LaRochelle competes at Miss Teen New Jersey

Elizabeth Klemm

Sophomore Sam LaRochelle of Middletown stood confidently as Juror No. 10 in the Drama Club’s fall production of “Twelve,” but standing confidently is no longer acting for her. LaRochelle competed in her first pageant on Oct. 16, 2015.

LaRochelle didn’t place in the Miss Teen NJ pageant but said she was up against many girls who had much more experience with pageants, coaches and agents.

“It was a great experience nonetheless,” La Rochelle said. “I found it empowering, and I definitely left with more confidence than I had originally.”

“I would love to compete in more pageants if I could find the sponsorship,” LaRochelle said. She said she would stick to pageants within the Miss Universe Organization, who also run the Miss Teen NJ pageant.

LaRochelle’s mom introduced the pageant to her as a scholarship opportunity. She researched the event and decided to take part because “they’re actually a lot different than you would think.”

LaRochelle said that pageants are based on the “poise with which you walk and your confidence,” instead of appearances.

Judges awarded scores based on the three portions of the event: interview, swimsuit and evening gown, LaRochelle said.

“The most point-based system is the interview, which is where they get to know who you are, and that isn’t seen in any of the televised versions,” LaRochelle said. She said she believes this contributes to stereotypes about pageants.

Within the swimsuit portion, judges awarded points based on confidence and a healthy body for the contestant’s body type. The evening gown portion was critiqued based on poise and an elegant walk, LaRochelle said.

The competition was preceded by a seminar that provided contestants with interview tips and taught them how to walk properly. The interview tips included not to smell too heavily of perfume and to be open and honest with the judges, LaRochelle said.

The Miss Teen NJ pageant was a weekend-long event where LaRochelle met many people.

“I had a roommate that was super sweet … and I made a lot of friends there, and I still keep in touch with a lot of them, so it was a lot of fun,” she said.

In addition to meeting new friends, the Miss Teen NJ pageant helped LaRochelle acquire new confidence.

“I felt important in a weird way. I was taught to walk with confidence, and that’s really cool,” she said.