Crowning Achievement

Addie Clayton, Reporter

When people think of beauty pageants, they think of crowns, jewels and young girls parading around in ball gowns, however, the world of pageantry is much more than that. Pageantry is in many ways connected with the entertainment industry and can serve as a tie to career paths such as acting, modeling and performing. 

After her run on stage, Junior Gracie Hendrickson was crowned the 2021 Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen. This year’s Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen competition was held on Jun. 12 at Pratt Community College in Pratt, Kan. Hendrickson has been competing in pageants since the age of nine and has had a passion for it ever since. 

“Miss Kansas’ Outstanding Teen is a scholarship pageant that is a part of the Miss America Organization. It aims to promote scholastic achievement, creative accomplishment, healthy living and community involvement,” Co-director of Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen Logan Caywood said. “Candidates at our state level compete for the chance to represent Kansas for the year, compete at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition and earn scholarships to further their education.”

Hendrickson says her love for pageantry originally stems from watching Miss America and Toddlers and Tiaras on TV. She was inspired by the young men and women in the show and wanted to try competing in a pageant herself. When she was eight she asked her mom if she could compete, however her mom initially said no. 

The only thing [my mom] saw from pageants was the Toddlers and Tiaras show where little girls danced around the stage with fake hair, way too much makeup, and a tiny outfit, ” Hendrickson said. “Later on, I found out about a natural pageant where it had nothing to do with how you looked and all to do with your confidence, poise and your community service work. I wanted nothing more than to perform on stage and feel beautiful in an evening gown all while making new friends and gaining new experiences. My mom finally said yes and I was able to compete. After that, I was hooked and I continued to compete as I saw growth in myself.” 

Senior Hallie Watkins used to compete with Hendrickson in pageants when she was younger. Watkins says she does not remember much but she does remember having lots of fun competing on stage and spending time with the other young girls. While Watkins currently models, and although it is not quite the same as pageants, the two industries share similarities.

“Both [modeling and pageantry] are a way to promote yourself and your platform to the world with the different opportunities that are given,” Watkins said. “We both show grace in what we do and we can both be confident while doing so. While modeling isn’t a competition like pageantry can be, they both help girls acknowledge confidence in themselves, whether that be with their public speaking or their ability to walk a runway with elegance.”

In order to compete at Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen Hendrickson had to win a preliminary local competition. Hendrickson says to compete you have to be committed since it is very time-consuming and challenging. In every state, there is a competition where the winner advances to the national competition, Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. Miss America’s Outstanding Teen is the little sister program to Miss America. 

“Girls aged 13-17 compete for scholarship money through areas of competition; an eight minute panel interview, lifestyle and wellness, talent, evening gown and on-stage question,” Hendrickson said. “After I won Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen, I had about four weeks to prepare for the national competition. Mock interviews, paperwork, social impact initiative work, talent rehearsals, wardrobe fittings, voice lessons, fundraising, runway walk rehearsals, selling ad pages and that’s not even all. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it can be so much fun.”

Each competitor has a talent and a social impact initiative which is a wide variety of organizations that create positive impacts on the world according to Global Social Impact Initiative. Hendrickson’s talent is singing and her social impact initiative is iStand Teens Against Drug Abuse. 

“The Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in Florida was a five day competition with 50 other girls, one from each state and D.C.,” Hendrickson said. “Every day, we arrived at 7-8 am, said goodbye to our family and phones and didn’t return to them till around 8-9 pm.”

A regular day at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in Florida was filled with long rehearsals, filming, fun events, naps in dressing rooms and competition in the evenings to follow, Hendrickson says. 

“This was definitely the hardest competition I’ve ever done, and actually, the first time ever that I didn’t make finals,” Hendrickson said. “[Due in part to] the COVID-19 year, they let girls that would have aged out still compete. So, at 16 I was competing against girls almost all older than me, most of which had already graduated.”

Although Hendrickson did not place, she came home with $1,000 in scholarship money, full ride scholarships to multiple schools and memories from an exciting week that will last a lifetime. Hendrickson says that it is all the prize she needs.

“My favorite part was competing with such a diverse group of girls,” Hendrickson said. “Living in little ol’ Newton, it’s crazy to see how culture can be so different from state to state.”