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Petaluma teen wins North America beauty pageant

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Madelyn Testa is like any other average teen, with one minor distinction. The Casa Grande High School student wears the crown of Miss Teen North America 2018.

Testa has been competing in beauty pageants since she was 14 years old and introduced to the competitions by a friend. She was unexpectedly drawn to the lifestyle after spontaneously entering, and winning, Junior Teen Napa Valley.

After that, she decided to further pursue pageantry while simultaneously attending high school, volunteering with Dogwood Animal Rescue Project and coaching a special abilities cheerleading squad known as “Resilience.”

Since she began four years ago, Madelyn has competed in approximately seven or eight pageants. She has won smaller titles like “California’s Perfect Teen 2017,” and others like “most photogenic,” and “best in evening gown.” Earning the crown came as a shock to both Madelyn and her mother, Gabriele who supports her through pageant season.

“It was her first national pageant so we were hoping for top 10,” Gabriele Testa said. “It’s still pretty fresh and surprising.”

In order to secure a spot in the running, Madelyn Testa had to win first place at the state level pageant, Miss Teen California. Each state selects a winner, then each state delegate has the option of competing in Miss Teen North America. She was approximately one out of 100 competitors for this year’s title who traveled to Orlando, Florida, last month to partake in a three segment competition over the span of a weekend for the crown.

The categories consist of an extensive interview portion with a panel of judges where contestants are encouraged to highlight their platform and interests. The second category was formerly the highly criticized swimsuit competition, but as of 2016, the organization abandoned the swimsuits and replaced them with athletic wear.

The switch was made by both the Miss America Organization and Miss Universe Organization in an attempt to destigmatize the pageant world’s objectification of women.

“It’s not a typical pageant, it’s very much about empowering girls,” Gabriele Testa said. “It’s much more focused on health and athleticism.”

Madelyn received help from a former Miss Florida USA crown holder to prepare for the evening gown walk, which is the third and final segment.

Contestants are expected to pay expenses such as hair, makeup, transportation, lodging and meals. To be eligible for the crown, each contender must pay an entry fee that includes amenities like gifts from sponsors, parties, a rhinestone embroidered sash, and of course the crown. The winner of each division also receives a cash prize with the amount depending upon the number of entrants.

“I have made a lot of friends through pageants,” Madelyn said. “Despite being a competition, all the girls are usually very friendly and supportive of each other, mainly because we are all trying to be the best version of ourselves.”

The interview portion allowed Madelyn Testa to stand out from the crowd by showcasing her passion for volunteer work. When she’s not preparing for pageant season, Madelyn is busy volunteering with Dogwood, an animal rescue nonprofit founded in 2015 that focuses on foster-based rescue, rehabilitation and the importance of neutering and spaying animals.

She not only assists by attending adoption events and helping with day-to-day operations but also fosters some animals herself. Madelyn’s other passion lies with cheerleading, which she has been involved in for nine years at Fierce Cheer Elite in Santa Rosa. She was eventually given the title of junior cheer coach, then moved on to coaching the special abilities cheerleading squad Resilience.

“It was such an honor to be asked to be one of their coaches, these kids inspire me every week,” Madelyn said.

Her goal is to bring awareness to her platform, “Special Abilities, Not Disabilities,” through the national title. The skill set that she acquired through the interviews even helped land Madelyn her first job.

“Being a national title holder has already opened many doors for me,” Madelyn said.

Now that she has secured the crown for the next year, she plans to walk in New York Fashion Week in September, make public appearances and pursue an education degree at Sonoma State University, with hopes of becoming an elementary school teacher. She also aims to prepare the Resilience cheer squad for the Special Olympics and qualify for the Summit Nationals at ESPN World of Sports.

With plenty of ambition, Madelyn will hold the title of Miss Teen North America until June 2019, when she will return to Florida to crown her successor. For now, she hopes to embody the motto, “in a world where you can be anything, be kind,” in all of her endeavors.