Dear Pageant Girl,

I am tickled pink.

And let me tell you why.

Despite competing  internationally for decades, Australia is a relatively young country when it comes to the business of beauty pageants.  In fact, it’s safe to say that we don’t really know what we are doing compared to our contemporaries in Asia, South America and the USA.  Admittedly we are starting to figure our way through the beauty maze and have seen a major improvement in the last five years.

Still, at the end of the day when you look around the way we conduct our affairs when it comes to pageants locally it can be pretty pitiful.  The beauty Olympics can quickly become a beauty beat down and everyone ends up with egg on their face.

Case in point – The Bird Battles – Rachael Finch and J -Hawk have had to deal with this personally – their disputes with managers carried put publicly for all to witness.  Interestingly enough the two shared the same management.  You’d think they’d get it right after the first bite.

So it’s refreshing – no – a relief to see a group doing things right.  Thanks to a group in Perth called Pink Tank Events, salvation is at hand for aspiring beauty queens! Dear Pageant Girl has kept a very close eye on this group from the wild wild west, who have constantly supplied quality girls to the national competition.

Renae Wauhop, Scherri-Lee Biggs and a bunch of other stunners for the 2012 pageant (we will be taking our pick of the best and will be profiling them at our Stunner Alert section).

Of importance is the fact that we at Dear Pageant Girl have never heard a negative word uttered about the Miss Universe WA organization since its inception.  The girls seem genuinely happy and supportive of each other and have a fierce loyalty to the organization long after their Miss Universe WA stints. So what’s their secret?

I managed to track down one half of the dream team, Sophia Barbagallo, to give me an insight into the phenomenon that is Pink Tank Events.

Troy Barbagallo and long-time love Sophia Ulgiati were married in the Big Apple overnight.

Tell us about Pink Tank.

Pink Tank Events is our event company, it runs a number of events including the Miss Universe WA Preliminary, in the lead up to the Australian National Final and delivers the national organisers the West Australian finalists each year, ready and prepared to compete against the rest of the nation. This is our fourth year running the Miss Universe WA Preliminary.

All Pink Tank Events support children’s charity ToyBox International. The Miss Universe contestants all have the opportunity to fundraise and donate their time to help local children in need, creating well-rounded, genuine contestants with a healthy perspective on life and giving back.

What was the inspiration?  Why take this on board?

We were approached by the National Director and have always had a great deal of respect for the Miss Universe brand. We believed that we would be able to run a program here to aid young, WA women to grow their confidence and reach their dreams, that would tie in well with our other projects and enable more Gen Y to be opened up to learning about charity, those in our community that need support, and both learn and appreciate how they can make a difference.

What was the process, what was the early days like?

We have pretty much kept the process the same from the beginning, just further evolving and developing the program each year. This has been done by adding to the experiences, opportunities and prizes up for grabs to the entrants and is possible thanks to the increased support from our wonderful sponsors here in WA. We run a Registration Day in the City of Perth, each of the Top 60 contestants selected from there then get to take part in a number of workshops and a Parade before their Heat. The Parade gives them the opportunity to receive feedback from the judges before their Heat, to improve and give them the best possible chance to nail their Heat. Those who are successful in their Heat move through to the Top 24 in the State Final, from which the six winners go on to represent WA at the National Final. At all stages the workshops increase in complexity, to allow the girls to further increase their skill sets as they progress in the competition.

What previous experience did you and Troy have in the area of beauty pageants?

Troy Barbagallo (our Director) ran Miss World for a while. I was the Miss World WA winner in 2004. And now we have been running the Miss Universe WA Preliminary for the last four years.

What advise would you give to a girl who approaches you, wanting to join Miss Universe WA?

The girls don’t normally approach us until Registration Day where there are hundreds of applicants, until then it’s normally me approaching girls – even stopping them in their cars at the traffic lights! My advice to all the girls looking at entering is that at the end of the day, only one girl can win it nationally, if you are lucky enough to make it to our Top 60 get the most you possibly can from the incredible program on offer. It’s an amazing opportunity to build your confidence, get fit toned and healthy, learn presentation skills and how to nail interviews, stage skills including presence and how to speak publicly, network with sponsors as well as the other contestants to make friends for life, win incredible prizes, have fun, help your community and on top of all this – potentially represent your state, the country and the universe. The opportunities continue way after the competition ends.

What do you think is the state of the nation when it comes to beauty pageants and their attitude towards it?

There is definitely mixed views on beauty pageants here in Australia. Some people simply enjoy the spectacle of the events, which is great as they are definitely entertaining and we enjoy creating the shows just as much as many, including us, enjoy watching them. Others see them for the platform they can be for yes – attractive young women, to use the profile of the competition to promote issues that concern them globally, as well as launch their careers in their chosen fields. Many criticise beauty pageants for belittling women, but no one can argue that the Miss Universe brand creates debate, scandal and publicity each year, which at the end of the day is still publicity for the girls, their agendas and the sponsors involved. Our contestants clearly enjoy and benefit from the program and are not beauty pageant ‘victims’, but rather in control of the many opportunities that lay within, when they choose to be a part of it.

What’s the standard of the competition this year compared to last year?

Across the board we have a much higher standard of competition for 2012. It seems to get stronger each year. We have already had feedback from the judges who have seen the girls at some preliminary parades, who think the competition has definitely hotted up further and are concerned about how tough the upcoming heats are going to be.

What makes your girls different from the rest of the country?

The WA girls tend to be a little more relaxed. Western Australia has an almost big, country town feel, with a strong beach culture; as a result most of our girls are super friendly, down-to-earth and very quick to mingle with people they don’t already know. No wall flowers here!

What is your strategy when picking a winner?

First and foremost it is still a beauty competition, they must have great presence, to be able to walk into a room or onto stage and command attention and admiration. They must look fit and toned and have a gorgeous smile. The Australian girls on the international stage are known for their friendly nature and so a genuine smile is imperative from the first introduction. They must also be smart and savvy, to be able to interact with high profile guests at functions, talk the talk on stage as well as off, and ultimately win over judges from all around the world. A passion to help a cause is also important, they must have empathy for an issue and the desire to make a difference.

Historically Queensland and NSW have been the main producers of Miss Universe Australia representatives.  Western Australia are currently experiencing a renaissance and with the girls coming out of the wild wild west, WA have come to play to win.

So all you wannabe pageant girls – I strongly suggest you check out your competition from Western Australia.  I’d be nervous if I were you.  Very nervous.


The Pink Tank Team with Scherri Biggs, MUA 2011

Sophia, Scherri and Troy