When most people think of beauty pageants, the first image that comes to mind is of girls on stage all dolled up in gowns, but people often overlook the commitment and preparation behind the curtains. Wichita’s Ava Johnson, Dominique Fonseca, Mykaysia Maples, and Khavayi Tsimonjela trained extensively for this year’s Kansas National American Miss (NAM) pageant and exceeded their expectations.
All four girls finished in the Top 10 in their respective age groups at the Kansas NAM pageant held July 9 in Branson, MO. Johnson,7, nearly swept the Jr. PreTeen division with a 2nd runner-up finish and awards for spokesmodel and casual wear. Fonseca,11, was the Kansas PreTeen winner and also won spokesmodel. Both girls automatically earned the opportunity to participate in the NAM finals pageant Thanksgiving week at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, FL.
Maples, 17, was 2rd runner-up in the Teen division’s spokesmodel category and Tsimonjelo,13, was 1st runner-up in the same category for PreTeens. Other than Tsimonjela, this was all of the girls’ first time in a beauty pageant.
The girls, in part, contribute their success to coaches Denise Colborn and Anessa Relf. Colborn is the mother of former Miss Teen USA winner Hailey Colborn, and Relf is passionate about helping black girls build self-confidence. Thanks to this duo, the girls arrived at the pageant well prepared and knew exactly what to expect on pageant day.
“Our coaching style is that we always believe that kids should be kids. It’s our goal as coaches, just to make sure that we give our girls a real shot at winning those rounds and making sure that they’re prepared, but staying true to who they are and having fun,” said Colborn.
Colborn and Relf want to get Black representation at beauty pageants and show other young Black girls that there is a lot to benefit from participating, such as public speaker and characters skills that will carry them into adulthood.
The National American Miss is a pageant for girls ranging in age from four to twenty, with five age categories (at the state level) and six (at the national level). The organization promotes itself as less of a “beauty pageant” and more of a method to assist girls in developing confidence and better communication skills.