WEST ORANGE, NJ — Gianna Detmar, a 9-year-old West Orange resident, was crowned Little Miss New Jersey–East Coast USA in May. She went on to compete and title at the East Coast USA Pageant’s national finals last month. There she was titled Miss Congenial, Best Smile and People’s Choice Queen. For each pageant she has competed in, she has won — a crown, a sash, wall plaques and cash prizes to help cover entry fees.
Earlier this summer, Gianna came across television shows depicting children’s pageants and asked her mother about competing.
“I saw these shows and these really pretty girls in dresses with all these friends,” Gianna said. “They were getting crowns and wearing cool costumes; it looked like it was just a really fun thing to do. So I asked my mom if I could do it because I wanted to make friends, meet new people, and get these crowns and sashes and sparkly dresses.”
Gianna’s mother, Heather Detmar, explained that East Coast USA Pageant is a natural beauty pageant for Gianna’s age group, in comparison with glitz-style pageants that many people would be familiar with thanks to shows such as “Toddlers & Tiaras,” which airs on TLC. Little Miss New Jersey is for girls ages 8 through 11.
“They’re not allowed to wear makeup or hairpieces,” Detmar explained. “She really wanted to try it and we searched for one that we found was age appropriate and safe and OK for her to do.”
East Coast USA’s site states, “Contestants ages 0-11 years are not permitted to wear any makeup. Clear lip gloss and clear mascara are allowed only. They are not allowed to use false tanning, eyelashes, flippers, falls, wiglets or hair pieces when competing in any of the onstage events. … Contestants are checked to make sure they are following the guidelines before they go onstage.”
“It’s really been great for her; she’s learned so much and done so well with no experience,” Detmar said. “She likes it and she’s having a good time. I think it’s giving her valuable skills as she’s growing. She’s learned how to compete kindly and how to decide you want to do something, see it through and succeed at it.
“I’m glad that she’s doing this. It’s something to be really proud of,” Detmar continued. “There are girls who have been doing this for a long time and haven’t won like she has.”
Thanks to her participation in the national finals, Gianna will be walking as part of New York Fashion Week this fall for Kat Couture. This is especially exciting for Gianna since one of her favorite activities is to design clothes, especially fun dresses. Before her extracurricular time was filled with pageants this summer, she was an avid dancer and cheerleader.
Her favorite part of pageantry thus far is the opportunity to meet many new people.
“There’s just so many new girls and we can all be friends. My guidance counselor taught me that all people are special and valued, and I think getting to compete with the girls doesn’t mean we can’t be friends — we can because we’re all doing this exciting thing together,” Gianna said. “I like that we get to talk about things that are important to us, like saving polar bears and helping cure cancer.”
“You’re not in a pageant right now,” Detmar joked with her daughter.
“But no, really, we get to tell people the things we love to help with,” Gianna continued.
Gianna’s causes aren’t just lip service; she is truly trying to save the polar bears.
“Well, I saw this thing on TV about how the polar bears were dying and needed help so I told my mom a lot, like I annoyed her until she said yes, so now we give money to the polar bears and we get like stuffed animals and postcards and T-shirts and stuff from them,” Gianna said.
Gianna is the youngest of five children; her family has resided in West Orange for more than 20 years. She is entering the fourth grade this fall, and her favorite subjects are math and art. Her favorite things to do besides pageants are dancing and creating art. Her least favorite thing to do is take naps. Her favorite animals are “doggies, kittens and horses.” Gianna has pets at home and hopes to be a veterinarian when she grows up.
Gianna’s advice for other girls who want to do pageants or other things is: “Just try your best, because it’s probably going to be fun and you can meet new people who like the same things you do if you just try to do it.
“I want to be one of the girls who gives the other girls their crowns and sashes, on the stage picking the girls,” Gianna said.
Detmar clarified, adding, “She wants to have one of the big titles — the grand supreme is next, I think. And they help hand out the awards.”
Gianna will be competing in the Back to School Pageant at the American Dream Mall in September. She also plans to compete in the Christmas Pageant hosted by East Coast USA Pageant; this pageant has a mother-daughter portion that Gianna and her mother are considering also competing in.
Photos Courtesy of Heather Detmar