Busy bee pageant newbie takes top spot

LAUREN O’CONNOR-MAY

Skyler Brown, of Portland, a newcomer to the pageant scene, took home the prestigious Miss Petite South Africa crown on Saturday March 26. The eight-year-old’s natural talent helped her to beat experienced pageant models and win the country’s highest pageantry honour in her age group.

The Grade 3 pupil at St Anne’s Primary School in Plumstead took part in her first pageant when she was four – and won, but the bug for this expensive hobby didn’t bite again for many years. Inbetween, the energetic little girl did Latin dancing instead. After she turned seven, her dance partner decided to give up the extramural, and Skyler turned her attention back to modelling.

She took part in the Miss Sparkle pageant and scooped the first runner-up title. Part of her prize included free entry into another pageant, Little Miss Wild Wild West. It was there that Skyler and her mom, Janine, heard about all the others that were taking place and started entering. Of the eight pageants that she entered, she won five and was either first or second runner-up in all the others. The real crowning achievement of this was that Skyler claimed most of these titles without any training, besides the impromptu practice sessions which she did on the carpet in her lounge.

“She had no experience,” Ms Brown said. “She didn’t come from a modelling school like other girls ,but she won.”

Recognising her talent, her family enrolled her at RVT Modelling School in Brackenfell in October and it was just in time too because in November she would take part in her biggest and toughest competition, the regional pageant that led up to Miss Petite SA, which is the junior, junior, junior version of Miss South Africa.

Ms Brown said the girls who took part in pageants of that calibre had usually been modelling for years.

“Some were taking part for the second or third time already,” she said.

And it was stressful too. Ms Brown explained: “With the smaller pageants it was just one or two days of outfits and modelling but with this competition it was for a whole week and she needed a different outfit for every day, sometimes two.”

Add to this the travelling – the Browns were kindly accommodated by relatives in Sandton and the competition was in Pretoria which is an hour’s drive away – the getting up early, getting to sleep late, the long hours of modelling and interviews, the frequent changes of clothes. Besides the work that went into getting to the event; the practising, the fundraising, the shoe and clothes shopping, the dress- making, the beading, the grooming and the charity work – and it is clear that pageantry is really very hard work.

“I thought, when she first entered, that pageants are easy,” Ms Brown said.

And yet Skyler still feels like she is not busy enough and has signed up to take part in drama, piano and gymnastics at school.

“Every time she comes home with another form,” Ms Brown said.

Skyler’s favourite pastime is dressing up, which is why she loves the pageants so much, her mom said. This is evidenced by her room, which looks like a mini shopping mall of pageant dresses, cosmetics and jewellery.

“Most of the stuff in my room is pink,” Skyler said, laughing.

The talkative, friendly and confident little girl is also teaching the girls at her school to model. Some of them went on to take part in competitions and while they didn’t make it to the finals, several were scouted by modelling agencies and schools. If her protégés do enter anymore pageants, however, they may have better luck because they won’t be competing against their mentor on the runway.

As the winner of the highest title in her age group, Skyler may not enter anymore pageants – except the Miss World category for her age group which she unfortunately cannot attend because it is overseas and her family can’t afford the trip.

“The trip for Skyler alone will cost R40 000, besides what it would cost for me to go with her,” Ms Brown said.

With the more senior pageants, the winners sometimes take home cash prizes to help them along in their pageantry career but Skyler’s only prize was a large gift box of girlie goodies, like dolls, jewellery, diaries and such.

“It’s really more about the title,” Ms Brown said.

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