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Redmond High’s Taylor prepares for Miss Washington Teen competition
Grace Taylor will be the first person to tell you how she has never wanted anything to do with pageants.
So when she was first approached this summer about participating in the Miss Washington Teen USA 2014 competition, her response was immediate and firm.
“All I’d ever seen was ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ and (thought), ‘No way, man!’” she said, referring to the TLC reality TV show focused on young children and their families on the pageant circuit.
But after learning more about the competition and attending an informational meeting, which included a video featuring past contestants, Taylor saw the pageant as a way to boost her confidence as it had done for the girls in the video.
“I saw that it wasn’t about beauty,” she said. “It was about bettering yourself.”
This was in July and since then, the 15-year-old Redmond High School sophomore has been preparing for the upcoming Miss Washington Teen USA 2014 pageant, which will be Oct. 18-19 at the Highline Performing Arts Center at 401 South 152nd St. in Burien. Tickets are still available online at brown
papertickets.com and range from $35-$100. Miss Washington USA 2013 Cassandra Searles of Redmond will be co-hosting the event.
Maureen Francisco, co-executive producer for Miss Washington USA 2014 and Miss Washington Teen USA 2014, said the pageants are part of the Miss Universe Organization, which has been around for 62 years. The Miss Teen USA pageants began in 1983.
Contestants in the teen competition range from 14-18 years old while the contestants in the Miss USA competition range from 18-26.
INTERVIEWING FOR THE WORLD
In the teen competitions, contestants are judged in three areas: evening gown, interviewing skills and swimsuit. Viewers will also be able to vote online on whoever they would want to see advance to the semifinals, Francisco said. This voting will take place in the next week, leading up to the pageant.
Francisco had participated in one pageant when she was 17, saying she wanted to do something outside of her comfort zone and many of the contestants in the pageant are in similar situations: They may be shy but want to be more well-spoken and work on being interviewed on the spot.
Taylor fits this description well.
One of the things she has wanted to work on is being able to talk to people and share her voice and her interests. So to prepare for the contest — aside from “being really nervous” — she has been focusing on the interview portion.
Francisco said a number of former Miss Teen USA winners have gone on to be very successful such as Vanessa Lachey (formerly Minnillo), who won in 1998 and went on to become a television personality and host, fashion model and actress.
“This pageant has opened many doors for these young women,” Francisco said. “You’re basically interviewing for the world.”
CHANGING PAGEANT PERCEPTIONS
Contestants can list what types of questions they would like to be asked, so Taylor put down questions that focused on her community service. This includes volunteering every week with AOK (Acts of Kindness) Friends — an organization that works to feed, clothe and provide other necessities for the homeless population in Seattle. Taylor also volunteers at a Purrfect Pals cat shelter based in Petco in Kirkland.
Taylor’s mother Jacquelyn Taylor had similar initial impressions about pageants as her daughter, so she wasn’t too keen on having Grace participate. However, once she learned more, Jacquelyn saw that it would give her daughter an opportunity to express herself and get the points she wants across to others.
Both mother and daughter said preparing for the upcoming pageant has also helped boost Grace’s confidence.
“Grace had to overcome some challenges in the past few years,” Jacquelyn said.
When Grace was 13, her parents went through an “ugly divorce.” She said it was a hard time as they lost their house and they really had to adjust to the situation. In addition, a cousin she was close to had died around the same time, as well.
“It was just kind of a dark time,” Grace said.
As she has been preparing for Miss Washington Teen USA 2014, Grace admitted that she has been made fun of and has received a few digs from her peers. If this had happened a couple years ago, she said she would have been discouraged. But after overcoming the challenges she has, Grace has become more confident in the path she has chosen and learned not to let the negative comments affect her, adding that part of her participating in the pageant is her wanting to change people’s perceptions of these types of competitions.
“The way people look at pageants, I want to change that and I feel I can do that,” she said, “at least locally.”