Third-grader wears her crown
SALEM – Basketball players do wear crowns, 9-year-old Emily Allara has always said. Now Emily, who plays basketball, proved one could finish in the top 10 at Miss Virginia’s Outstanding Preteen pageant.
Despite being one of the younger girls in the group, Emily managed to show that her mix of tomboy determination and feminine spirit could lift her to the top of her group.
The positive attitude paid off when she made the finals of the preteen contest on June 24. The next night in front of a live audience at the Roanoke Performing Arts Center, Emily donned her periwinkle gown and took to the stage as a finalist in the 2011 Miss Virginia Outstanding Preteen pageant.
Miss Greater Hampton Roads Preteen Jordan Frankos took home the title of Miss Virginia Outstanding Preteen 2011, but Emily won the People’s Choice award.
Emily was competing as Miss Smith Mountain Lake Outstanding Preteen, the title she won earlier this year. The previous year, she won Miss Roanoke Valley Outstanding Preteen.
Following the advice of her third-grade teacher Donna Horak at North Cross School, Emily got interested in pageants. Her first competition proved to be an exciting experience that sparked her passion for pageants.
“The first pageant was a little nerve-wracking but I had a lot of fun,” Emily said “I was really excited. The only thing I was kind of nervous about was interview, but I placed well.”
As a dance student at the Ardell Stone School of Dance in Cave Spring, Emily practices to perfect her talent for dance before every pageant.
“I love dance,” she said. “I love jazz, but I think I’ll love pointe even more when I take it next year.”
Her passions aren’t limited to pageants and dance though — Emily also participates in basketball, swimming, tennis, and soccer.
“I have a tomboy side and a girly side,” Emily said. “So, I like pageants because it’s the only time I use my girly side, but I would definitely count pageants as a sport.”
As for any sport, Emily must spend lots of time preparing for the pageants. She worked closely with Salem High School teacher and forensics coach Mark Ingerson.
“I enjoyed studying with Mr. Ingerson. He was more fun and doing hilarious acts. It made learning fun,” she said. “He was awesome.”
Emily dedicates herself to her platform, America’s Toothfairy, as another part of her preparation for pageants. As the daughter of a dentist, Dr. Jack Allara, Emily chose a personal cause to promote. She set up donation cans in dentist offices around the valley through a program called “Tip the Tooth Fairy” to raise money for children who cannot afford dental care.
“We have donation cans and we’re putting them in dental offices and hopefully we’ll be getting some donations,” Emily said. “We’ll collect them on a regular basis. We’re also trying to get some dentists to take on the case of a child.”
Miss America’s pageants focus on scholarship and community service with the contestants, after introducing the platform concept in 1989.
In contrast to the glitzy pageants of the popular television show “Toddlers in Tiaras,” Miss America pageants require contestants to sport natural make-up and emphasize academics, community service and scholarships.
“This is way different,” Emily said. “I don’t really like how you spend so much money just to get done up and it’s not really a competition on the show ‘Toddlers in Tiaras.’ All they have really is a glitzy short dress and that decides the winner. This pageant is based off your community service, and you get scholarship money.”
Contestants of all ages must send an academic transcript in a sealed envelope before the are allowed to participate in the Miss America-related pageants. Awards are given to participants for their participation in community service.
Pageants are often time consuming and require dedication from the contestants and their families.
With the backing of her parents Jack and Marla Allara and her brother Lucas, Emily has a strong support system for the pageants. Her family cheers for her from the audience at pageants.
“At first, you kind of feel like they make you nervous, but once you get on stage, you feel like you know someone in the crowd,” Emily said. “It turns out to actually be a good thing.”
She leaned on that support system throughout the Miss Virginia pageant process. Her mother helped to fix her hair and make-up, while her father and brother came out to show their support during preliminaries on Thursday and finals on Friday.
In addition to the family support, she believes her key to success throughout the pageant was to maintain her positive outlook.
“Keep positive — we’re going with the idea that I’m going to make top 10,” Emily said.
By the end of the week-long event, she remarked that the pageants were well worth all of the work.
“There’s times where I’m tired or grumpy. I don’t think my mom thinks those times are too pleasant,” Emily said, “but I’m already having tons and tons of fun. I’m probably going to continue. My first year was more than I ever dreamed.” – By Katherine Chiglinsky