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Student finds her crowning glory

At+the+Miss+Tampa+Teen+USA+pageant%2C+senior+Emerson+Ward+answers+an+onstage+question+which+topics+range+from+bullying+and+drug+problems+to+immigration+and+leadership+qualities.+Pageant+coaches+helped+her+prepare+for+discussion+questions+after+winning+her+first+pageant+last+March.
At the Miss Tampa Teen USA pageant, senior Emerson Ward answers an onstage question which topics range from bullying and drug problems to immigration and leadership qualities. Pageant coaches helped her prepare for discussion questions after winning her first pageant last March.

At the Miss Tampa Teen USA pageant, senior Emerson Ward answers an onstage question which topics range from bullying and drug problems to immigration and leadership qualities. Pageant coaches helped her prepare for discussion questions after winning her first pageant last March.

Used with permission: Emerson Ward

Used with permission: Emerson Ward

At the Miss Tampa Teen USA pageant, senior Emerson Ward answers an onstage question which topics range from bullying and drug problems to immigration and leadership qualities. Pageant coaches helped her prepare for discussion questions after winning her first pageant last March.

Hartley Hill, Staff Writer

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Senior Emerson Ward entered her first pageant, a preliminary for Miss Florida, last March with the intention to cross something off her bucket list. Little did she know she would become Miss East Coast Florida’s Outstanding Teen and later Miss Teen Tampa, all while discovering a newfound passion for pageants. 

“There’s a video of my name getting called to win my first pageant, and you can hear my mom in the background saying, ‘What did we just get ourselves into,’” Ward said. “My mom, best friend and boyfriend were there and all completely shocked, because I did not even prepare for it.” 

Ward sings and acts inside and outside of school, participating in shows at community theatres. She would sing around the house ever since she could talk, so her mom decided to put her in voice lessons. 

“I have always loved to sing,” Ward said. “It grew in me to be something more meaningful than you could ever imagine. At first doing a pageant was just about getting a fun experience to sing.” 

Used with permission: Emerson Ward
In the talent portion of the pageant, senior Emerson Ward shares her love of singing to the judges and audience. Ward has been involved in musical theatre since she was little and hopes to eventually be on Broadway.

Ward won her first pageant and received the title of Miss East Coast Florida’s Outstanding Teen, which led to her involvement in other pageants. 

“It was a big confirmation to myself that I am smart enough and good enough to have intelligent discussions,” Ward said. “I don’t consider myself a pageant girl, and I don’t think I ever will be. I think that is why I strive.” 

Ward now has two full-time pageant coaches and a voice coach. Her coaches practice interview questions with her over Facetime, preparing her to think on her feet quickly, efficiently and intuitively. In addition, she learned how to walk and hold herself properly in a gown after tripping in her first pageant.  

“The most challenging part is not comparing myself to others,” Ward said. “It is most important to keep being yourself instead of trying to be a certain type of person that judges are looking for, when in reality, any type of person can win.”  

Judge criteria varies with each pageant system but typically includes lifestyle and fitness, on-stage questions, talent and interview. 

“I love interview and on-stage questions because even though it seems scary, it is really fun to share your intelligence and thoughts with people on topics that teens wouldn’t normally talk about,” Ward said. 

Discussion and question topics range from bullying and drug problems to immigration and leadership qualities. 

Used with permission: Emerson Ward
Modeling her Miss Tampa Teen sash, senior Emerson Ward runs a dress drive for less fortunate high school girls. Ward’s charity platform is to promote kindness among girls.

“I already know my interview and speaking skills have gotten better, so when I interview for jobs I definitely will not be worried,” Ward said. “I think this whole journey has made me overall more educated and culturally and socially conscious, allowing me to handle adult things like public speaking.” 

Each candidate has a charity platform, and Ward’s is self-confidence through female empowerment, with a goal to promote kindness among girls. Ward helps foster homes with clothes donations and is currently running a dress drive for the Belle of the Ball Project, which provides homecoming and prom dresses to high school girls in need. 

“I have basically changed my entire aspect of who I am as a person and my outlook on life because of the charities I am a part of,” Ward said. 

Ward plans to represent Florida one day at a national pageant, but her dream job is to pursue her love of musical theatre by being on Broadway after going to college in New York. 

“So many things have benefited me in a positive way, when at first it was just something that I had always wanted to do but had been too afraid,” Ward said. “Because I finally went out of my comfort zone and tried a pageant, I am a completely different person.” 

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Student finds her crowning glory