Two local teens, one from Proctor and one from Castleton, took home national titles and crowns at a pageant in Connecticut last week.
Brookelyn Kimball, 14, was crowned Junior Miss U.S. of America and Madison Spafford, 15, of Castleton, was crowned Junior Miss U.S. of America Princess at an Aug. 8 pageant in Farmington, Connecticut.
Kimball is the granddaughter of longtime Rutland Herald sportswriter Tom Haley.
Kimball will be a freshman at Proctor Junior/Senior High School while Spafford will be a sophomore at Fair Haven Union High School.
Brooke Kimball, Brooklyn’s mother, said there were about 60 participants at the pageant but said that was a little smaller than typical because of the pandemic.
Both teenagers said this was their second pageant.
“Going into this next one, I was determined to put my everything into it,” Kimball said. “Because now that I have competed once I kind of had a feel for things and feel like it went a lot better (on Aug. 8), and then I got crowned.”
Kimball said she found herself much less nervous during her second event.
“Pageants have definitely helped build up my confidence, poise and public speaking through (the) interview and stuff. I definitely think I’ve come a long way,” she said.
Brookelyn Kimball said she wanted to be involved in pageants because of her interest in community service and being a role model but she admitted she was hesitant at first
“But after my first pageant, I felt sure this was something I wanted to do,” she said.
Outside of competing in pageants, Kimball is an athlete, participating in soccer, basketball and softball as well as theater. She is also a partner in unified sports in snowshoe, bocce and basketball at Otter Valley Union High School and enjoys riding horses.
Spafford plays softball, although she noted the most recent season was canceled by the pandemic, and she’s a deer hunter. Living on Cedar Meadow Farm, Spafford also spends time helping with the goats, cows, chickens and peacocks.
Kimball said she had a lot of fun with her new interest and the friends she made at the events.
“I feel like there’s a lot of stereotypes these days about people in the pageant world. I feel like everyone thinks that the only thing that people do at pageants is just look pretty and walk around on stage, but that’s not it at all. There’s so much work that goes into doing them,” she said.
Spafford said it was “incredible” to have two teens from Rutland County win national titles at a pageant out of state.
“We’re from Vermont. We’re in Connecticut. There’s tough competition, but we knew what we had to do. We went in there strong,” she said.
Even the competitors from other states were supportive of the two Vermont teens, Spafford said.
At the pageant, there are two mandatory events, an interview and a “gown walk,” and optional events, which include displaying a talent, submitting a picture to show they are photogenic or providing a scrapbook which describes their community service work. Kimball said she won in “role model” and “outfit of choice.”
Brookelyn said she was “definitely shocked” when she won.
“All of the older girls … they just looked at me and started giving me these big smiles, and I was like, ‘Oh, goodness, what did I get myself into,’” she said.
Her mother, Brooke, said when she was watching the pageant, she thought Brookelyn did well and “absolutely had a chance.”
“But I also recognize that I’m the mom and a little bit more biased than other people, so I really didn’t know what to expect,” she said.
Brenda Spafford, Madison’s mother, said she was “so proud” of her daughter and called Madison’s win “amazing.”
Brooke Kimball said she was impressed with Spafford and believed, even before the results were announced, that one of the two would be crowned.
Brookelyn said her grandfather, Tom Haley, who has been known to newspaper readers and local athletes for years, is “probably one of my favorite people ever.”
“He just loves life, and I think it’s so inspirational. I think everybody needs to look at life the way he does because he just makes everything fun,” she said.
Brookelyn said she hoped inheriting his ability to quickly make friends with a wide variety of people had helped her be successful with pageantry.
Kimball said her recent title was only the beginning for her as she hopes to get into the fields of acting and modeling.
Her cause as the Junior Miss winner will be to raise awareness about juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM) a disease in children that causes skin rash and muscle inflammation, resulting in weak muscles, according to the website of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital website. Brookelyn Kimball was diagnosed with JDM herself.
Spafford is planning for another pageant in October and competing for the title of Miss Teen Vermont.