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Plant City Observer Friday, Dec. 1, 2017 2 weeks ago

Pursuing the crown

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A Plant City teen has been chosen to participate in the 2017 Miss Teen Tampa pageant. She hopes to shed light on issues she holds close to her heart.
by: Breanne Williams Staff Writer

One local student is making her pageant debut as a finalist for the 2017 Miss Teen Tampa pageant.

Rebekah Peaster had never considered competing for a crown. The 15-year-old homeschooler was already dual-enrolled at HCC, active in her church and working on her love of drawing when she received a letter asking her to consider interviewing for the pageant.

“I thought it would be a good chance to meet other people,” Peaster said. “It’s my very first pageant so I didn’t really know what to expect or what would be expected. But I looked into it and when I realized this one was based almost entirely off of personality I decided to try.”

Miss Teen Tampa prides itself on its dedication to highlighting each contestant’s personality rather than running as a traditional beauty pageant. The Miss Teen competitions are held across the country and offer thousands of dollars in prizes.

“This pageant is different because it’s all-inclusive,” Kathy Shaffer, a judge coordinator for the pageant, said. “I’m happy to say we focus on their self-confidence and self-esteem building. Between the time of the informational session and the final pageant so many of the girls blossom from being shy and being unsure of themselves to being able to smile and being composed on stage.”

Shaffer has been with the pageant for 18 years and said it always strives to build up the self esteem of all who enter. The pageant has a master list of girls who have been referred to them for the event. These referrals normally come from gymnastics or dance instructors or other leaders who recognize talent in their students.

When someone is nominated the pageant reviews the girl’s status and sends an invitation to an information session, where those interested will complete an interview. The coordinators will then decide if they are accepted or not based on the initial meeting, age and residency of the applicant.

“It’s not a question-and-answer session, it’s more of a conversation-style process,” Shaffer said. “During their personal interviews we score them on their eye contact, their handshake, poise, their introduction of themselves, which we all work on during the training process. We really try to get to know the girls during the interview.”

Peaster said though she was a little nervous, she felt the judges have really gotten to see her unique personality. She has an eclectic taste in life, as is evidenced by her plans for the future.

Though she is planning on pursuing higher education, Peaster doesn’t want to be confined to one job for the rest of her life. She plans to go to college for “quite some time” to be a modern-day Renaissance woman.

“I don’t want to have a career for life,” Peaster said. “I’d like to try a bunch of things out like waitressing, being a grave keeper, a lawyer, a hairdresser and even a mailman. I used to want to be a garbage man but then they got rid of the people on the back of the trucks and that took the fun out of it.”

She said her eight siblings, three brothers and five sisters, have contributed to her wide range of interests. When she listens to music, she will turn on jazzy pop, rap, worship songs and even an occasional heavy metal song.

Peaster said she is a thoughtful and joyful person, traits she believes will be evident in her run for the crown. If she wins, she said she plans to use her position to spread awareness on sexual assault, which she said is not spoken about enough among young women.

To prepare for the final contest on Dec. 2 and 3, she has been prepping at home with her mother, who was once the second runner up for Miss Oklahoma. Peaster said the pageant is unique because it eliminates any physical judgements. It doesn’t have a swimsuit competition or a talent competition and has no height or weight requirements, which are being eliminated across the country in many local pageants.

“I try to be a positive influence in my everyday life, but the crown would shine a spotlight on issues I care about and allow me to help others,” Peaster said. “I’m not sure what to expect but whatever happens is in God’s will. I’m just excited to get the opportunity.”

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