SCOTIA — There’s a lot more to beauty pageants than meets the eye. At least that’s what Scotia teen Emma Mathes has found.
Growing up with three older brothers, Mathes' childhood was less about Barbies and more about softball or tennis.
“I honestly thought I would never be doing beauty pageants because I was such a tomboy when I was younger,” Mathes said.
Capital Region residents may remember another Scotia-Glenville native, Laura LaFrate, who went on to appear on "America’s Next Top Model" a few years after winning a local pageant. LaFrate didn’t consider modeling or competing in pageants until high school, when her family convinced her to try out a few pageants in an effort to win scholarship funds.
Mathes’ interest in pageants was similarly nudged along at first. Three years ago, a friend convinced her to compete at the National American Miss Pageant in Rochester. She won the Cover Girl Contest and has been hooked ever since.
On July 30, she won the junior division of Miss Spirit of New York, a local pageant focused on community service. It’s the fourth she’s competed in this year, and she’s got several others to go before the year is out.
Each pageant has a different set of requirements, be it a series of interviews, speeches, modeling, a talent, or community service. Mathes tends to focus on the community service aspect in her interviews, highlighting her work with local food pantries, raising money for breast cancer awareness and research, and raising money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Her mother, Nicole Mathes, said that although she never expected Emma to participate in pageants, it’s been amazing to see her confidence grow.
“She was shy and quiet,” Nicole said, “The confidence level has really grown.”
There’s also been a cultural shift in the attitude of participants, according to Nicole. She used to compete in pageants, and in her experience it was more of an intense competition with little to no encouragement among participants.
“Now, they’re so encouraging. It truly is a great sisterhood,” Nicole said.
Next year, Mathes is hoping to compete in Miss Teen USA, which is run by the Miss Universe organization.
Emma and Nicole recently sat down with The Gazette to talk pageants:
Q: How do you prepare for these pageants?
A: Emma: I have a coach, Mary Therese Friel. She was actually Miss USA 1979. She interviews me so I can prepare for the interview portion, and every day I practice my personal introduction. She also teaches etiquette, from eating to stage presentation. [She teaches] modeling, what to wear and how to wear makeup.
Nicole: She does a lot of modeling as well. It’s just getting on the runway and practicing. She [does] practice interviews with the Pageant Planet.
Q: What’s one thing people might not know about pageants?
A: Emma: You get to see your confidence [build] and you get to see who you become in such a short amount of time. You also make a lot of friends and get to really know the girls.
Nicole: So many people think it’s based [just] on beauty. But these girls that we’ve met over the years . . . these girls could interview better than some adults. So it really teaches them how to interview.
Q: What do you say to people who look down on beauty pageants?
A: Emma: I just ignore it. I love what I do and no one can take that away.