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Local trio competes in pageant, advances to national competition

Talk about the potential for sibling rivalry.

When three sisters each decided to enter the Oregon National American Miss pageant, held at the end of May, they weren’t competing directly against one another. Each entered the competition in a different age bracket. And each of them won.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Clockwise from left: Annika and Kaitamaria Pounds and their sister Karra Kaiser are planning to compete in the National American Miss pageant this fall.Kaitamaria Pounds is 17 and will be a senior at Wilsonville High School. Her sister, Annika Pounds, was 15 at the time of the competition and will be a junior at WHS. Youngest sister Karra Kaiser, 11, just finished at Stafford Primary in June and will begin middle school at Athey Creek in September.

Kaitamaria was the first sister to become interested in the competition.

“This is my third year at the state pageant and the first time I’ve qualified for nationals,” she said. Based on her experience in the two years prior, this year she encouraged her two younger sisters to participate, too.

National American Miss is a different kind of pageant. Although it has all the glamour and glitz you might expect, National American Miss contestants are scored on factors other than their physical appearance: 30 percent of their total score is based on their personal introduction, 30 percent on their poise and appearance in formalwear, 30 percent on communication skills in an interview and 10 percent on their participation in a community involvement project during the pageant weekend.

Participants are encouraged to choose a natural, age-appropriate look.

“They don’t like makeup. They like a natural look,” Annika said.

“Just who you are,” the girls’ mother, Kathy Kaiser, said. “Of course, the girls will do their hair. But they’re not over the top. These girls are not all made up.”

“It’s not about what you look like but how you present yourself. That’s the most important thing,” Kaitamaria said.

In fact, National American Miss is such a nontraditional pageant that the way to qualify for the regional tournament is not through looks but through good grades. Girls who appear on honor rolls are invited to enter the pageant. Other recruits come from dance teams, Kaiser said, and girls who participate are allowed to recommend other possible contestants.

The pageant even has an optional academic component. Kaitamaria and Annika each submitted their high-school transcripts as part of their attempt to win at the regional level. Annika’s weighted grade-point average of 4.05 and Kaitamaria’s 4.06 helped each of them to an impressive finish as first runner-up in their division and qualified them for the national competition being held in Anaheim, Calif., over Thanksgiving.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Kaitamaria Pounds, center, was the first to compete in a National American Miss pageant. She enjoyed the experience so much that she encouraged her sisters, Annika Pounds, left, and Karra Kaiser to enter the pageant as well.Youngest sister Karra Kaiser also finished as a first-runner up, thanks to her a cappella performance of a Scottish classic, “Loch Lomond.” She too will attend the national competition this fall. Having two sisters competing alongside her, she says, is an advantage.

“It feels like a protection, kind of,” Karra said. “They help me out. When I’m hurt or sad, they help me out. They helped me not be nervous, by saying, ‘Look at the back of the room and pretend no one’s there.’”

Helping Karra feel confident is easier than feeling confident herself, Annika said, although she has improved in that area.

“I have gotten a lot more confidence,” she said. “This was my first year and I was freaking out before the formalwear. Not knowing what the judges would ask you was scary. You just have to be confident in yourself.”

Confidence is key, the girls’ mother says.

“My first reaction was, ‘What a great opportunity to do something so far out of the comfort zone.’ I thought, ‘What a great opportunity to learn,’” she said.

Learning through the pageant could rattle less confident girls. For example, Kaitamaria was told by judges, in her first competition, that she had an “awkward walk.” Although many girls her age might have been stung by the comment or seen it as personal criticism, she had a different reaction.

“It’s good to know,” she said.

“It’s about opportunity, more than anything else. The opportunity to learn something you didn’t know about yourself,” Kathy said

“The judges tell you what you need to hear,” Annika said.

“None of us had any idea what they would learn and how they would grow,” Kathy said.

The three sisters certainly are daughters to be proud of. Annika and Kaitamaria have a full roster of activities, including cross-country, gold, National Honor Society, Link Crew and participation in a student watershed research project.

Kaitamaria also is on a team competing in Oregon Battle of the Books and on the science club. Karra plays soccer and can’t wait to join the cross-country team at Athey Creek. The girls also volunteer and are working at various jobs, raising money to pay entry fees and travel costs associated with the national competition.

“All the participants have an entry fee. They are working this summer to help pay for it. They are looking for businesses for sponsorships. They set up a Go Fund Me account. They’re literally working their way to the national competition,” Kathy said. “In order to do this, they do have to work hard. They understand that the sponsors are very important. And they’re very grateful.”

The sisters are heading to nationals as a team. That means they’re pooling all donations and sponsorships, planning to divide the money evenly and supporting one another all the way. Sponsors can contribute online at gofundme.com/9v2auw. Their fundraising page states their goal very simply: “We believe in the determination of sisters and will work together to make this happen.”

“The power of sisters has a lot to do with their success,” Kathy said.

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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