University of Arizona student Arisia Huff is an 18-year-old freshman set to compete at the Miss Arizona USA pageant during the last week of May 2021.
The Miss Arizona USA pageant is directed by Britt Powell, former Miss Missouri 1995, and is set to take place in Phoenix in one of the last two weekends of May. The pageant is open to women all ages from 14-27, with the prerequisites of living in the state of Arizona or attending school there full time, being U.S. citizens and never being married or having had a baby.
Powell describes what the judges as well as the board of directors are looking for.
“We’re just looking for young women who have a sense of adventure, want a stage and an arena where they can showcase their uniqueness," Powell said. "There’s really no type that we’re looking for, there’s no mold. Sometimes people have a preconceived notion of pageants, and I work very hard to make sure that our stage and our pageants is an experience where young women can learn about themselves, what makes them amazing and how to showcase that by confidence to bring out their individuality and encourage other young women to do the same.”
Additionally, Powell said her involvement in pageantry stems from a desire for women to develop self-love and help other women to ignite a spark.
"When one candle lights another candle, there's that instant when that flame is brighter," Powell said. "There's a split second in that twinkling of an eye that that light is just brighter and that's the magic that happens when you give yourself or your love or your encouragement to someone else it doesn't diminish you, it makes everything magical for a split second then both of you are shining.”
The application process, as explained by Powell, involves a committee that looks over the information that is sent to the website where, if accepted, they get an email a couple days later from Powell inviting the individual to the pageant.
Huff was accepted and set to compete in the competition in May. Huff is from Burlington, Vermont. She started competing about four years ago at the Miss Vermont Teen USA pageant.
According to Huff, competing at the pageant wasn't really a priority at first.
“When I was a sophomore — it's actually kind of funny — my old director, he came up to me and he was like, 'Hey, I’m the director for this pageant, I think it's something you would really enjoy,' and I was like, 'No. No way. Absolutely not.' I was a much different person," Huff said. "And then he pretty much told me there were scholarships for college and so I was like, 'Whatever, I’ll do it.'"
Huff’s pageant mentor, Kim Vaughn, discussed her relationship with Huff and how she has gotten to know her through competitions. When asked about Huff, Vaugh expressed how she is excited to see her compete.
“Arisia is a hard worker, determined and enjoys the challenge of competition," Vaughn said in an email. "She is also super friendly and likable. ... Arisia has a heart of gold; serving others is important to her."
Huff said that she had never considered the scholarship aspect because she was so concerned about her self confidence. However, Huff went on to explain how the sisterhood that comes with pageantry has helped her with her confidence. She described her competitors as supportive.
“I’ve never had a mean girl experience at a pageant," Huff said. "Everyone's just back there helping each other, being there for each other."
Huff and Powell both mentioned that the stigma surrounding pageantry is not about a "mean girl" atmosphere. Instead it is about girls supporting girls and focusing on being your best self.
“Everybody they tell you that you aren’t competing against the other people there and I think that's why it's such a sisterhood," Huff said. "Because we all know we’re not competing against each other, you are competing against yourself. Focusing on that, focusing on the fact that I’m just competing against me, and not against everyone else helps me a lot. Because if you start comparing yourself to the girl next to you, you’ve already lost."
Huff discussed that the goal of the competition is not about out performing the girl in front of you, it's about overcoming yourself almost as if you are your own biggest competitor. She explained how following that motto she is able to excel in her pageantry.
“It's really all about being the best version of you," Huff said. "I’ve found out the times I’ve focused on that and the times that I’ve focused less on winning and more on competing and having fun and learning and growing are the times that I’ve done the absolute best that I have.”
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