So I'd like to start by saying the world of pageants is a confusing one. It took me years to fully understand it and even now I have questions sometimes but I will share what I've learned over the years. I've often have people ask me if I'm going to Miss America and to be honest, it's a little difficult to explain simply. When it comes to pageants, ignorance is not bliss (especially for those beginning their sparkle-filled journey of competing) and I hope to elaborate on the differences of pageant systems as well as explain how National American Miss fits into the pageant world.
Basic Pageant 411: There are different pageant systems that have their own rules, age divisions, categories of competition, and usually a specific type of girl they crown. Once a pro, you can get a glimpse of a crown and for the most part know exactly which pageant system they belong to but let's start with the basics.
Miss America, Miss USA, National American Miss, Perfect Teen, Miss United States, Miss High School/Miss Collegiate etc. are all different pageant systems. Miss America, known for crowning the top public speakers, next politicians, and super talented girls, was started in 1921. They compete in swimsuit, evening gown, interview, and talent. Miss USA (held since 1952) is known for crowning the supermodels, tall and stunning. Just look at last year's winner, Alyssa. Miss USA is owned by Donald Trump and competes in swimwear, evening gown, and interview.
Alyssa Campanella, Miss USA 2011
Laura Kaeppeler, Miss America 2012
These two systems are the most well-known in the country and target older girls (early 20s). Both also have their own teen divisions, Miss Outstanding Teen and Miss Teen USA which allow teenage girls to compete and eventually age into the next division. These pageant systems have a National competition where each state competes to win the coveted title of Miss American and Miss USA, respectively. Miss USA also goes on to compete at Miss Universe.
Another different between the two is that the girls who compete at the state level of Miss America had to win what is called a preliminary to compete. These are local state pageants where the winner is crowned with a local title, like Miss Brainerd Lakes. This differs than Miss USA who has all girls compete at the state pageant and crown a Miss Minnesota USA or Miss Minnesota Teen USA.
So how does the National American Miss system fit into all this? National American Miss (commonly known as NAM in the pageant community) is a different pageant system which is actually the largest pageant in the nation as the ages of girls crowned range from 5-20. There are 6 different age categories from Princess, Junior Pre-Teen, Pre-Teen, Junior Teen, Teen, and Miss. Just like Miss USA or Miss America, NAM has its own areas of competition. Girls compete in evening gown, interview, personal introduction, and community involvement. No swimsuit, no talent required. One great aspect of NAM is that there are also optional contests that have nothing to do with the overall state or national winner. You can chose to compete in Casual Wear Modeling, Talent, Photogenic, Top Model, Spokesmodel, or Actress. It's a great way to try something new and it gives girls a chance to win even if they don't take home the state crown.
2011 National American Miss royalty
NAM also has a National pageant in Anaheim, CA where 6 National Queens and 6 All-American queens are crowned. The National Queens competition is a fierce one where state queens compete for the coveted title of National American Miss. The All-American competition is also tough and is comprised of girls who have placed at their state pageants as runners-up to the queen or an optional winner.
National American Miss Pre-Teen
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National All-American Miss Jr. Teen
As I've been competing with NAM ever since 6th grade, my views may be biased on which pageant I think is best. In my opinion, NAM allows girls to be girls. Strong, fun, sassy, world-changing girls and women. There is no makeup before age 13 and all dresses are floor length so there is no toddlers and tiaras...which brings me to my next point.
Eden Woods, Toddlers and Tiaras
Toddlers and Tiaras has been changing the world's definition of what pageants are. Unfortunately, when I tell people I do pageants, they always ask, "Like Toddlers and Tiaras?" No. Although the show is good for entertainment and usually a train-wreck waiting to happen, the show only features a type of pageant called "Glitz pageants". These pageants are the typical fake teeth, huge hair, overly excited moms, and thousand dollar costumes. They are mainly for younger girls, although some do have girls as old as 19 competing in them. Glitz pageants are typically seen in the South but attract girls from across the country. Like Miss USA or Miss America, each pageant has its own rules and categories of competition. However, usually they include beauty (short dresses), swimsuit, fun fashion (usually a theme), and sometimes talent. Those in the "Glitz" world often call the minimal makeup/less over the top pageants natural pageants. Some young girls are perfectly happy competing in Glitz pageants and thrive in the atmosphere while others may opt for natural pageants which allows the contestants to be more conservative. It all depends on the girl.
2011 National American Miss royalty
Still with me? We've covered a lot of ground and now you know a little more how pageants work. There is always more to learn and pageants keep evolving which keeps the competition alive. Bottom line, each pageant offers something different to competitors and each girl has to figure out which pageant system is right for her. Which allows her to shine the most? Most serious pageant competitors try out more than one pageant system and often girls find one or two that fit the best. Pageant systems crown the girl who shined the most during the competition that week and each and every girl should be proud of her system, title, and year-long reign because SHE DID IT!