Earning pageant titles and defeating stereotypes is what 16-year-old Celina Chapman of Shelton has been up to over the past few months.
Chapman began doing pageants at age 14 and was instantly faced with competitors who were 18 and 19 years old with more experience. Chapman said the age difference has made competing more of a challenge because not only have some of the girls been in more pageants, but many of them receive professional coaching.
In contrast with a lot of her competition, Chapman’s mother takes on the role as her stylist, coach, and is a big part of her support system.
Regardless of the difference in coaching, she was recently crowned Ms. Teen American Nation 2016 following a heated competition in preliminaries where she was crowned Ms. Southern Teen New England. For the rest of the year, Chapman is bound to these two titles, but was also crowned Ms. Congeniality back in 2014.
“My family was all there when I was crowned,” said Chapman. “I was really shocked and wish someone recorded a video of me screaming. I remember holding my friend’s hand on stage as they said my name. I was shocked. My mom instantly started fixing my hair saying ‘They’re taking pictures, they’re taking pictures.’”
In the midst of competing for a crown, Chapman admitted that some girls can get “catty,” but she says it’s been a goal of hers to remain on the high road and promote positivity. She says she shares the love, which many girls do, for dressing up and meeting the other competitors, but really enjoys the portion of the competitions where she is judged on her ability to advocate for issues she is passionate about.
“When I first started doing pageants I remember hearing people say ‘how can you be a pageant girl?’ and I would respond that I can be whoever I want to be. I think that that’s important because everyone can be who they choose to while being confident about it,“ said Chapman.
Chapman said dealing with some of the stereotypes linked with being a “pageant girl” can get tough at times, but it’s something that is rewarding and that she is continuously working on. She explained that the stereotype of all pageant girls being “brainless” is anything but true.
“A lot of girls nowadays deal with body image issues because of the way that other people and the media tell them they should look,” said Chapman. “Being someone who has struggled with body image before and who has a platform through these pageants, it’s an issue that I want to help others deal with. You’re the only one who can define yourself. If you put your mindset towards being negative then your life will be negative. If you set your set your mind towards being positive then your life will begin to head in a positive direction. It’s all about rewiring your brain into a positive mindset.”