Sofia Nazeer and Maggie Cummings Staff Writers
Foran senior Kaleigh Garris has been participating in pageants and modelling for much of her life. Recently, all her hard work and experience culminated in her winning the title of Miss Teen USA. We interviewed Kaleigh to learn more about this life-changing experience.
Q: How did you prepare?
A: Well, from Miss Connecticut Teen USA I had a sponsored group of amazing women that coached me on my way to Miss Teen USA. I also had my friends and family that helped me practice and asked me mock interview questions. My parish hall also allowed me to practice my evening gown walk in their ballroom, which was an amazing help since I only got my gown a week before the competition.
Q: How long did it take to prepare?
A: Well, I really only had since I was crowned Miss Connecticut Teen USA to prepare, which was in the first week of January. At the beginning, it felt as though time was going by really slow, but as soon as the date of Miss Teen USA was announced time flew.
Q: What was the atmosphere like?
A: The atmosphere backstage was pretty light-hearted and relaxed, but at the same time really focused. Some girls were playing music out loud while others had headphones in while they were getting into their ‘zone’. But everyone there was super helpful and just trying to enjoy their time.
Q: What was your favorite part?
A: My favorite part was being able to see all of the behind the scenes action that happens during the pageant. All of the stuff that people don’t see off stage. Growing up I would always watch the Miss Teen USA in the Miss USA pageant and wondered who put the show on. Now I know that the show is ran by such an amazing staff and it is definitely organized chaos backstage.
Q: How did you feel standing on the stage when they were announcing the winner?
A: It was actually quite an odd experience. When I was standing on stage with North Dakota, I had a strange sense of calm. Now, don’t get me wrong- I was definitely nervous, but just proud to be standing on that national stage. I knew that no matter what name they would announce next, I was proud about how far I have come and I put the best version of myself that I could out there and that’s all I’ve ever asked of myself.
Q: Is there anything you would do different?
A: The only part about the competition that I would change would be that I wasn’t so hard on myself. At the competition, I would get in my head about the other girls I was competing with and wonder if I was doing good enough. But then I realized that I was my only competition, that I would be the only person holding me back from reaching my fullest potential. So, at one point in the competition, I had to tell myself to just relax and be myself and that’s all I could do.
Q: How did it feel to have your social media change so much with being verified and getting thousands of more followers?