Pretty in pink: Pageant gives children a chance to shine

By Elizabeth Biernacki, Staff Reporter

Brooklyn Lappin’s favorite part of her Saturday was her pretty pink dress and having all the attention on her.

The Under the Sea Pageant held by Sunburst Beauty Pageants returned to the University Mall in Carbondale on Saturday, March 23.

15 contestants, newborns to 16 years olds, competed for the title of overall queen or king and to move on to the state finals in Bloomington, Illinois.

The four-year-old from Marion competed with two other girls for the Pee-Wee title for girls in the four to six year old range.

“This is her first [pageant] actually, we heard about it through a friend and she decided that she wanted to wear a pretty dress and she wanted to do it,” Kaitlyn Lappin, Brooklyn’s mother, said. “She likes being a princess.”

Linda Ellis, director and owner of Sunburst Beauty Pageant, is an advocate for young girls and boys being a part of pageants like this one.

“Calling it a beauty pageant is a little bit deceptive because beauty doesn’t mean necessarily physical beauty,” Ellis said. “There’s a lot of different types of beauty; there’s beauty from within, there’s growth and the beauty that comes from that growth.”

The contestants are scored in three different categories: facial beauty, overall appearance and personality. All contestants qualified for the May 24 state finals. 

For Kaley Evelyn Luna, a 15-year-old high school student and state queen from Evanston, pageantry is a way to be more outgoing. 

“I wasn’t really confident when I was younger, I was more of a shy girl, but after the time I won and I knew I could do it, I decided to be more social to other people,” Luna said.

Luna has been competing in pageants since she was 12 years old and said beauty pageants are nothing like what’s shown on reality TV shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras.”

Ellis said she knew a girl who had been on the show and the producers purposely made her frustrated.  

“They made [her] walk through a door 20 times normally, but eventually she got sick of it and stomped out yelling ‘I don’t wanna do this anymore’ and that’s the shot they used,” Ellis said.

Ellis said children who participate tend to enjoy being a part of the pageants and kids who don’t probably haven’t done it before and probably won’t do it again.

“When you don’t enjoy doing something, when you get up on stage, you’re not going to shine, you’re not going to give your best,” Ellis said.

Ellis said pageants help build confidence in children.

“A lot of our contestants we see, from little tiny girls that are shy and holding onto their mom’s leg when they get up on stage,” Ellis said, “when the time comes for them to graduate, they’re making speeches in front of their class and they attribute that directly to pageants.”

Ellis said pageants actually teach children valuable lessons and skills.

“It’ll teach [Brooklyn] whether she wins or loses, she’s a princess,” Lappin said. “She’s so happy being in this dress and that’s all that matters.”

By the end, Brooklyn pulled through and won queen in her age category. Brooklyn stepped off the stage with a smile on her face.

Staff reporter Elizabeth Biernacki can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @EBiernacki_DE.

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