Friends and acquaintances often ask why I, a modest homeschool girl, would want to be in a pageant. After thinking it through, I came up with five main reasons that I wanted to be in one.

There are as many reasons for entering a pageant as there are girls entering, and there is a story behind each one. Some enter pageants because their friends or family encourage them, others because their classmates are doing it. And many girls are lured by the enticing prizes, hefty scholarships and visions of future fame. Here's my story of transforming from a painfully shy wallflower to a confident contestant.

Reason 1 - Overcome Shyness

All my life I was shy, but it culminated one evening when I was fifteen years old. I was a member of a youth group typically running six to ten teens in attendance and two of them were my siblings. That summer evening at church, when a friend asked me a question, I responded – not in words – but beginning with my neck, and working its way up to my ears, I turned bright red. I then mumbled some kind of answer, and quickly, tearfully, left the room. I was so upset because I just didn't want to go through life that way – introverted, bashful, withdrawn and self-conscious – and decided it was definitely time for a drastic change.

I came home from youth group humiliated. Mom asked what was wrong, and I lamented that I just couldn't stand being that shy anymore. My solution was to enter a pageant to help with the timidity. Recovering from the astonishment, mom responded, "Well, we'll have to get you a face!" So we bought me some makeup, and cut off about eighteen inches from my waist-length hair and created a more stylish hairdo. I was willing to work hard, if I could just be less shy. I entered, but didn't win that first pageant. However, it started me on a road of learning to be poised in social situations.

HOW YOU CAN: If you feel shy, or just not confident in how you look, why not have a makeover? Many beauty salons and makeup counters have makeup artists who will teach you the colors which work best for you. Learn how to apply makeup for different situations: casual, business, evening and stage. Then visit a talented hair stylist, and discuss new hairstyles to work well with your face shape, lifestyle, your coloring and type of hair (curly, straight, coarse, fine), and preferences. Look through magazines and hairstyle books to find different options, then make your desires known to the person with the shears. Sometimes a few hi-lites or foils add such life to dull hair.

Reason 2 - Display Talent

After defeating my shyness, I found I love being onstage and on camera, especially singing and acting. I will audition for anything I can, just to have the experience. I've tried out for movie roles, television pilots, Star Search, talent shows, skits, plays, and musicals. Pageants give me a time to showcase my talent with other wonderfully artistic young ladies: enjoying their routines, picking up hints for improving mine, and thoroughly enjoying my moment in the limelight.

HOW YOU CAN: To boost your acting talent, consider joining a drama club in school or trying out for a local theatre. Choral groups, ensembles, trios and solos will help with singing talents. Talent competitions help you work towards that professional edge winners possess.

Reason 3 - Life Skills

My first speaking engagement as a titleholder and in my whole life, I addressed the Georgia State Senate and House of Representatives on my platform of home education, and my entire speech was broadcast on television news. Not only did being a titleholder give me a voice to enlighten other people about the causes dear to my heart, it helped me learn how to effectively speak to other people, both onstage and off. And it helped expand my horizons, to view ideas from other vantage points. The interviewing, filling-out applications, and articulation skills learned during the pageant process help in all walks of life. When applying for a job or college, all of the above acquired abilities will be very useful.