Serena Zamarripa, Miss Teen of America; Giselle Ashton, Junior Miss of America; Chesney Seagraves, Young Miss of America and Bailey O'Dell, Little Miss of America. Photo Courtesy/American Pageants
I am a firm believer that in order to pick the best pageant system for you, you need to know all you can about it. While searching on websites and social media can provide a lot of information, talking to past and current queens and directors can help give you some better insight. Long been a Teen pageant, Miss Teen of America expanded this year as American Pageants and provides multiple age divisions and more to know if you’re trying to decide if you should join this long running system.
1. It is not a beauty pageant!
“Our judging criteria is not based on hair, makeup or attire,” said Sunny Hill, president of American Pageants. “One of the first things every candidate will hear during orientation is that you will not need your hair stylist, makeup artist, tanning consultant, walking coach, etc.” That doesn’t mean you have to go makeup-less. The important thing is that you show who you are and feel comfortable doing so. (Read: A Year in the Life of Miss Teen of America 2015-2016)
“While most of our candidates and titleholders wear makeup and curl their hair, our judges are looking for a girl who exudes an age-appropriate image of confidence and shows her personality,” Hill explained.
2. 60% of preliminary scoring in all age divisions is completed before the judges meet the girls face-to-face.
Imagine not having your entire pageant scoring experience based on the opinions of a few people in a room. This happens in American Pageants. “Teen age divisions, Junior Miss of America and Miss Teen of America, have three resumes and take a general awareness test each worth 15%,” said Hill. “Younger age divisions, Little Miss of America and Young Miss of America, have two resumes worth 30% each.”
3. The judging criteria was established in a fair and balanced way.
One of the scariest parts of pageants is if a large part of the score is based in an area you might not be so strong in. American Pageants tries to overcome this with a balanced scoring system. “If you have a weak area, you can still do well overall,” Hill explained.
4. The General Awareness Test is not hard, so don’t let it scare you!
It is a common stereotype that pageant girls are not very bright academically or aware of the world around them. But meet a pageant girl and you’ll be pleasantly surprised that in the vast majority of cases this simply isn’t true. Have you heard the Miss America onstage questions? “ is refreshed every year with new and up-to-date questions designed to measure your awareness of the world around you,” said Hill. “Questions may be about pop culture, current events, trivia or logic.” Some questions examples that were favorites of Hill’s in previous years include: How many squares are on a checkboard? Answer: 64 Who is Beyonce’s husband? Answer: Shawn Carter
Carlene Miller, Miss Teen of America 2009-2010 with her 1st Runner-up, Meredith Potter, Miss Teen of North Carolina 2008 at Yale Bulldog Days 2010. Photo Courtesy/American Pageants
5. There were four Miss Teen of America former national and state titleholders attending Yale University at the same time in 2013.
How many pageant systems can say that?! Literally one. “When Miss Teen of New York 2016, Leah Xiao, 1st Runner -up to Miss Teen of America 2017, was looking for support through the application process this past fall, she had a ready-made network of alumni,” said Hill. “In December 2016, Leah was accepted to join the Yale Class of 2021!”
Danielle Yaros, Miss Teen of America 2007-2008 with the 2007 Miss Wagga Wagga entrants. Photo Courtesy/American Pageants
6. During the 1980’s, the founder of Miss Teen of America, Warren Alexander, established an unofficial partnership with an Australian pageant with similar values to MTOA.
International sisterhood elevates your pageant experience beyond what you ever imagined it could be. “Founded in 1948, The Miss Wagga Wagga Quest is perhaps the oldest and longest serving quest of its type in Australia,” explained Hill. “Focused on fundraising for local charities, the Quest is not about beauty and swimwear. The main role of Quest entrants is to collectively raise funds for nominated local beneficiaries which requires entrants to plan, organize and host fundraising events throughout the duration of the Quest. The Quest kicks off around April. Judging occurs at the Quest planned fundraising events throughout a six- to seven-month period culminating in the crowning of a new Miss Wagga Wagga and a new Community Princess in November.” Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia has just over 50,000 residents. Even with such a small population in comparison to larger US cities, Quest Entrants have raised over $2 million for local charities in the Wagga Wagga area.
Serena Zamarripa's crowning moments as Young Miss of Texas 2011, Miss Teen of Texas 2016 and Miss Teen of America 2017. Photo Courtesy/American Pageants
7. Even though they are re-introducing the younger age divisions to the National Stage this year, they have been conducting state-level pageants in Texas for the last 20 years.
While on the national stage the younger age divisions have been absent for some time now, they have still been active in pageant super state, Texas. (Read: Miss Teen of America Adds Age Division)
As a result, a few of the past Texas titleholders have won the national Miss Teen of America title. “Both Miss Teen of America 2013-14, Kiera Kinnaird, and Miss Teen of America 2017, Serena Zamarripa, were Young Miss of Texas before they went on to win the Miss Teen of America title as Miss Teen of Texas,” said Hill.
State Titleholders at Nationals 2015 (before the crown) with owner Sarah Bazey and Kiera Kinnaird, Miss Teen of America 2013-2014. Photo/Tessie Jones Photography
8. They haven’t always awarded a crown.
What? A pageant without a crown? How can this be? Well, for Miss Teen of America, it was more important for the girl to shine, not the crown. “When Mr. Alexander founded the Miss Teen of America Scholarship and Recognition Pageant in 1983, he chose to award state and national titleholders a sash and a medallion as a symbol of academic excellence instead of the traditional crown awarded at beauty pageants,” explained Hill. “This tradition continued until March 2015, when Kiera Kinnaird became the first Miss Teen of America to wear a crown as she gave her farewell address to a very surprised audience. Five minutes later, Cornelia Hayes became the first Miss Teen of America to be officially crowned at her coronation.”
9. Almost everyone involved in the system as staff was at one point in their life, as either a candidate, a titleholder or titleholder's parent.
Keeping the heart of a pageant’s tradition and brand alive is important to a pageant system lasting for decades rather than years. Ensuring that past candidates play a role in the system is import to achieving this in the same way universities rely on a network of alumni support. *American Pageants owner Sarah Bazey was Miss Teen of Minnesota 1983. *Social Media Manager and State Director Paige Jensen competed for Miss Teen of Idaho twice before successfully going on to win the title of Miss Teen of America 2011-2012. *State Director Kim Tuttle also competed multiple times – three to be exact – before she received her Miss Teen of Oklahoma 2008 sash. *State Director Korie Wilson was 1st Runner-up to Miss Teen of Minnesota twice! *President Sunny Hill competed for the title of Miss Teen of America 20 years ago as an at-large titleholder and has been a part of the organization ever since.
10. In the 80's and 90's, there were three classes of pageants.
The 80's and 90's saw quite a bit of change and look in pageantry. “Miss Teen of America awarded state and national titles for young women ages 13-18, the same as it has been since 1983, Distinguished Youth of America awarded the Little Miss of America and Young Miss of America national and state titles to young girls ages 7-12,” said Hill. There have also been male pageants off and on in the United States over the years. “Teen Achievers awarded Mr. Teen titles to young men ages 13-18,” said Hill. “Yep, guys! Happy to help in continuing tradition, Mr. Minnesota Teen 1983, Owen Trout, served on the judging panel that selected the current Miss Teen of America!”
Alexa Miller, Miss Teen of Nevada 2016 and Charnae Payne, Miss Teen of New Jersey 2016 hanging out with the athletes from Special Olympics Minnesota at the National Inclusion Event that took place during the 2016 National Pageant. Photo/King Shots Photography
11. Part of each titleholder’s prize package includes funds to host an inclusion event.
One of American Pageants’ goals is to promote inclusion and acceptance of those with disabilities in our communities. American Pageants has an alliance with Special Olympics Minnesota to support their efforts and encourage titleholders to get involved with their local Special Olympics chapters.
Lauryn Hinckley, Miss Teen of North Dakota 2016 in her Fun Fashion at Nationals 2016. Photo/King Shots Photography
12. There are optional events.
Don’t think that American Pageants is all resumes, service and tests. Like every young girl, the pageant likes to have a bit of fun, too. “ fun fashion, talent, sportswear, art, photogenic and creative writing, even though they aren’t part of our official judging,” Hill explained.
Going Forward I know I totally would have tried for this system if I had known about it 17 years ago. Unfortunately, the internet just wasn’t what it is now and Pageant Planet wasn't around then for me to find it! Lucky you!
Visit American Pageants if you’re interested in getting involved or if you have any questions. This is a great system for girls new to pageants or who just want a different pageant experience than other systems out there. Good luck!
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