Confessions of a Seat Filler at the Miss America Pageant

I wasn’t going to share this on the blog, because frankly, I was a little embarrassed, but after having such an amazing experience I feel I need to share it. I went to the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas last Saturday night.
Up until a few years ago, I never new much about pageants. I think all the knowledge I had was from Miss Congeniality (1 & 2 :) and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I never understood why someone would sign up to prance around in their bathing suit and be judged (I mean didn’t we all get enough of that in high school!) But when my little cousin got involved in the Miss California organization (she came in the Top 12 of the pageant in 2012!) I learned a little more about how things work.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is still a big emphasis on appearance (and each pageant is different) but a huge part of the process for Miss America is the interview that is done with the judges. These girls are not just a pretty face, they have to be well-rounded individuals who are personable, perform regular community service, work on perfecting a talent (think singing, dancing, musical instrument) and attend college.
My cousin asked me if I wanted to go with her, her sister and her mom to Miss America. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into…but I’m not one to pass up an opportunity to go to Vegas :)

We signed up (along with 2,000 other people) to be seat fillers for the final night. If you don’t know what a seat filler is, it is a person that sits in the audience of a TV show or awards show (Grammys, Oscars, etc.) so that it appears full and sold out. Even if a show is actually sold out there are people that may not show or need to get up to go to the bathroom, so people step in so there is never an empty seat.
Now I’ve been to a taping of some TV shows before (I even got a little camera time on Top Chef Masters in Season 1!) But I’ve never been to a live TV taping before. I think I found this part of the night the most intriguing. The whole thing is scripted to the last little detail they make it look effortless. I’m a stickler for things that are not organized well, so I really appreciated all the planning that must go into running a show like that go so smoothly.
Now with seat filler tickets, you have no idea where you will end up. There’s a possibility you will be moved multiple times or end up way in the back of the balcony. But my cousin and I lucked out. We ended up in the 6th row off to the side and never had to move. I don’t think we actually made it on camera, but we had a blast nonetheless. We even realized (afterwards) that we sat next to Robin Leach (you probably know him best from the show Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous!) and it now made sense why he was able to tweet pictures through the whole show and we were not :)
Unfortunately, Miss California didn’t place in the top 15, so we didn’t get to see her compete on the final night, but the other girls were fun to watch too. Miss New York (who ended up with the crown at the end of the night) really sold herself with her tap dance to the James Brown song “Get Up Off of That Thing”. She showed lots of personality and was very entertaining. 

Not sure how other shows work, but things to keep in mind as a seat filler:

  • Be prepared to wait – we arrived over 3 hours before the start of the show and had to wait in a big ballroom with lots of other people.
  • Be prepared to walk – the room they were holding us a little ways from the actual theatre and we had to walk (in heels!) through tunnels and downstairs to get there.
  • Be prepared to move quickly – once inside the theatre the escorts moved us quickly to our seats. They want you to be able to get up at any moment and move to another seat quickly as needed. This is one of the reasons you can only bring a small clutch purse with you. They don’t want you hitting people as you get out of your seat.
  • Be prepared for the camera – you’re not guaranteed to be on TV, but there’s always the possibility, so you want to make sure you’re not doing something you wouldn’t want to whole world to see :)
  • Be prepared to see famous people – My dad likes to use the phrase “Act like you’ve been there before” when it comes to things like this and I think it fits. Don’t be some star struck fan asking for autographs and photos. You’ll make a better impression that way.
  • Be prepared to have an awesome time – I really didn’t think I would have as much fun as I did. They told us that all seat fillers were actually guaranteed to get a seat (which I bet doesn’t happen at all events), so that made the whole thing worth it in my opinion. It would be such a bummer to get all ready for an event and then never get to see it.

If you’re interested in becoming a seat filler there are websites out there that can do that for you. I think we used, but I think it probably changes depending upon the event.
I’m not sure if I’ll attend next year, but I have to say I’m glad I did it this time. And maybe next year I’ll get to cheer on my cousin as Miss California!


  1. says

    This was such a fun read! I love stuff like this! We went to a taping of the sing off and it was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done!! I use to watch the pageants with my dad every year, an just forgot about it, but it really is incredible how much work goes into it. I’m no pageant girl, but I heart tv- that sounds like a blast!

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