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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Correspondent
Twelve years ago, Westwood’s Dawn Khoury brought in the mail, giving no thought to the postcard advertising International Junior Miss, a pageant for girls ages four to 24.
As Dawn tossed the postcard aside, her daughter, five-year-old Kiersten Khoury, gave it a look, captivated by the postcard’s photo of a young girl wearing a tiara and a sash, holding a big trophy and speaking into a microphone. Unashamedly, Kiersten insisted to her mother that she wanted to give it a try, and despite her dress and hair being wrong, Kiersten earned the spot of runner-up in her first year at International Junior Miss.
Now, as a rising senior at Westwood High School, Kiersten continues to participate in pageants and holds the title of Miss Teen Massachusetts. Her ultimate goal in the world of pageantry is to compete for the title of Miss America or Miss USA.
Although she has become exceptional at applying fake eyelashes and walking on stage in all sorts of outfits, competing in pageants has taught Kiersten crucial life skills, including, most importantly, to be true to oneself.
“The person you are really should come out while you’re on stage,” she said, “and that you should be the unique person you are in your every day life… Maybe just a little ‘glammed-up’ version of that on stage.”
The interview portion of a pageant is, for Kiersten, one of the most important aspects of the competition, as it is where she can truly showcase her personality and charisma. To answer the judges’ questions about herself, her accomplishments, and her aspirations, Kiersten must communicate her answers with poise, elegance, and a clear sense of what she is trying to say.
“Yes, you’re in a nice interview dress and you’re looking presentable,” she said, “but the majority of what judges are looking on and critiquing is the person you are, and the way that you are able to express that to them.”
Participating in pageants extends to the contestants’ everyday lives, too.
“I feel like if you are a pageant girl, that’s something that kind of comes with a territory,” Kiersten said. “I think a lot of the times, people like to get caught up in all of the glitz and glam and excitement of it, but truly, if you were to talk to someone who does pageants, they would tell you that one of the most important things they do throughout the year is volunteering and community service.”
Throughout the year, Kiersten works with organizations like Best Buddies, The Make a Wish Foundation, Relay for Life, the Westwood Friends Network, and the Westwood High School Friendship Club.
“I try to be the antithesis of what everyone thinks a pageant girl is,” said Kiersten. “I can show people that it’s not all about the hair, the makeup, and the fake eyelashes, and that is really is about the girl you are and the person you are. If I can impress even one person with the way I speak or the way I carry myself, that’s the most important thing to me.”