When I was younger, I absolutely loved watching the TV show “Toddlers & Tiaras,” mostly because the drama was funny to watch, but also because I loved getting to see all of the fashionable and fun outfits the girls wore. I never really saw myself as being a pageant girl, but loved getting to watch those who were.
In the eighth grade, my mom and I discovered a pageant for girls and women with special needs, called Miss Amazing. We love volunteering for these kinds of events, so we immediately signed up. After the first year of volunteering, we knew that we wanted to continue to help with this event, which is held every year at Kennesaw State University. One year, in particular, I met a former Miss Georgia, who told me all about the pageant system. I had always thought every pageant looked like the ones on “Toddlers & Tiaras,” but I was very wrong.
After hearing her talk about the reality of pageant systems, I became interested in pageants. As soon as my mom and I returned home from volunteering, I remembered that she had been in pageants throughout her teenage years. Immediately, I wanted to learn all about her experiences and spent the entire next day looking through the scrapbooks from her pageant days.
Every page intrigued me, and I finally asked my mom if I could sign up for a pageant myself. After some research online, we eventually found the same pageant system that my mom had competed in for Miss Teen of America was still in business. I was so excited that I wanted to try to win a title that moment. However, my parents were very hesitant and unsure.
After studying everything I needed to know to convince my parents to let me sign up for the pageant, they finally agreed to let me participate. Surprisingly, I ended up winning the Junior Miss of the Southern States title in 2018 and went on to compete for Junior Miss of America that year. I made it to the top five, and won the Academic Excellence Award.
Once the finals were over, I thought that I would be done with pageants, but in the summer of 2019, I ended up winning my current title, Miss Teen of Georgia. Originally, I was supposed to compete in nationals this past June, but because of the pandemic, the national competition got moved to Thanksgiving. Also, in the original plan was the standard in-person competition. Not surprisingly, the format will change for this year.
In November, I will be competing for Miss Teen of America, mostly virtually. All of the contestants have to send in videos for our personal introduction, our state speech, and our poise, personality and projection section. Our interviews will be held via Zoom, and, after this segment, the top three will meet in Atlanta for the final show, to determine the first-place winner.
Throughout my yearlong experience as Miss Teen of Georgia, I have had the opportunity to be a part of several interesting and entertaining events, such as Special Olympics and other events at various schools in my community. Volunteering is my favorite part of having a state title, and I have tried to use it to better my community.
One way I serve is through my children’s literacy platform, which is of great personal interest to me. In my early years of elementary school, I struggled with reading. I would go to class every day and see the other kids in my class reading books, but for some reason I had trouble learning to read.
At first, I was afraid to reveal my difficulties to my parents or teachers, because I did not want to be labeled as unintelligent. However, telling my parents about my problem was one of the best decisions I ever made, because they immediately got me the help I needed. After many hours of wonderful teachers tutoring me, and my parents working extra hard to help me, I was reading at a sixth-grade level by the time I was in fourth grade.
Now, through my platform, I visit schools in my community and read with classes while, at the same time, encouraging anyone who is having trouble reading to speak up. I always tell them that help is on its way if they just ask for it. This is a good life lesson that goes beyond reading struggles, and is a good reminder for everyone to be courageous and seek help.
We all should strive to use our talents to help others, thus making the world a happier place, one person at a time!
By Caroline Martin, a senior at Allatoona High School who is passionate about encouraging children to read.