Gianna heads to National American Miss pageant
At 7-and-a-half-years-old, Gianna Gruenhagen likes to jump on her trampoline. And she’s hoping her practice at reaching for the stars pays off come Thursday, July 26, when Gruenhagen will compete with other girls from across the State of California for the title of National American Miss 2012.
An unconventional beauty pageant, National American Miss places emphasis on self-confidence, personal growth and community service, rather than looks or talent. The pageant does not contain a swimsuit competition, none of the participants are allowed to wear make-up and the competition has strict rules against gossip and slander.
Gruenhagen – whose interests include ice-skating, painting, dancing, scootering and skateboarding – will be competing in the Junior Pre-Teen age division.
“It’s not like something you see on TV, like ‘Toddlers in Tiaras,’” said Theresa Berosik, Gruenhagen’s mother.
Girls are judged in four different categories: personal introduction, interview, community involvement and formal wear, a more traditional beauty pageant category. Gruenhagen is particularly excited to show off her brand new pageant dress to the panel of judges.
“It’s pink, it has flowers on it and it’s long and it has sparkles on it,” she explained enthusiastically.
But Gruenhagen knows that a girl’s pretty dress is not what will be most important in guaranteeing her success in the competition. “They (the judges) want to know if she’s having fun in the pageant,” she said. “They want to see a smile on her face.”
Gruenhagen was anonymously nominated for the competition, and had to pass through an initial round of eliminations in order to qualify for the pageant in late July, which will take place at the Marriott Hotel in Santa Clara. She is now considered a state finalist.
Berosik said she was impressed by her first interaction with National American Miss. The girls – who ranged in age from three to 16 – were encouraged to dress up as though attending a professional interview, and were selected to move on based upon how well they presented themselves in front of their interviewers, a panel of judges from National American Miss.
The participants themselves are also expected to raise the $440 competition fee.
“They want to teach responsibility,” said Berosik, who was at first worried that her daughter might learn bad values at a beauty pageant. “They made it very clear that she had to earn the money through sponsors and that mom and dad aren’t just going to pay for it.”
Gruenhagen is being sponsored by Black Bear Diner, the Sandbox, Murphy’s Irish Pub and Readers’ Books. In order to help raise money, Gruenhagen and her mother also organized a one-night-only dinner delivery service for friends and family.
The pageant will take place over the course of three days, and the winner will receive a $1,000 cash reward, a complimentary tour of Hollywood, VIP tickets to Disneyland and a spot in the National Pageant.
“I think she’s going to do great,” said Berosik. “I don’t really expect much. It’s not about winning, it’s about learning and growing.”
But Gruenhagen is confident she will make it to the next round. If she wins, Gruenhagen plans to buy an American Girl doll with the cash prize.