And the winner is…

Trading a crown for mouse ears, Ciara Kane enjoys her NAM Day at Disneyland during Nationals competition in Anaheim, Calif. Photo compliments of Tawni Kane

Marty Metzger

Childhood groups such as 4-H and Scouting are long-revered for teaching youngsters a variety of wholesome traits and life skills. The word “pageant,” on the contrary, might conjure up the decades-ago tragedy of the little Colorado beauty queen.

Tawni and Ryan Kane of Wellington once felt that way. When someone recommended their middle child, Ciara, for the National American Miss Pageant (NAM), she received an invitation to an open call in Fort Collins. The girl decided to “just for fun” enter the contest, which began with a mini-interview to qualify for State competition.

When the phone call came that she’d been accepted, the Kanes’ extended family was firmly against it, due to that old Boulder murder stigma. After the family did their homework, they learned NAM is a pageant that teaches entrants values similar to those of “traditional” childhood clubs and organizations. Declared Tawni Kane, “National American Miss is not even remotely a JonBenét Ramsey-type pageant!”

So, just over a year ago, the Kanes decided to allow Ciara to enter its pre-teen division for girls 10-12. They quickly learned that NAM was far from stereotyped glitz, rivalry or exploitation. In fact, behind-the-scenes hard work and cooperation drives this competition.

By pageant rules, Ciara was required to raise her own funding. She (not her parents) had to market candy door-to-door. Off came Ciara’s Cinderella shoes and on went her hiking boots! “Butter Braids” were a particularly good seller in Wellington and Fort Collins, where generous households sweetly did their part to help get the12-year-old to her pageant.

Arriving at State competition in Denver, each girl underwent one-on-one interviews with eight individual judges. Next came a 30-second Personal Introduction, designed to display poise and confidence. Both these sections required competitors to dress professionally, wear no makeup, and cross their legs only at the ankle, never at the knee.

Ciara’s mother remarked that no girl is ever alone with any adult at pageants. The one-on-one interviews, for example, are conducted in a large auditorium in which girls move from table to table.

During Formal Wear, candidates donned evening gowns and, accompanied by male chaperones (dad Ryan with Ciara), were judged on poise, walk, smile, and confident demeanor. Following that one-minute assessment, young ladies who so-desired presented Optionals. This section spans a wide array of categories, including casual wear and acting.

Tawni Kane noted that another optional, Talent, featured some awesome girls, as did Spokesmodel. The latter category required presentation of a long, memorized speech about a self-selected topic. One girl in Colorado’s 2017 contest eloquently spoke about adoption, a subject with which the adopted child was well-familiar.

Each NAM competitor must also donate a minimum of 10 school supply items for needy children. This generosity accounts for 10% of overall score.

The State winner received a crown, trophy, $1000 cash and payment of her fees to Nationals in Anaheim, California. Further, a portion (including plane ticket) of her travel expenses to the next leg of competition was covered, as was the fee for a Hollywood tour.

Girls who placed among the top five won a crown, trophy and the opportunity to advance to Nationals. Kane, the second runner-up, was elated…but then had to work for money to get her to the Disney city.

More candy sales over the next four months took at least 100 pavement-pounding hours. Additionally, Nationals prints a yearbook; pageant competitors must find paid advertisers for its pages. During her time-intense attempts, Ciara solicited ads from most Fort Collins and Wellington businesses, said her proud mother. Each girl who fills up two ad pages gets her Nationals entry fee paid, an equivalent of $950. Goal met!

PHOTO COURTESY OF TAWNI KANE Selling candy door-to-door was just part of the work 12-year-old Ciara Kane put into her participation in the 2017 National American Miss Pageant.

The Kane family of five, however, had to cover their own airfares and meals. Ciara paid for the hotel room and $175 for each Optional she entered.

There are a few differences between State and National rules. Among them, the Anaheim Nationals pageant requires entrants to volunteer for, and present documentation of, a minimum of four hours of community service. Ciara also entered two additional Optionals: Runway Walk and a Top Model Photo Shoot. In the latter, and by appointment, a professional photographer gauged how she posed, reacted to the camera and displayed her personality.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TAWNI KANE One of Ciara Kane’s Optionals during the National NAM Pageant was Top Model Photo Shoot.

Although Ciara didn’t place at Nationals, just getting there was quite an accomplishment for her first pageant experience. Approximately 120 young Colorado women competed in State, where her third place finish (as second runner-up) took her to Nationals.

 Some big prizes were up for grabs at Nationals. For example, a lucky 9-year-old (lucky Mom or Dad!) won a Ford Mustang convertible. Overall, $500,000 in cash/prizes, modeling contracts and scholarships dedicated to college education were awarded.

Ciara treasures her pageant experiences and the many new friends she’s made.

“National American Miss was a great opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and make a ton of new friends from all across the country,” she said. “I never imagined I would get an invitation to go to Hollywood, but my dreams came true!”

After this last year of age eligibility for NAM, she hopes to pursue other pageants, such as Miss America and Miss Universe. Ciara has already broadened her resume to include the National American Christmas Pageant in Cheyenne, Wyoming. From its combined groups of competitors, ages 2-19, she was voted “Miss Congeniality.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF TAWNI KANE Ciara Kane is honored to accept the title “Miss Congeniality” at the 2017 National American Christmas Pageant in Cheyenne.

The 2018 NAM State pageant will be held this coming summer, thus giving entrants several months after school and on weekends to raise necessary funds.

What has Ciara merited from pageants besides fun, titles, crowns, trophies and trips? Her mother stated that her daughter has always been an outgoing girl.

“But her confidence level and poise are now through the roof,” declared Kane. “It’s been huge!”

She’s learned how to create a variety of hairstyles; personal responsibility and self-discipline; teamwork; proper methods of job interviews, including eye contact, proper posture, etc.

Ciara Kane is no gilded lily, however. The pre-teen plays on her school basketball, softball and volleyball teams. She likes gymnastics and creative writing. Although adoring the family’s three dogs, she pretty desperately wanted a betta fish for Christmas but was disappointed because the Kanes were to spend the holiday in Michigan. A sloshing fish bowl would have been impractical (and likely betta fatal) for a 1000+ mile winter road trip. But Ciara happily returned home with a gift certificate in hand to make her Christmas fishy wish come true!

And what of Ciara’s siblings? Do either of them have pageant aspirations? Brother Hudson, age 14, was unavailable for comment. But little Lillian clearly knows one path in life she’ll definitely follow. The vivacious 3-year-old intends to be just like big sis Ciara: she’ll perform before an audience, travel, and wear a beautiful crown!

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