Elizabeth Smith: There’s more to pageants than external beauty

Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Smith came from a family of pageant contestants. Now Miss Alaska High School 2019, she has been participating in pageants since before she can remember. Her mother Sarah Smith coaches her, as Miss Alaska America Teen 94, Miss Alaska Teen USA 98 and Mrs. Alaska America 2011 herself. Even Elizabeth Smith’s little sister is part of this culture.

Elizabeth Smith signs a document alongside Miss Alaska Junior Elementary. Photo by Elizabeth Smith.
Elizabeth Smith signs a document alongside Miss Alaska juniors. Photo by Elizabeth Smith.

For those who didn’t grow up with pageants like Smith, the concept may be misunderstood. Stereotypes dictate that pageants are all about who looks the prettiest. Smith tells a different story.

There are many different programs and types of pageants, each with various phases of competition. Smith said they are not all glitz pageants, which judge external beauty. Her pageant system, Junior High, High School and Collegiate, or JHC, focuses on personality and intellect.

“I don’t look at it as judging me. I look at it as getting to know me,” Smith said. “It’s like going in for a job interview… they’re getting to know me to see if I have the potential to carry on to nationals.”

The competition phases of her pageant are interview, opening number, fun fashion and evening gown. The interview is where the judges get to know her. During the opening number, the contestants walk out on stage and introduce themselves, which tests stage presence skills. The fashion phases are also for personality.

Smith competes for scholarships and the friendships that develop along the way. She won $2,000 with her Miss Alaska High School 2019 title. She plans to use this award for college at California Baptist University or UAA for a pediatric nursing degree with a focus in mental health.

During the pageant, crowns are won along with a sash displaying the winner’s title. The crown represents authority, while the sash introduces the girl wearing it.

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“The local titles help you reach out to your community to talk about your platform,” Smith said.

The Anchorage JHC system required Smith to advocate for Building Respects and Values for Everyone, or the BRAVE anti-bullying platform. As Miss Alaska High School 2019, she plans to reach out to schools in Anchorage to talk about BRAVE. She will start with the one she attends, Grace Christian School.