Lakota student crowned National American Miss Pre-Teen Queen

When someone says pageant, you may picture swimsuit competitions, ball gowns, makeup and high heels. But pageants have received a makeover. Liberty Township native Taylor Small, 13, was just crowned National American Miss Pre-Teen Queen, a role coveted by young teens across the country. The competition prides itself on authenticity, building positive role models in young girls and women, and honoring the individualism of the true “American girl.”

Taylor shined in all of these aspects as she made her third attempt to move from the Miss Ohio Preteen title to National American Miss Pre-Teen Queen, beating out 144 finalists from Ohio and nearly 40 representatives from around the country. Taylor’s mother, Diana Small, remembers having hesitations when they first received a letter asking Taylor to attend an open call for the competition back in 2015.

“We weren’t sure about pageants,” Diana says, “but Taylor wanted to be an actress at the time, and we were amazed to learn that individuals who had been through them had become actresses, such as Halle Berry and Oprah Winfrey.”

Taylor is a part of her school’s theater program at a Lakota junior high and loves performing, something that has helped her excel in the pageant competitions. She began practicing the skills needed and valued by the National American Miss organization, including public speaking, interviewing and carrying herself with poise. Taylor defines poise, which the contestants demonstrate during the escorted formal wear competition (contestants walk with a male role model such as a father) as “carrying yourself gracefully and confidently.” Her mother adds, “It’s definitely more than wearing a pretty gown.”

Taylor has especially demonstrated her abilities in public speaking, as she had to learn to speak to over 300 people in the crowd, which helped her overcome fear and speak at her sixth grade graduation.

In addition to her speaking skills, Diana explains that Taylor has become a well-rounded person, donating her time and energy to community service; she has worked at Ronald McDonald House, Matthew 25 Ministries and United Way. She and her “sister queens” recently spent time together at an event, followed by serving at a homeless shelter together.

The focus on the well-rounded individual has allowed Taylor to encourage positive self-esteem and natural beauty, which she says are goals of National American Miss.

“A lot of girls my age struggle with self-confidence and self-esteem, and [the organization has] helped me and other girls with that,” Taylor says. One of the examples of the emphasis on natural beauty is that girls in her age group are not allowed to compete wearing makeup, a rule that some traditional pageant followers may find surprising.

In addition to recognition from teachers and friends at school, Taylor has received numerous prizes, such as a monetary award, a professional photo shoot in Houston, and gifts from sponsors such as shoes, formal dresses and luggage. She says she’s “not much of a spender” and will be saving that money.

While Taylor continues her reign as National Pre-Teen Queen for now, she hopes to eventually go to college to learn to be an entrepreneur, with the goal of eventually running a bakery. Her variety of talents truly make her the all-American girl in every sense of the word.