The “Fair & Transparent” Competition

by Curtis Isom, Founder/Editor-In-Chief

The strip club industry has a number of competitions for Feature Entertainers and Pole Artists and the term “fair and transparent” is being thrown around lately as proof of a competition being a straight up and on the level.

To paraphrase the eternal Bard, “Me thinks thou does profess too much”.

So after hearing the good and bad from competitors, I thought a “behind the scene” look at competitions is needed: what to look for when competing in as well as what is required to put one on.  Some of this was previously covered in the article, “My Take on Pole Competitions”, but needed repeating here as well.  This is based on my personal experiences of running numerous competitions as well as being the former Media Coordinator for Skindustry productions.

The following is presented as a guideline, but covers what’s used by the best competitions around – in and out of the industry.  I encourage competitors to ALWAYS do research, because a competition says it’s “fair and transparent” doesn’t always mean everything is on the up and up.

These are in no particular order, but I’ll discuss the major issues first and go from there.

1) VENUE – First impressions are EVERYTHING when hosting a competition as well as competing in one.  People judge the reputation of a competition with where it’s held.  The venue should be appealing all around so see if they have recent pictures of the club both inside and out.

Any competition should be held where there’s enough room for your audience and competitors without being cramped.  Figure at least 150 people capacity for the audience, judges, media, and competitors. Also a venue where the judges can be seated away from the stage is ideal.  Gives them a better overall view of the acts and lessens the chance of your entertainers interacting with the judges.  You could go for less space, but stepping on each other can hurt the possibility of positive “word of mouth” afterwards.

If you need space for the competitors props, rent a large moving van, (e.g. 25 foot) and park it outside the closest exit to the stage.  Also, since your venue is to have a stage, you should provide your competitors with a 1/4″ scale drawing of that stage with all measurements shown and placement of things like poles.  Also include how high it is from the stage floor to the ceiling.  Nothing like watching a entertainer pump air into her inflatable prop and wonder, “Is that gonna fit?”  Giving your competitors as much info as possible about your venue gives them the best opportunity to plan their shows.

(If you don’t know how to create a 1/4″ scale drawing of your club’s stage, drop me a line and I’d be happy to help you with that.)

2) TIME – If you advertise your event to start at 8PM, start your event at 8PM.  NEVER insult/disrespect your audience by starting late.  The latest your event should be delayed is fifteen (15) minutes.  Not starting on time or within 15 minutes thereafter just shows disorganization, loses audience members, and lessens repeat business.  Nothing like watching your audience walk out because you don’t have your shit together.

3) RULES and REGULATIONS (R&R) – Can’t stress enough these should be complete, clear, and concise as possible.  The thought and clarity put into R&R’s reflects the thought and clarity of the competition’s organizers.

They should contain and explain the following:

  • a. what type of competition it is (e.g. don’t advertise a pole competition when you’re really running a feature competition)
  • b. who can compete
  • c. how it’s judged & scored
  • d. the different categories/divisions available to compete in (if applicable)
  • e. the number of rounds and their time limits
  • f. limits on what competitors can/can’t do during competition (e.g. any pyro, props, clothing requirements, etc…)
  • g. deadlines for things like registration, when to be there before events starts, preshow meetings, etc…
  • h. registration fees
  • i. prizes awarded and conditions of receiving such

There’s no need to go into what’s to be explained for each one of these items because they speak for themselves, but they should be clearly detailed in explaining how your event works.  And this isn’t meant to be an all inclusive list, but has the major points covered by most competitions across the board.  Keeping them clear, simple, and straight forward lessens the amount of questions you may encounter and has everyone on the same page. If you don’t, you create “loopholes” and leave yourself open for unnecessary problems – legal and otherwise.  What most organizer’s don’t realize is that your competition’s R&R are a basic form of legal contract and can be enforced in court.

Don’t kid yourself otherwise.  Anyone pay attention to the Miss America Pageants over the years?

So again to the competitors out there: ASK QUESTIONS!  Make sure you understand a competition’s R&R’s.  If they can’t explain them and answer all your questions to your satisfaction, you should reconsider being a part of that competition.  Nothing like hearing a competitor say, “That wasn’t in your rules!” and one of the competition coordinators respond, “Well, that’s just how we do things!  If you don’t like it, you don’t have to compete!”

If you have a website, make the R&R are easy to find or have copies available to send out.  I see where Exotic Dancer Magazine posted their “R&R” for the Exotic Dancer Invitationals under the FAQ section of their website.  There are so many loopholes they look like a piece of Swiss cheese and a great example of what not to do with your R&R’s.

If it isn’t covered in your R&R, you shouldn’t allow it to happen in your event. If you make changes to your R&R, post them well in advance of your next competition so everyone has a chance to review and understand. Not the day of the event.  Making changes to your R&R and not informing everyone in advance again gives your organization the appearance of unfairness and again possibly land you in court.

Therefore, following your event’s R&R is of the absolute importance.  Rules are rules, stick to them.  Make NO EXCEPTIONS, just that, NO EXCEPTIONS!  Not following your R&R begs the question, “What type of event are you running?” and suggest your event is rigged.

Case in point: Skindustry (which runs the Stripperfest, Grand Prix of Exotic Dance, and Vertical Pole Showdown events) once had in their R&R that if you weren’t there once Registration has closed, no other performers would be allowed to compete.

NO EXCEPTIONS!

So at their Stripperfest 11, Registration was closed, the final list of contestants was complied, posted, and the contestants meeting was started.  About 10 minutes into the meeting, Christina Aguchi shows up late. She couldn’t be reached before registration was closed and no one knew where she was.  No “I’m sorry”, when she arrived and her name was added in pencil to the bottom of each category’s 1st round.  The other competitors were visibly pissed off.  Ms. Aguchi is not only allowed to compete, but precedes to win all three categories and walks away with the entire $7,000 dollars in prize money!

Should Ms. Aguchi have been allowed to compete?  Bottom line: No.

Her lateness is her own fault and no excuses can be made otherwise. If the other competitors can show up when necessary, once a deadline has been set – stick to it!  Plan ahead.  Making exceptions like this just shows lack of integrity and favoritism by Skindustry who boast to have “fair and transparent” competitions.  And all the excuses under the sun can be made why Ms. Aguchi was allowed to compete, but the fact still stands she was allowed to violate the rules and able to compete.

Nothing better than insulting and showing disrespect for your other competitors.  It’s a great way to lose competitors as well as sponsors who both want to know they’re part of honorable events.

4) JUDGES – As I have stated elsewhere, when it comes to those who judge competitions, I strongly believe in the idea that you should be judged by your peers and not the public.  Having local judges, not from the industry, increases the chance of them knowing some of the competitors.  You want to be “fair and transparent” to all your competitors, not just possibly favoring the local ones.

So if you have a pole competition, your judges should be from the pole community.  Feature entertainers, or those with theatrical background and stage experience, should judge other feature entertainers.  Also having a club owner or manager as part of your judges panel is ideal because they should know talent when they see it.  I stress this point because of the experience they hold which makes them more well-suited in judging competitions.  I’m not saying the public couldn’t be used in some events, but the majority of our industry’s competitions should be judged by those with the necessary experience.

It’s also good if those in attendance know who’s judging and their qualifications.  It’s not only professional courtesy, but lets your competitors know they have a qualified group judging them.  It should be MANDATORY that the competitors DO NOT talk to the judges during the competition!  In my opinion, if you are caught doing so, your scores are tossed out and you’re eliminated from the competition.  NO EXCEPTIONS!  Talking to the judges during a competition just implies you’re trying to gain some influence.  Therefore, unless the club layout prohibits it, judges should NEVER be seated at the side of the stage.

Also, and I admit this is a pet peeve, but why allow judges to drink alcohol during the competition?  You want judges who are clear headed when judging, do you not? Nothing like watching a drunk judge trying to score a competition.

I could also discuss the rigging of a judge’s panel and scoring (which is next), but reserve that discussion for separate article.

5) SCORING – Besides the judges, how a competition is scored is crucial and should be as transparent as possible. Every competition has it’s own criteria for how the judges are to score the competitors but the scoring should reflect the competition at hand and be weighted accordingly.

For example: In a pole competition, why give 25 points out of 100 towards a competitor’s hair and make-up and another 25 towards her costuming?  That’s half their score!  Shouldn’t pole capabilities be at least eighty percent (80%) of the total score?

Also, what happens to a competitor’s score sheets after they leave the stage is important and something for competitors to ask about.  Once a competitor leaves the stage, the score sheets are collected, the scores tallied with the competitor present, and the competitor told their total score right then and there.  No waiting.  Why wait to give a competitor their results?  They can be told to keep the scores to themselves or post the scores on a tally board so the competitors know where they stand.  And you don’t have to make the total score known to the public, but not telling a competitor their score shortly after leaving the stage can give the impression that the scores can be/are manipulated.

6) COMPETITORS – Any competition claiming to be “fair and transparent”, should have a “level playing field” with participants that are on or around about the same experience level.  If any of your competitors have vast more experience than the rest, then have a separate level/division for them.

We’re talking about fairness here.

So if your competition, even if advertised as being a national event, usually draws its majority of contestants from local area clubs, why would you want those with National or World titles to compete?  Doesn’t make sense unless your “padding” your event with the local competitors to give the appearance of being “fair and transparent”.  “Padded” competitions RARELY have any local 1st Place winners because it’s been stacked against them experience wise.

This isn’t to say that a local competitor, meeting the eligibility requirements, couldn’t “go up the ladder” to compete against those with National or World titles. It’s just wrong to allow National or World title holders to “go down the ladder” in an attempt to make “easy money” by competing against local area talent.

It’s like Miss America going back to compete in her home state again.  Doesn’t happen.

In talking with numerous competitors, some competitions don’t allow those with National or World titles to compete because they understand the unfairness of it.  So again, unless your competition is geared towards those currently having a National or World title, why let them compete in one that usually draws local competitors without titles?

So to the competitors there with National or World Title(s) – Why compete in a event usually attended by local competitors from area clubs?  Unless you already know you’re going to win….

Another Skindustry example:  They used to say if you were a feature entertainer with two years or less experience you could compete.  The idea was for local talent coming out to compete against one another, learn from each other, and develop new entertainers.  Then they dropped that requirement and allowed established entertainers, such as Christina Aguchi, to compete.  Accordingly, the number of local competitors is dropping and Skindustry is now soliciting competitors from talent agencies to come and compete. It’s sad they took a great developmental competition concept and then destroyed it. Luckily there are new competitions out there willing to fill this need.  It also proves the point if you want to build your competition, and not rely on begging for competitors, strive to have a fair and “level playing field” of competitors.

And I’ll add this: Some events pay for rooms for out-of-town travelers (competitors, judges, and media) taking part in the event.  Some give gas money in lieu of a room.  These are excellent gestures on the part of an event, but make sure you’re treating everyone the same.  If you decide to pay for the travel expenses for one entertainer, make sure you’re covering the travel expenses for others as well.

Favoritism for one is just disrespecting the rest.

7) PRIZES and WINNERS – Each event determines what to give as prizes, awards, and titles.  But once someone wins your competition, the question becomes, “Are they eligible to compete in that event again?”  I refer back to the previous Miss America example.  I believe once you win a competition, you go one to the next one.  Winning the same competition multiple times suggest either there aren’t enough competitors available or the event is rigged.

And for the competitors out there, “Is winning a rigged competition worth your self respect?”  It’s like selling your soul when you know you’ve won something unfairly.

So if your competition is “fair and transparent”, why let or invite previous winners back to compete again?  Again, I don’t think you should.  But if you do, then I suggest the following:

  • a. previous winners are required to judge before allowed to compete again.  Now this does have some disadvantages, but they are an idea candidate for judging.  If they show they can’t be unbiased, they forfeit any future chance to compete in your competition again.
  • b. winners need to wait three (3) years before competing again in the same competition.  This allows a more diverse group to hold the same title and eliminates the “every other year” repeat title holders and continually taking away the majority of the prize money.

Let’s spread the wealth around to many instead of giving it to a greedy few.

8) STAFF – Staff is something overlooked because some event coordinators are more worried about just getting the event to happen and figure just any warm body willing to help will do.  But public perception of those running your event is important to making or breaking you. Remember, you’re wanting to create and build an audience for your events, but be aware you never know who could be listening/watching.

So if the public sees what looks like a 200 pound shaved and tattooed female gorilla and a photographer running around in a pirate hat, no matter how professional they may be, people notice and think you’re running a freak show and not a serious event.  Costumes are better left for the stage.  The staff doesn’t need to be in tuxes and evening wear, but event shirts or business casual is the usual attire.  Pay attention to how you event staff interacts with your competitors, media, and the public.  Nothing like hearing and watching event staff lose thier cool, throw things around, or openly bad mouthing or making fun of others.

This isn’t high school people, this is business, and your staff should reflect that business professionalism.  Always.

If needed, have experienced stage hands helping the entertainers with their shows if they don’t have their own roadies.  Make sure the stage crew is up on what is happening when so everything goes smoothly.  Nothing kills an event’s momentum more than waiting excessively for the next performer.

9) SPONSORS – If you do have sponsors for your event, don’t take them for granted.  These are the people you’re asking for money and need to be treated with the upmost respect.  Nothing like giving money to help fund an event and then be overlooked.  If they come to the event, have seats reserved for them and make sure, if they’re ok with it, to acknowledge them from the stage and point them out in the audience.  Also, it’s great if they got pictures taken with the winners for their own promotional use.  This is how you get them to be repeat sponsors and not just “one timers” for which you are only interested in their money.

10) MEDIA/PUBLICITY – The media is important in making your event a success and therefore can be your friend.  Common sense.  There is nothing as having too much media to support your event.  You should start publicizing your event six months before it and drive hard two to three months in advance.  Sometimes events come together and happen faster than expected which just means you need to get the word out even faster as well.

When it comes to the media, I came across this very interesting statement: “Journalists and media are supposed to be on the sidelines to report and not seek out attention, they just want to lend their contribution to the game and the industry. But without these people, nobody outside the event would know what really happened.”

Very Accurate.  But again, NEVER try to get the media to turn a blind eye when they catch you doing something unethical when you think nobody is watching.  And how an event coordinator handles these observations is telling of just how much integrity they have as well as their competition.  So if you’re caught running a questionable or rigged event, you have only yourself to blame.  We are not calling attention to ourselves, but the wrongs and injustices we see.

CONCLUSION –  Hopefully these guidelines help those wanting to do things right.  Do I know of any current competitions that are questionable?  It’s why I’m the FORMER Media Coordinator for Skindustry?  I refused to be a part of something unethical and rigged.  But this isn’t a slam towards them, just have perfect examples of what NOT to do in a competition.  And there are others like Miss Polechamp and Miss Nude World that are questionable as well.

On the flip side of the coin, it’s also great to see that there are competitions out there that are “fair and transparent” without boasting about it.  The ongoing Nudes-A-Poppin and the new “STAR SEARCH” competition from Sinsational Features are example of what to do the ethical and best way possible.

Bravo!  And I wish them continued long and successful run for their events.

So again, if you want to have a truly “fair and transparent” competition or find one to compete in, they should have the following:

  • 1) A sizable and appealing venue
  • 2) Start on time
  • 3) Rules & regulations that are clear, concise, understandable, and followed with NO EXCEPTIONS!
  • 4) Judges are the competitor’s peers and from the industry, not the general public
  • 5) Scoring reflects the competition at hand and weighted accordingly
  • 6) A level field of competitors
  • 7) Prizes are available to be won by more than an elite group
  • 8) Staff that reflects professionalism
  • 9) Shows appreciation to its sponsors
  • 10) Understands how the media is important and independent towards your event

With new events there is a learning curve.  But following these guidelines should help you create a true “fair and transparent” competition and not one rigged to cater to a selected few.

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