Pageants give girl new outlook

Hannah Cartwright

At 9 years old, Hannah Cartwright of Blue Earth is pursuing her dream of winning a crown.

Tasha Walker, Hannah’s mom, said the idea for Hannah to compete in pageants started this past spring when Hannah received an invitation from National American Miss to attend an open call in Mankato. Once there, Hannah went through a “mock call,” in which she was interviewed and taught pageant basics such as how to walk, sit up and stand.

“She actually did the catwalk, and for that she was able to really go all out with what she wanted to do with her outfit to show off her personality,” Tasha said.

If girls competing in the open call were picked, they would get an email or a phone call the next day to continue.

“We kind of left thinking everyone gets a callback,” said Tasha.

However, Tasha said she was surprised to learn that Hannah was the only one of the 10 girls in her age group and in the area to get a callback.

When Hannah first received the invitation, Tasha said she wasn’t sure if it was something that should be pursued, concerned about the superficial stereotypes of pageantry. After doing research and finding out that the girls couldn’t wear makeup and there wasn’t a swimsuit competition, Tasha reconsidered.

“It’s not about glam,” Tasha said. “It’s about building confidence and learning life skills.”

In June, Tasha and Hannah traveled to the Twin Cities to attend National American Miss University. There, Hannah spent about eight hours doing interviews, practicing her introduction and turning and walking on a stage. At the end, Hannah received a certificate of graduation, leading her to the NAM Minnesota State Pageant in August.

To compete in the pageant, said Tasha, Hannah had to pursue sponsorships through local businesses.

“Hannah went out for hours some days, especially on weekends, and she would go into businesses and do her thing,” said Tasha. “That’s a lot for a little 9-year-old.”

The pageant in Wisconsin Dells lasted three days. During that time, Hannah partook in many events, including casual wear, modeling, personal introduction, formal wear and runway. She also had an interview competition, in which she went from table to table to be interviewed five minutes by different judges. In the interviews, she was asked questions such as what her family is like and what she believes in.

In the end, Hannah received a trophy for 4th runner-up in runway modeling, the Spirit of America award and became a state finalist.

Hannah said her favorite part of the pageant was when she did formal wear, with her stepdad as her escort. Her least favorite event, however, was when she had to learn a choreographed dance within a half-hour and perform it in front of a crowd.

“That’s the part I hated,” she said. “But it was funny because I kept messing up.”

While the pageant was exhausting, Hannah said, she really enjoyed it.

Tasha said she was surprised by how her shy daughter grew in confidence during the pageant.

“I watched her in a matter of 72 hours go from shy and ‘I don’t know if I should go talk to that girl’ to ‘I love your dress! What’s your name?'” Tasha said.

Throughout the pageant, all the girls were able to get to know each other and play games during their free time. Tasha and Hannah agreed the competition was healthy, without any jealousy or drama.

“Hannah walked away with a sense that you can make friends wherever you are and that there are good friends out there,” Tasha said. “They call them pageant sisters. She made a lot of new friends that she will get to continue to grow with.”

During the pageant, Hannah also participated in an “I Am Worth It” retreat meant to build the girls’ confidence. Hannah received a handheld mirror where she would write what she likes about herself, and her mother would write what she likes about her daughter. Hannah wrote “bubbly” while Tasha wrote “charismatic.”

“They said that we get to keep it and every time we look into it we remember that we’re worth it,” Hannah said.

Outside of pageants, Hannah is active in the community, volunteering at the Committee Against Domestic Abuse, Meals on Wheels and Trinity Lutheran Church in Blue Earth. She also participates in gymnastics, volleyball, basketball and theatre.

“She’s always done something,” Tasha said. “She keeps very busy.”

In October, Hannah will attend the Premiere School of Self-Improvement and Professional Modeling twice per month to continue down the pageant path. At the school, she will work on personal introduction, walking and turning, personal grooming techniques, how to put on makeup and how to pick out dresses and outfits for pageants.

Tasha hopes the pageant school will continue to build up Hannah’s confidence and bring her out of her shell.

“It’s a very unique school in terms of utilizing the skills that you currently have and build up those strengths and weaknesses,” she said.

In February, Hannah will compete in the USA National Miss Minnesota State Pageant. If she wins, she will be able to travel to Orlando, Florida, to compete in the national finals.

Hannah wants to continue to do pageants into high school, and hopes to one day win a crown and earn the national title.

“I just want to achieve my dreams,” she said. “I have a lot.”