June 14, 2010

New NAM PA Queen is NOT your "typical" pageant girl

Normally I don't spend a lot of time highlighting the more "typical" pageant activities like riding in parades but I thought the article below was pretty cool! Read on about your new National Princess Queen - she might surprise you!

NAM PA JP Parade Pic

Beaver County 8-year-old wears crown but doesn't fit mold of typical pageant contestant.

Courtney Bearer, 8, winner of the state title in the NAM == formerly known as National American Miss Princess -- pageant, rides in the Memorial Day parade last month in downtown Beaver.

Courtney Bearer hates wearing makeup, loves raising worms and thinks the world of her pet goat, Sweetpea.

So how did the Rochester 8-year-old end up as the reigning "queen" in one of the country's most prestigious pre-teen beauty pageants?

It ain't all "Toddlers & Tiaras," folks.

Courtney competes in so-called "natural" pageants, where girls are not allowed to wear the makeup, swimsuits, hair extensions and false teeth depicted on hit reality television shows. In her reign as National American Miss Princess, Courtney has won more than $5,000, traveled to Las Vegas, California and Texas and made public appearances at fairs and parades.

"You go into Wal-Mart and you hear, 'Your daughter is so cute,' " said Courtney's father, Ron Bearer, possibly the world's only motorcycle salvage repairman-cum-pageant coach. "We didn't have any idea what we were getting into."

On her family's patio in rural Beaver County, Courtney commits acts of cuteness with dizzying speed. Have you seen her hula hoop routine? Her back walkover? Her pageant trophy as tall as she is? Her pageant speech heavy on Steelers references? And have you met not just Sweetpea but also her pet alpaca, Stretch?
Ever since her first dance recital at age 3, Courtney has been a natural performer, said her mother, Valerie Bearer. "When she gets on stage, she's in the zone," she said.

Four years ago, the family received a flier in the mail for a "National Miss American Coed" state beauty pageant in Harrisburg. Though Mrs. Bearer had never imagined her daughter as a pageant competitor, she let Courtney -- who now fantasized about becoming Miss America -- choose whether she wanted to enter the pageant or go on a planned trip to Disney World.

"We were real iffy on it," Mrs. Bearer said. "We didn't know anything about it at all."
They found a Holy Communion dress at JC Penney that they thought might work as a pageant gown and traveled to Harrisburg. For Courtney's age group, pageants involve one-on-one interviews, optional talent competitions, formalwear modeling and short introduction speeches. To her family's surprise, Courtney won the state title -- and a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., to compete in nationals.

The reality of Courtney's pageants, Mr. Bearer said, is nothing like what viewers see on reality TV.
"It's natural," he said. "It's like Miss America, just shrunk." The Bearer family is both addicted to and horrified by TV shows like "Toddlers & Tiaras" and "Little Miss Perfect," which portray children in full makeup, prancing around in baby bikinis. "I would never do that to my daughter -- never," Mrs. Bearer said.
And for Courtney -- whose least favorite part of pageants is sitting still while her mother curls her hair -- so-called "glitz" pageants hold no appeal. "To me it's gross," she said. "Weird. They look like live Barbie dolls."

For the national competition in Orlando, a superstitious Mr. Bearer wore the same "Dad Rocks" T-shirt he wore for the state competition -- just as he eats the same "Steeler pasta" before every football game.
Her parents feared that Courtney would be crushed if she didn't win. But when she didn't even place, Courtney was completely unfazed. "Can we go swimming?" she immediately said after the results were announced. It was Florida, after all, in winter.

Though Courtney was eager to compete in another pageant, she had to sit out a year because she had won a state title. So last July, the family again traveled to Harrisburg -- this time for the NAM pageant, formerly known as National American Miss. And Courtney again captured the state title -- along with prizes for modeling and for her hula hoop performance in the talent competition. The family that had barely left Beaver County before Courtney's pageants was off to Anaheim, Calif., for the national NAM pageant.

At pageants, the Bearers have met girls -- even 8-year-olds -- who compete in the events every weekend, employ professional pageant coaches and wear custom-designed gowns. Courtney likes to indulge her inner princess -- just as she likes to raise gnarly-looking caterpillers until they turn into butterflies -- but the Bearers have adopted a decidedly low-key, and low-cost, approach to her pageants.

Take Courtney's dress for the national NAM pageant: Shopping at The Mall at Robinson, her mom spotted a rack of $5 party dresses for a charity sale. They picked five dresses in similar shades of purple and took them to a seamstress, who fashioned a ruffled lavender gown with silver sequins that looked just like it had come from a pageant magazine.

Mrs. Bearer was laid off about two years ago from a job at the Allegheny County Airport, where she'd worked for 16 years. Mr. Bearer works at Cycle Salvage, a motorcycle salvage yard in Rochester owned by his brother. Cycle Salvage is a proud sponsor of Courtney, with ads in Pageantry magazine and her photograph on its website. "He has pictures all over the motorcycle shop -- he is a pageant dad," said Mrs. Bearer, laughing. Mr. Bearer now searches eBay for Courtney's gowns -- she wore an eBay gown for the NAM state title competition -- and has been known to tear up just watching his daughter's videos on YouTube.

Who can say whether it was the patchwork dress, the introduction pronouncing herself as "from the great state of Heinz, Hershey and Steeler mania," or the hula hoops color-coordinated to match her outfit, but Courtney came out of the competition as the national winner. "I didn't even realize I won until they crowned me," she said, demonstrating the straight-armed, wobble-wristed pageant wave that she's now perfected.

She won a $5,000 scholarship, plus jewelry, a digital camera, clothing and luggage -- which she needed to haul home her 4-foot-tall trophy. To commemorate the victory, her father used a computer to create a "City of Champions" picture of Courtney in her sash and tiara in front of the Pittsburgh skyline, with three Stanley Cups and six Lombardi trophies in the background.

Pageants for children have been around since the 1960s, when the "Little Miss America" pageant at New Jersey's Palisades Park Amusement Park would draw thousands of entrants, and have grown in popularity in recent years. "On any given weekend, there are probably hundreds of pageants going on at the same time all over the country," said Valerie Hayes, a Houston, Texas-based pageant coach. "It's a much bigger community than most people realize."

Children's pageants are divided into the no-makeup "natural" pageants and the yes-makeup "glitz" pageants that much of the country learned about after seeing photographs of a dolled-up JonBenet Ramsey, the 6-year-old Colorado beauty queen whose 1996 murder has never been solved. The Miss America and Miss USA organizations don't have pre-teen categories, Mrs. Hayes said. For children looking to advance to those elite pageants when they get older, the NAM pageant is probably the most competitive, she said.

"It's a very, very prestigious title," said Mrs. Hayes, who also hosts the online Pageant Talk Radio show. "It's not uncommon for us to see NAM titleholders pop up a few years later with a local, state or national title in Miss USA or Miss America." More than 12,000 women compete every year in the Miss America competition alone -- though the number of entrants to other pageants has fallen between 30 percent and 50 percent in recent years because of the economic downtown, Mrs. Hayes said.

It is one of Courtney's dreams to be Miss America someday, although she'd also like to be a teacher, a dolphin trainer, a mermaid and the first-ever Steelers cheerleader. In the meantime, she's traveled to Las Vegas for the Miss America pageant and to Texas for a modeling shoot. She's done community-service projects and appeared at events such as the Beaver Memorial Day Parade and the Health Awareness Fair at the Beaver County Jail, sometimes at the invitation of state Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., R-Beaver, who says he's been impressed with her maturity and poise.

"I was in a parade with her and she sat there waving like a little princess," he said, laughing. "She's got that wave thing down pat." Because of her national title, Courtney is barred from competing in another pageant this year, though she will appear at the NAM state pageant in August and the national pageant in November. She's most looking forward to seeing her "sister queens" in older age divisions.

In her daily life, though, many of Courtney's friends from dance or gymnastics classes don't even know about her pageant titles, her mom said. "She's not real girly-girly," Mrs. Bearer said. "You wouldn't tell just to meet her that she's a pageant girl."

Anya Sostek: asostek@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1308.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10164/1065335-57.stm#ixzz0qkP8UhV5

1 comment:

  1. what if you are unable to get the sponsor fee by the deadline ? do you get kicked out ?