When some think of beauty pageants, their mind jumps to what they’ve seen on TV: overbearing moms pushing their – usually young – children to dramatic and damaging levels of competition.
The story of Wheaton Warrenville South’s Olivia Negris’ entry into pageant life is a little different. The first time she entered a pageant was at 17, and it was more the idea her friends and strangers than hers or her mom’s.
“Some girls on my twirl team had tried pageants and done well and they said I should try it,” she said. “Then I was buying a dress one day with my mom and the lady helping us said I should look into it.”
When Olivia told her mom, Sharon Negris, that it was something she wanted to do, Sharon wasn’t immediately sold.
“I just said ‘It’s a big commitment,’” she said. “She said she wanted to do it.”
Sharon came around quickly and said that she encouraged her daughter, calling Olivia’s experience in the competition a good learning experience that has opened doors for her.
It turns out the saleswoman at the dress shop was right – Olivia was named the regional winner of the Miss Outstanding Teen pageant and will compete against 27 others to gain the title for Illinois on June 28. When she told her competitors that it was her first competition, some were surprised.
“They said that they assumed before the pageant even started with the way that I talked and held myself I had done it before,” Olivia said. “I think a lot of that is my baton skills transferring over.”
In addition to volunteering, participating in her church youth group, National Honors Society, student council and other activities, Olivia is part of a nationally competitive baton twirl team at Silver Knight Baton Corps, where her mother serves as vice president. She was named the Junior Miss Majorette of Illinois in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and will compete at regionals in a few weeks to defend her title.
The competitiveness of baton prepared Olivia for her pageant run, she said. Not only did it serve her in the talent portion of the competition, but there is an interview portion in baton competitions as well as in pageants. While she said the interview wasn’t as rigorous for baton as it was in the pageant, her previous experience helped. Olivia was named the first place finisher in the talent and interview portions of the pageant.
Although she is used to competing, Olivia says it has been tough to make time for friends while preparing for the pageant. She also said that the diet she uses to stay in shape isn’t fun.
Still, she says she is grateful for the opportunities Miss Outstanding Teen has provided, including the chance to volunteer at the Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago and the Children’s Miracle Network. She hopes to one day work in the medical field.
Olivia says she isn’t sure what her future in pageants holds but is grateful for her experience so far.
“You just never know how well you will do,” she said. “Everyone had to qualify on their own, but it has been so much more than what people, and what even we, thought before we got involved.”