Nine-year-old girl competing for Miss Jr. Pre-Teen Seattle crown

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Angeline Lai holds up a potential dress she may wear on Saturday for the formal-wear  portion of the competition. She hasn’t decided between this dress or a lighter pink dress with  sequin detailing. (Photo by Diane Han)
Angeline Lai holds up a potential dress she may wear on Saturday for the formal-wear portion of the competition. She hasn’t decided between this dress or a lighter pink dress with sequin detailing. (Photos by Diane Han)

Angeline Lai is competing in her first pageant as part of the 2014 Miss Jr. Pre-Teen Seattle this Saturday.

This nine-year-old, however, doesn’t define beauty by what you look like or what you wear.

“Inner beauty means that it’s what is inside of you that matters,” she said. “Let’s say I’m the ugliest in class – if other people ignore that about me, they have inner beauty because they still want to be my friend. Inner beauty depends on the inside of your heart.”

Angeline’s mother Vy Lai said she received a letter from the pageant company inviting Angeline to take part in the competition and felt like this particular pageant was perfect for Angeline.

“There’s a stigma about beauty pageants that everything is superficial, but this pageant is not about that,” Lai said. “It really promotes inner beauty.”

At even her young age, Angeline has already experienced first-hand the importance of not judging others by their appearances. She was born with Microtia, a rare condition where the external ear is underdeveloped, causing her to have mild hearing loss in her right ear.

While her parents were concerned that Angeline would be the subject of ridicule or teasing among her classmates at Serene Lake Elementary School, Angeline has not let her condition define who she is.

Angeline (left) and her mom, Vy La, display the outfit Angeline will wear on Saturday for the casual-wear portion. They chose to include the microphone as a prop to show that Angeline loves music.
Angeline (left) and her mom, Vy La, display the outfit Angeline will wear on Saturday for the casual-wear portion. They chose to include the microphone as a prop to show that Angeline loves music.

“In school, nobody really notices (my ear) because my hair usually covers it, and even when my hair was longer and I put it in a bun, people could see it but they still didn’t really care,” Angeline said. “Sometimes, even I forget that I have a small ear because my left ear is really really powerful.”

Angeline will be competing in the second round of one of four divisions among her age group of 7- to 9-year-olds. She has already made it past the first round – by submitting an application and participating in an interview session conducted by this year’s Seattle Pageant coordinator – and has secured a sponsor, her family dentist Dr. Joe Hwang, owner of Edmonds-Terrace Family Dental. Hwang recently presented her with a $495 check.

To prepare for the upcoming competition, Angeline and her mother attended a training session last week, where contestants were taught not only how to walk down a catwalk or sit up straight with poise, but also skills like firm handshakes and not using filler words when they give a speech.

“I was really impressed by the things they taught these young girls,” Lai said. “They were teaching them interview skills, how to make eye contact, about body language – life skills that any adult would benefit from.”

Saturday’s competition consists of three parts: formal wear, casual wear, and an interview during which a panel of judges will assess her in areas such as confidence and body language.

Angeline sings a love song that she wrote herself. She says her love of music and songwriting comes from her mother, who enjoys writing music in her free time.
Angeline sings a love song that she wrote herself. She says her love of music and songwriting comes from her mother, who enjoys writing music in her free time.

Throughout all levels of the pageant, the highest value is placed on the contestants’ personality, and the girls are encouraged to showcase as much of their uniqueness as possible in their outfit choices and interview responses.

Contestants are encouraged to pick clothes from their existing wardrobe for the casual wear segment – clothes that represent who they are rather than purchasing a new outfit. In the past, contestants have dressed in Tae Kwon Do or equestrian gear to showcase their hobbies.

Angeline loves to sing and listen to music in her free time, so she and her mother assembled an outfit that she would normally like to wear, and paired it with a microphone prop.

If Angeline she is among the finalists at Saturday’s competition, she will compete at the national level in Orlando, Fla. More than $30,000 in prizes and awards will be presented at this event and thousands are expected to attend the national competition

Angeline says whether or not she wins the competition, she is happy she will have had the experience of putting herself out there and trying something new.

“I’m really nervous,” Angeline said. “But, I’m also really excited.”

– By Diane Han

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