How many people, when they hear the word ‘pageant’, think of this?
Tears through the confetti. A cat fight over the tiara.
It’s kind of like when people ask me if news is really like this:
Yes, Rob has many leatherbound books. NO, we did not brawl with the other stations on the streets of Omaha. And despite all of the pageants I have watched over the years, I have yet to see a cage match over a crown and sash. Repeatedly, though, I DO see this:
Competitors who become best friends. Fellow contestants who end up being bridesmaids in each others’ weddings. Women who lift each other up as they prepare to represent their state.. and continue to reach out long after their pageant days are done.
“The purpose of this competition is to become the best version of yourself. That means preparing in a healthy way. Mentally, emotionally, and physically. That includes lifting each other up and supporting one another.”
That was the message Miss Nebraska 2016 Aleah Peters shared with the Class of 2017 Saturday night, with Miss South Dakota 2016 Julia Olson sitting at her side. It’s also one of the reasons a contender for the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen title signed up to compete in the first place.
Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Sydny Ridgeway
“Last year, my friend and fellow student was crowned at our local pageant,” Sydny told me. “After seeing someone I actually know compete and win, I got the idea that I wanted to do a pageant. I mentioned this to another one of my friends and we started competing last year.”
Sydny’s venture into something new also became a test of persistence; she competed five times before winning the title of Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen in October.
“It was the best feeling ever,” said Sydny. “I think that people need to know that doing pageants actually has the ability to bring teens and young adults out of their shells. It improves a girl’s body image and many other things. It’s a great learning opportunity.”
This, from a young woman who has taken advantage of opportunities presented to her throughout her life. A junior at Gering High School, she’s active on the Poms (dance) team and has danced for Tabor Dance Academy since the age of 3. A German student traveling to Europe in June, who is also working to become a certified Emergency Medical Responder in her community. Sydny is also a member of the Class B State Champion Journalism staff and has written for the Gering Courier. Simply put, Sydny describes herself as ‘committed’.
“I am in a lot of things, and now that I was crowned, my life is even more busy,” said Sydny. “I have been able to find a balance so that I don’t have to stop doing something that I love.”
In addition, Sydny competes for the speech team, sharing a persuasive oratory on seatbelt laws in Nebraska. Driving safety is a message she’s extremely passionate about, and her personal platform as Miss Alliance’s OT.
“Last year, my cousin was in a horrible car accident, which caused him to have an acute brain injury and he almost did not survive,” said Sydny. “If he were to have been wearing a seatbelt, it was likely he wouldn’t have had to suffer the severe brain injury. I want to put the facts out there that anybody can get in a car accident, but there are also precautions you can take in order to save yourself. Even if you aren’t driving, you should be practicing the right safety.”
Sydny is sharing that message across her community, as well as advocating for Children’s Miracle Network, the community partner to the Miss America Organization and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.
In the short few months since her crowning, Sydny has taken part in numerous events throughout her community. She’s volunteered to paint faces, collect Christmas gifts, host Halloween celebrations, and collect donations that go directly to patients at local hospitals, like Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. She is a constant advocate for service, and hopes to share more about that journey when she competes for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this April.
“My favorite part of the actual competition itself is the interview portion,” said Sydny. “Going into a room with five strangers and just telling them about my life is kind of exciting. I used to be really shy before trying out pageants, and now I am able to talk to anybody. I believe I owe that to all the interview and onstage questions in pageants.”
And Sydny Ridgeway is ready to show the judges she is a cheerful, independent, outstanding young woman with or without a title.
“Even if I am in a bad mood or anything where I shouldn’t be laughing, I am. I am always smiling or laughing; it makes me really happy,” said Sydny. “My goal for the state pageant is to just perform the best I can and be myself. Even if I don’t even place in the top, I want to make more friends and just have a great time.”
MORE friendships… in addition to this:
Teenagers from across Nebraska who will meet on stage, side by side with their classmates, contestants, SISTERS, who represent the best, the brightest, the kindest in our state. Young women just like Sydny Ridgeway.
“I’ve made so many great friends that I probably wouldn’t have if I wouldn’t have done pageants,” said Sydny. “That has really made my life better.”
CLICK HERE for more information about the Miss Alliance/Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, or email Director Melinda Cullan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.
To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!