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Local teen addresses beauty ideal for young girls during teen pageant

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RONAN – Ronan High School senior Teagan Gray, 17, shared her opinion about the impacts of social media during a competition interview as she participated in this year’s Miss Montana Teen USA in Missoula on Sept. 9.   

She would later take third runner up in the competition. Her question was about how plastic surgery and body modification affect young girls today. “I said social media has a huge influence on that,” Gray said.

As she thought about the question, she considered the fact that kids in her age group didn’t have the technology that younger kids have today. “We didn’t have phones until we were in eighth grade and now the elementary kids are getting them,” she said.

She thinks that it’s a problem for kids to have access to images on social media of teenagers with excessive makeup or glorifying plastic surgery to create an ideal of perfection. She said people need to have a conversation with kids about a healthy idea of beauty to counter the negative impacts on their self-esteem. 

“It’s a huge thing that needs to be addressed,” she said. “Girls need to be taught that they are beautiful just the way they are without changing themselves.”

She also wants to address the idea that the Miss Montana Teen USA contest feeds into the idea that teens need to have a certain type of pretty. 

“Most pageants aren’t what people think they are,” she said. “It’s not about being pretty. It’s about who you are as a person, your goals and confidence.” 

She said she did a bit of research about the pageant before she signed up. “It sounded like a good environment, and I wanted to see for myself what it was all about. I liked that they also ask the title holder to do photos without makeup to promote being beautiful naturally.”

Gray said changing the stereotype about the pageant in her own mind taught her not to make assumptions about anything. It also taught her to go after what she wants.

“I’ve thought about pageants since I was little but never was brave enough to try it,” she said. 

But this was the last year she would be able to compete in the teen division, so she decided it was now or never. When she was in the top five, she was so overwhelmed with excitement that she couldn’t even focus on what was happening.

“I can’t even really remember what happened,” she said. “I was just so amazed and thankful.” 

She was given a $2,000 scholarship and an internship opportunity with photographers at the pageant. Gray loves photography and hopes to study it after high school. As she finishes her last year of high school, Gray is also enrolled at Salish Kootenai College with the hopes of earning a dental assistant certification.   

“It’s a program where I take classes a few days a week while I’m in high school,” she said. 

As for her plans with the pageant, she wants to continue being involved. She isn’t sure if she will compete at the next level, but she plans to volunteer to help next year.

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