Sampson heads to Miss Teen California

Emily Jones
Staff Writer

Upon hearing the word “pageant,” images of sticky hairspray, pounds of mascara, sparkling, bedazzled gowns, flashy swimsuits, and little girls from “Toddlers and Tiaras” instantly spring to mind.

But junior Caitlyn Sampson is participating in an upcoming pageant of a more sophisticated manner: Miss California Teen USA.

Sampson will compete for the title on Jan. 6 in Palm Springs against more than a hundred other girls ages 14-19, each vying for the privilege to represent her state in the Jan. 16 national Miss Teen USA pageant, hosted by Donald Trump and the Miss Universe Organization.

After receiving a phone call from Erik Desando, the official recruitment director of the pageant, Sampson could not pass up the opportunity to take part in this annual competition, in which the benefits that come with the crown are wide.

Other than the prize of continuing on to the national competition, the winner will gain access to select red carpet events and the spotlight to support charities at an amplified level, the main reason why Sampson hopes to win.

“Because they (Miss California Teen associates) help you participate in charity work, it would be a huge opportunity and a really great extra-curricular that would help me get accepted into the Air Force Academy,” said Sampson.

To earn a spot to compete in the pageant is a feat in itself, as thousands applied and only about 20 percent earned an interview, Desando said. Of those interviewed, around 120 teenagers were selected for the pageant.

“We look at the picture first and obviously (Sampson) has some beauty elements that we felt fit, then we phone interview to see if they have the other four qualities we want: loving, giving, caring, and non-judgemental,” said Desando. “She was a great fit.”

Sampson’s friends also believe she has what it takes to succeed in the pageant.

“She has a great personality, she is fun and compassionate, and has all of the virtues that they’re (pageant judges) looking for,” said junior Kurt Westwick. “I think she can win.”

Together, these five qualities (loving, caring, giving, non-judgemental, and beauty) comprise the “five finger individual,” providing a model for the perfect contestant, allowing the pageant to transcend preconceived notions of being purely beauty based, Sampson said.

“They want someone who has these traits so they will be a proud representative of the state of California,” said Sampson.

In the first stage of the competition, the interview, Sampson and her competitors will be asked a series of questions regarding their positions on local and world issues. The best answers, chosen by a panel of 11 judges, then allows these girls to move on to the swimsuit and formal wear section, where the judges are looking for “a healthy and fit body,” according to the Miss California web site.

Finally, the remaining girls will be asked a final question in order to determine the winner.

“I’m nervous for the final question, but I know that I could win,” said Sampson. “Even if I don’t, it’s definitely a good experience, because I will meet new people, have fun, and be proud that I was honored to be in a competition to represent the whole state of California.”

To fund this unique endeavor, Sampson and her friend, junior Michelle Kraft, sold glow sticks on the Fourth of July and hosted bake sales. These fund raisers enabled Sampson to raise over half of the $800 pageant cost.

“It is actually very expensive, although the hair and make-up for the pageant are provided, plus the photo shoot, hotel room, events and other little things like the sash,” said Sampson.

Kraft, who will be making the journey to the McCallum Theatre in Palm Springs to watch the pageant, said she is excited.

“I’m a little bit nervous because (Sampson) is competing against some girls who have been in pageants before, but I am really happy for her, and know that she is really confident,” said Kraft.

Despite having never competed, Sampson’s loved ones have faith in her.

“Caitlyn is one of the most sensitive, caring people I know,” said teacher Susan Fitch. “I’ve never seen her without a smile on her face.”