sums of money involved, I’m not sure how that might be accomplished fairly, but as long as it’s possible, the finals themselves become less about fashion and style and more about the money. Alternatively, this pageant could be renamed “Ms Moneybags.”
Finally, on a personal note, Lovena Allen has been an inspiration to me ever since I joined the contests. We compete quite ruthlessly with each other regularly in the styling events and I appreciate the fierceness and dedication she brings to the work. She inspires me to try my best each time I go out. There is no doubt in my mind that Lovena deserved to win today.The question I have, however, is did she earn it by what happened on the runway this afternoon or was it a result of other factors which had nothing to do with her performance on the runway? I don’t know, and I’m certainly not qualified to say. I have my own vested interest in this process by virtue of being a participant in another of the Classic w/Style pageants.
The fact that the question can be raised at all is the tragedy here. By failing to follow good procedure the organizers have created a situation where the hard work, dedication, and true style and grace of these women is minimized by clouding the outcomes in poor process, worse execution, and unconscionable practice. I sincerely hope they clean up their act before it’s my turn to take a turn on the catwalk in June.