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Contestants say being a pageant queen is worth the time

Jan. 22, 2011 at 8 p.m.
Updated Jan. 21, 2011 at 7:22 p.m.

Jolie Shae Lambert, 4, puts on her lipstick as her mother, Julie Webb, helps her get ready for the 2011 Queen Victoria Pageant on Saturday. The pageant is always full of younger girls, but there are fewer older girls who are willing to compete for the top prize.

Standing in a crowded backstage dressing room with the other Queen Victoria contestants, Melanie Tesch, 17, scanned her reflection with a careful, well-practiced eye, reapplying lipstick and engulfing her honey-colored head in a cloud of hair spray.

In the final moments before the Queen Victoria Pageant, some of the girls looked nervous, but Melanie was just excited.

"I can't wait to get out there. It's pretty much based on personality, and I love to get out there and just be myself," Melanie said, wearing a smile that lit up her whole face.

Four years ago, she didn't feel that way. That was the first year Melanie decided to get out onstage and compete to become Junior Queen Victoria.

While many girls seem to tire of the competition by the time they reach high school - there were only three Queen Victoria contestants this year and there were two last year - Melanie started competing as a high school freshman.

She got the idea after seeing her sister walk across the stage in a fancy dress the year before.

"I watched her, and saw her getting all of this attention and thought, 'I'd like to do that,' so the next year, I did," Melanie said.

Her first competition was nerve-wracking. While Melanie describes herself as friendly, she had always been a little shy, a little quiet. Even now, her blue eyes grow larger while remembering her first time walking across the stage, answering questions from the judges.

"I was terrified," she said.

But she swallowed her fear, tried to sparkle for the judges and came away first-runner up for Junior Queen Victoria. The next year, she won, becoming Junior Queen Victoria.

Melanie's mother said the pageant has been wonderful for her daughter.

"Melanie always smiled a lot, but she was very quiet. Then she did this and it kind of brought her out of her shell," Lana Tesch said.

Leesa Brown, the pageant's director, acknowledges that fewer girls compete in the competition as they get older.

"It's a busy time and if you win, there are a lot of responsibilities. This is a big commitment and it takes up a huge amount of time," Brown said.

It's worth it, though, Brown said, because the contestants learn so much. Going through the pageant teaches them poise, grace and gives them skills that will help them in all parts of their lives.

First year Junior Queen Victoria contestant Scarlett Elsik, 13, said that is why she decided to enter the competition this year.

"It sounded fun, and I thought this would help me with some of social stuff ... It's been a great experience," Scarlett said.

Melanie said she has loved competing, and while being Junior Queen Victoria took up a lot of time, she said it was worth it. Still, she said this will likely be her final competition.

"I'd love to keep competing, but I'm going to college next year. With school and everything, I know I'll be way too busy," she said.



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