During your pinup pageant planning process, you might come across an idea that will require a prop. On stage, props can be a little bit daunting, and can both help or hinder your performance. It’s a fine line which I hope today’s Pinup Pageant Guide instalment will help clear up and assist you. Props can be absolutely wonderful; I’ve seen some incredible props that make your jaw drop but I’ve also seen some that didn’t help their performer at all. Using props can really assist you in your performance but they must be used well in order to make you shine, and not them.
Planning a prop
As discussed in a previous post, the planning process for a pageant can be a lot of fun and a good time to get creative and a bit silly with your ideas. As mentioned, when you are coming up with your routine and deciding on the story you will to tell your audience, a prop may come in handy. When deciding on a prop, it is vital that it doesn’t outshine your performance, it complements your story and it is made well. You don’t need to create an entire theatre set, just something so the audience will follow along with the story easily.
For example; one of my favourite pageants was the Miss Sou’West pageant where the theme is always vintage surf. I wanted to tell the story of a beach goer who is building a sandcastle and then gets her bum pinched by a crab. My props were a beach bucket with a styrofoam “sand castle” already hidden inside, and a plastic crab already attached to my shorts and hidden behind a half skirt.
When planning a prop for a routine, I like to know if I can walk on and off stage with it. Not all pageants allow stage kittens to set up before you go on so make sure you know how the day will run so you don’t get caught off guard. By only having a bucket to carry, I still had a hand free for waving, spinning and moving about the stage.
Props should also be safe to handle which is why things that ignite or are very technical can often be a bit more temperamental. Sure, fancy props that whizz and bang are always fun but they can also deter from you which is what the judges should be looking at. Beware of props that can be triggering. When competing in Pinup Doll Australia, one of their main rules about props is that they should not resemble a weapon (such as a sword or gun). This is because there once was an audience member who found the gun to be triggering of his PTSD which is never something you want to happen. Your props should not be offensive either so please me mindful of what you choose.
When planning your prop, also keep in mind size and weight. It’s great that you can build this massive structure that towers and dominates the stage, but if stage kittens need to clear the stage before you go on, and drag on a huge and heavy props, it’s just a little unfair. If you can’t easily lift and move a prop, then don’t use it in a pageant. We don’t want to hurt our stage kittens and they deserve to be treated with respect.
Once you’ve settled on a prop, plan within your routine how much you’re going to use it. I’ve seen girls with some amazing props such as doll boxes and phone booths, only for them to enter the stage through it and not interact with it for the rest of their performance. Your prop should be involved in the story telling more so than just something in the background. Use your prop well.
Don’t feel the need to think of an outrageous prop. Sometimes a simple parasol, hand fan or handbag can be all you need. It really depends on the pageant itself and how much emphasis they place on props in general. If the pageant isn’t bothered by them, ask yourself if you can tell your story with something simple. It all comes from reading and understanding your audience and the pageant itself.
I’ve participated in one pageants where half way through planning they said, “don’t bother with a prop” so I instantly ditched the prop I was working on (it’s still half painted in the garage) and moved one. Spend your time and energy where it is most productive and listen to the pageant organisers.
Making a prop
Weirdly enough, I love making props. I like the challenge of having an idea, brainstorming an idea on how to make it and then giving it a go. Sure, some props have been a bit … “homemade” looking but I suppose that’s the charm of them. Once you’ve decided on a prop, depending on what it is will determine how you will make it.
Op shops are a great place to start if you can think of something that can be altered or tweaked from a ready made item. I’ve used Op shops to find all sorts of things for pageants and they really help the budget. Another place to look for props or prop bases is junk and scrap yards. Personally, I love a good pallet. I tend to pick them up from verge pick ups and use the wood in my prop making because it’s generally a soft wood that’s easy to work with. I made my large glitter spanner using old palette wood and it’s definitely one of my favourite props to date. Craft stores are always a great go to but something they can get a bit pricey. Instead of buying a large cylinder from the craft store to make my giant lipstick, I used a Pringle can and a toilet roll because I already had them at home. No one will know if you don’t tell them.
My favourite part of prop making is probably painting and then covering everything with either glitter or crystals. It’s not become such a staple of any of my props that they must sparkle and shine onstage so before I deem a prop complete, I normally reach for the PVA glue and glitter. I’ve made sparkly potatoes, glittered fishing rods, lipsticks and even crystallised a fake burger and plastic fish. You can have as much fun as you want with your props and don’t be scared to laugh along with all the ridiculousness. I also find that glitter helps hide imperfections and can make your props stand out. If you do plan on using glitter, please opt for environmentally friendly glitter and use a glitter sealant spray on your prop when you’re done. You don’t want everything covered in glitter especially your hands as it just looks messy.
So you want to make a sunflower prop that magically “grows” on stage? Sure! Now make that a reality! Oh wait … how do we even do that? Some props, especially those with technical issues are always going to be a challenge. If you do want a prop that moves and does something, give yourself enough time (and budget) to make sure it all comes together. The more parts a prop has, the more that can go wrong so also keep that in mind. Google can be your best friend especially if you’re not an engineer but I’ve also gone to hardware stores and chatted with staff who have been super lovely and helpful (after they stop laughing at your initial idea). My finding great help, you can really feel secure in your idea so discuss your issues with those around you just incase someone has a nugget of wisdom but be prepared for some weird looks too.
As you learn to make props and get more comfortable with paints, glues and glitters, you might also start to use a few bigger tools. Sanders are one of my favourite tools as they really help me smooth out my wooden props eg my toolbox and my sandcastle (which was actually styrofoam). I always recommend reading up about certain chemicals mixing and what things will react when combined such as spray painting styrofoam does not work. Give your prop enough time to dry from either glue or paint between coats no matter how much of a rush you are in; I’ve definitely messed up some props because I was impatient.
Whenever using certain tools, equipment or chemicals, please be safe. Some glues and tools require a well ventilated area (such as using thinners, my foam cutter and my stronger adhesives), and others may need to be welded together so proper safety equipment is paramount. It’s not worth hurting yourself for a prop so always be cautious and take care of your eye, cover your nose and mouth, wear gloves and have a fire extinguisher near by just incase.
Rehearsing with your prop
Your prop is complete! Hurrah! Now let’s practice with it. You never know what can go wrong during a performance so it’s always a good idea to practice with all your props so you can get used to handling them. It might be something as simple as a wooden wrench but planning to just pull it out of a back pocket can get a bit difficult as material can catch on the glitter, the wrench can be too big and fall out of the pocket or your belt could warp and tangle itself in your wrench. Get comfortable with your props and using them.
Your routine shouldn’t be completely centred around the prop. You’re welcome to show it off but remember this is a pinup pageant, not a prop making competition. Come up with some strong poses with your prop and make sure it doesn’t over shine you. You are always welcome to put your prop down and leave it for a while as long as it fits in the narrative you are constructing. As you plan and rehearse your routine, you may find certain changes beneficial such as changing up a pose, or turning a different direction when it comes to managing a prop.
Keep your routine flexible and don’t worry if you need to get rid of a prop all together. When I was practicing with my lipstick prop, I found it fumble and awkward to take the lipsticks lid off as I was already holding something in my hands, I ended up leaving the lid off stage as it only slowed me down, looked clunky and didn’t add anything to the story.
If you are rehearsing with your prop and finding your original idea is not working, you might need to change it all together. In another Miss Sou’West, I wanted to do a fishing routine where when I cast my line into the audience, I accidentally pulled my skirt over my head. Originally I covered my “bait” with magnets and lined my skirt with them too but found the magnets would just stick together and bunch up the skirt, or it would be impossible to know when the skirt was hooked onto the bait at all. I practiced for a long time, changed the type of magnets I use and tried all sorts of things before I realised the joke only worked once every 50 tries which was not going to be enough. I ended up starting my routine with my skirt already attached to my fishing rod which worked better even if it was not my original idea.
On the day tips
Always pack spare glue and duct tape just incase your prop breaks. A few spare crystals or glitter can also be a huge help incase a prop gets scuffed. Always pack your props with care; use soft materials as cushioning to avoid scuffing or scratching your props.
If your prop does break on stage, keep going and just wing it. It doesn’t always go right onstage no matter how much you practice so keep in mind some backup ideas of what you can do incase something happens. During one pageant, we weren’t told there was a very low roof; being a tall girl in heels with a headpiece on stage I did not fit so I whipped off my headpiece and used it as a fan instead.
If you have larger props, arrive early and discuss your props with your stage kittens and pageant manager. If your prop requires assembly upon arrival, give yourself enough time to put it all together. Time yourself assembling it at home before the pageant and then give yourself an extra 15 because people can be distracting. You don’t want to be running late because of a prop. This is important if there is a lot to set up or if something is sensitive or delicate. After the pageant, take your props home. Don’t leave them for someone else to throw out as that’s just rude and inconsiderate. If you decide to hire a prop, please make sure it is in good condition and returned on time.
I think that’s just about everything. After my Pageant Guide mini series is complete, I hope to write a bit more about how I’ve made some of my favourite props but sometimes they have been so much trial and error, my original construction concept is far from the one we decided on so a tutorial would be a bit scrambled. Props for pageants can be really fun, I’d definitely recommend keeping your ideas simple unless the pageant calls for elaborate and huge props. Have fun with this process and do share your creation with me on my social media; I would love to see what you have created.
This post is part of a Pinup Pageant Guide mini-series. Feel free to find more posts from this series here:
-Writing a Pinup Bio
-Sending in Pinup Pageant Applications
–How to Plan a Routine
-Planning your Pageant Outfits
-Planning your Pageant Hair and Makeup
-Using Props on Stage
-Posing on Stage – COMING SOON
-What to do on Stage – COMING SOON
-What to Pack for Pinup Pageant Day – COMING SOON
-Pageant Etiquette – COMING SOON
Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.