Just before the national COVID-19 pandemic took hold across the U.S., some good news occurred in Missouri’s neighboring state of Kansas.
Seymour’s Destinee Rivera, 13, an eighth-grade student at the Seymour Middle School, competed in the Princess Of America Pageant in Junction City, Kan., on March 14 and March 15 and won the title of “Teen Miss Midwest.”
Rivera also was named “Most Photogenic” and earned first place in competitions for casual wear and talent.
“It was really exciting,” she said of her strong showing at the pageant. “Doing this has helped me with public speaking and becoming more confident.
“And I’ve also made a lot of new friends — friends from all over, including Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and several other states.”
Her journey in pageant competitions began less than a year ago.
It also began in Seymour.
“It started last August when I signed up for the apple-princess contest for the (Seymour) Apple Festival,” Rivera said with a smile. “My really good friend, Katelynn Smith (also an eighth-grader in Seymour), had been involved in pageants in the past, so she helped convince me to sign up for apple princess.”
Rivera was the third runner-up at the festival.
Smith was crowned the 2019 Seymour Apple Princess.
And for Rivera, the seeds were sown for becoming active in pageants.
“I really enjoyed the interview process (for apple princess), and I feel like entering the contest, then placing as the third runner-up, helped my confidence,” she explained.
“I wanted to do it again.”
That chance to “do it again” came in February when Rivera entered the Princess Of America Pageant in Chillicothe, located in northern Missouri, where she finished as the second runner-up.
A month later, she competed in Junction City, Kan., and took home top honors.
Next up is national Princess Of America competition in Branson, which is scheduled for the end of July, barring any cancellations or postponement because of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Katelynn also will compete there,” Rivera said.
“I’m really excited about it. With each pageant, I feel like my confidence is growing, and I now know what to expect at the competitions.”
Her mother, Sierra Hatfield, said Destinee’s growing confidence is evident.
“Prior to this, just a year ago, Destinee was worried about her public speaking,” Hatfield noted. “Now, that’s not the case at all. The pageants have built confidence.”
When she competes, Rivera’s cause is a platform for suicide awareness.
And working for that cause, as well as competing in pageants, will continue into the future.
“I plan to keep doing this for awhile,” she said, smiling. “I can see doing this through high school.”
And will the freshman-to-be enter the princess contest at this year’s Seymour Apple Festival?
“Oh, yes,” Rivera concluded.
“I really enjoyed it last year. It’s what started what I’m doing now. Hopefully, I’ll finish higher than I did last year and maybe can win it."