I want to express my deepest gratitude to you and the pageant staff at Miss Illinois USA for this amazing opportunity. Although I I did not go home with the crown, the experience was truly life altering and unique.
I am just about coming out of my high from the pageant! Stacey was so absolutely thrilled with her semi-finalist finish! She cried when her name was read, and seriously, I think her dad and I were both in certifiable SHOCK! We cried, too.
Leaving her in Chicago on Friday was scary, but the minute she called Friday night and explained her magnificent view of the city and the lake and all of the nice people and fun, we knew the weekend would be successful just because of the experience of being there.
After seeing Stacey compete Saturday, I told her to make sure she had everything ready to appear on stage Sunday because she was going to compete again as a semi-finalist. She said, "Mom, have you not been watching! Have you seen these girls?" You see, Stacey has an auditory processing learning disability and works her tail off for average grades because she can rarely pass a test. She is a special education student who takes all regular ed classes, and to be really good at something besides her modeling, isn't something she is used to. She has NEVER been in a pageant. Her evening gown was $15, her swimsuit was a $32 Speedo and we bought the interview suit at J.C. Penney for under $60, I think. What the judges saw was Stacey, our beautiful daughter for the sweet, good person that she really, really is! They have no idea what they have done for her!
Stacey would like to send thank you notes to everyone- even the emcees because they are fabulous at putting the girls at ease! You ladies and gentlemen are phenomenal! Also, the judges did a fantastic job choosing our Miss Illinois Teen USA. She is a class act and I picked three of the same top five as they did! In fact, I drew a crown on her Saturday night in my program book! Of course the mom in me had that cute little fifteen year old Miller girl in there, too! We are so proud of her and proud to have been a part of such a wonderful pageant! Thank you for a wonderful experience for all of us Millers here in Taylor Ridge!
God bless each and every single one of you!!
Sue Miller & Mitch Miller
Upon hearing the word “pageant”, many immediately think of snobbish, yet beautiful, rich spoiled girls who put on an act wishing for world peace, while simultaneously stabbing each other in the back to win a sash and crown. I admit that, although I am not proud of it, I thought the exact same thing. Then, I entered the Miss Illinois Teen USA pageant, and was very pleasantly surprised.
I had never entered a pageant before, mainly because locally they always conflicted with my travel softball schedule. However, this was a statewide pageant in November that would allow me to fulfill my goal in life: to make a difference in the world.
What drove me to suddenly enter the world of pageants? Winning is the obvious answer, but to me, winning meant more than parading around in fancy clothes and making appearances at public events; it was about reaching young people in Illinois and spreading awareness about issues we face in society today. Of course, the scholarship money was a huge plus, and I would never turn down free make-up, jewelry, clothes, and other various gifts, but I saw this as an opportunity to launch myself into becoming a journalist, not a beauty queen.
Holding these beliefs true to my heart and knowing 115 other girls ranging from 14 to 18 had their eyes on the same crown, I walked into the Chicago Hyatt hotel with high hopes. My parents stressed that the judging was subjective and to just have a good time and make friends. This only built up my trepidation as to how the other girls would act.
To my amazement, from the moment I opened the car door till the moment I drove away, I was surrounded by a sea of helpful people. The veteran girls would not hesitate to show the new girls, like me, where to go and how to get around the hotel. Chaperones, for the most part, always had a free hand in the dressing rooms during our crazy three-minute changes backstage to help us fasten our dresses or apply butt glue to our bathing suits (Yes, I said butt glue, and it really does keep the suit from riding up). The hosts for the evening made a special effort backstage and during rehearsals to calm our nerves and boost our confidence by joking around and telling us stories from past shows that had gone horribly wrong.
While we did have a strict schedule to follow of meals, rehearsals, guest speakers, and the show, that does not mean I didn’t find time for fun. One night we had a dinner dance party complete with a disc jockey and strobe lights to dance the night away. Everyone knows a party is only as enjoyable as the company, but with my roommate by my side and a group of new friends, it was definitely a highlight of the weekend. Everyone signed my program book and I took a bunch of pictures to remember all of my new experiences, though there was a professional there to capture photos every step of the way.
In the end, I did not win the title; however, I did walk away with a plaque for the best in the evening gown competition. The pageant association states that the competition “is not about encouraging young women to ‘win’ a pageant, but to encourage young women to develop life skills that will ultimately help them win in life by being their personal best in everything they do.”
While it was disappointing not to retain the power of the crown, I will definitely continue trying to make a difference in my own community.
The pageant life was not at all what I had expected; it was ten times better. Looking back on the experience, I find that I am a more well-rounded person, twice as eager to face the journalistic world with yet another important message to share with others. I was nervous and scared many times throughout the weekend, but the lesson is to never let the fear of striking out, keep us from playing the game.
By Heather Gray
A newspaper article 'Crown'ing Glory written & published by a Miss Illinois Teen USA 2008 contestant
Hi! Just wanted to send a note to say how much fun I had this weekend! It was an amazing time! I had three phone calls today about swimsuit modeling! WOW....did NOT expect that, but it sounds like good experience!
Just wanted to say thanks a ton! You guys were great!
I just wanted to thank you all for an AMAZING weekend! I wish I had made the top 17, but all the girls who did were so deserving and so beautiful! I'm SO excited for Mia. If she does even half as well at Miss USA, she will win for sure! What a wonderful representative she will be for Illinois! We'll be tuned in at the Warren house in April!
I just wanted to take a minute to thank you all for the wonderful weekend at the Miss Illinois USA Pageant. My daughter, Danielle, was competing for the first time (in your pageant) and had an awesome experience. The girls were all so wonderful and supportive of each other, and they have memories that will last a lifetime.
Danielle did not make the semi-finals, but her friend, Monica Perone did, so we had someone to cheer on! We are so proud of all Danielle accomplished and the enthusiasm she is expressing in wanting to compete again! Mia is a wonderful representative for Illinois and we will be cheering for her in April at the Miss USA Pageant. I think you may have a winner on your hands here!
On Wednesday after the pageant, Danielle got her acceptance letter into the nursing program she's been waiting a year to get into. As one door closes, another one surely opens.
Thanks again for all the work, time and effort you and your team put into this pageant. As a parent, I am truly grateful for all that you did for my daughter!
Thank you so much for a fantastic weekend. I had a blast. I made tons of new friends and learned so much about myself. My Family loved the show and the way you work the whole production. I'll be seeing you all again in years to come!
Thank you again for a wonderful time.
Thank you for making a difference in our youth of today. Awarding my daughter, Kayana Marks, this empowering opportunity, has already changed her life. With every step of this enchanting journey, Kayana is growing and blossoming into an impressive young lady.Thanks again for your contribution to our daughter's life journey.
Sincerely, Debra & Eldwin Marks
Thank you so much for the pageant weekend and all that you and your staff do. Kendra had the time of her life! I think it was probably the happiest I have ever seen my daughter. (One of) her dreams since she was a tiny little girl has been to be Miss USA. The pageant weekend allowed her to do something she never could have imagined. We came to the pageant hoping that she could just have a great weekend and she had so much more. First Runner up was beyond our wildest dreams. So thank you and your staff for all that you do.