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In recognition of New Year's, we are sharing this story of a teenager's whirlwind year and her look to the future. Happy 2011!
New Year's is a time of observation. People reflect on the past year's experience and look forward to the things to come. Cheshire High School senior Alyssa Taglia is coming off a whirlwind year that opened doors for her future.
Taglia was named Miss Teen Connecticut on November 29, 2009, an honor that carried over for the next year. In what she considers 'the power of the crown,' she was able meet and help people inside and out of her state. Taglia enjoyed working with Best Buddies, a non-profit organization that assists those with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.
“Having a crown makes you get looked upon,” explained Taglia, 17. “I was able to work with many charities. I was in the VIP section, walked the red carpet with celebrities, and got to meet Tom Brady. It was definitely an eye-opening year that I'm very grateful for.”
She took her position very seriously.
”There is so much responsibility around that (honor). There are confirmation sheets for everything, all the public appearances,” recalled Taglia. “You are a role model when you wear the crown.”
Not only was she selected out of 25 competitors in the state pageant, but Taglia also earned the opportunity to compete for the title of Miss Teen USA. The 2010 competition, held July 23-24, brought her to Atlantis Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas. All 51 states were represented.
“Miss Teen USA is a great honor. Donald Trump runs the organization and really spoils us. I've been to the Bahamas before, but never for a competition,” said Taglia. “It was amazing. You feel like you are among the best of the best. It is nerve-racking because you are making friends and being a competitor. There are stereotypes about girls being catty, but you don't understand them until you are around it.”
The girls were invited to a Virginia retreat in January of last year, so she met them beforehand. Taglia is close to Miss Arkansas, Megan Burgess. She got to know Miss Rhode Island (Erica Wright) better when they roomed together in July.
“If we travel to states, (we) make sure we call to try to get together or what not,” stated Taglia.
She had 22 people come to watch the summer competition, only she wasn't allowed to see them.
“We had to get up at 5 a.m. for production,” added Taglia. “It was tiring to wear heels all day.”
Preliminaries were held Friday, with the final competition running Saturday evening. The competition consists of a private interview, swim suit, evening gown, onstage question, and opening number.
“Private interviews are behind closed doors, usually (with) five judges,” said Taglia. “The thing about swim suit is people think it's just about you being pretty. It is really important to show you are healthy. Evening gowns show you have grace. You don't know the (onstage) question.”
She feels the interviews are the most revealing part.
“It is still nerve-racking because they can ask you anything,” Taglia explained. “They want to decide if you are a good title-holder. I think they can't grasp that the same way from a swim suit and evening gown.”
Taglia loved being around strong candidates. Without making the top 15, she didn't find out her final ranking.
“Going into Miss Teen USA as Miss Connecticut, you don't expect to do well against Miss Texas and California,” reflected Taglia. “I was happy with the way I competed, but didn't expect anything.”
Miss Maryland, Kamie Crawford, was the 2010 Miss Teen USA. Lexi Atkins (Miss Illinois) received second place.
“She (Crawford) was very nice, so I can't complain,” Taglia said.
Support from family and friends, win or lose, meant a great deal to her.
“I think they wanted a little vacation, as well,” joked Taglia. “It was amazing. For such a small state, I'm confident that I had one of the loudest cheering sections.”
Taglia had her first pageant at age 13, winning Miss Fairfield. That same year, she started her own community program (Smiles For Seniors).
“I go around the state to nursing homes and senior centers. I offer to do activities they are interested in,” explained Taglia. “My tag line is enriching the lives of seniors around Connecticut.”
Taglia has competed four or five times on the state level. She received her crown at the Marriott Hotel in Farmington. The competition came down to her and Alex Tenney of Greenwich.
“I wasn't expecting anything,” recalled Taglia. “I was contestant number 21 and runner-up was 24. The announcer said '20' and then paused before saying 'four.' We were holding onto each other's hands and when she walked away, I almost lost my balance.”
Taglia doesn't know if she will compete again, since she is leaving the state for college in the fall. She is looking at New York University and Point Park University (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
“Whether New York or Pittsburgh, I could compete in those states. But, I'm going to focus more on getting into college,” explained Taglia. “We'll see about running for Miss one day.”
Either way, she feels pageants have prepared her for the events of 2011 and beyond.
“The most rewarding thing is the skills I've learned from it,” reflected Taglia. “I know I can be confident in job and college interviews. Public speaking takes a lot of courage. I think I can be more comfortable there.”
Photos courtesy of Taglia.