International Prince and Princess Pageant-Young beauties vie for crown

At an hour when most kids are still in bed, or watching their Saturday morning TV shows, dozens of youngsters in the Grand Ballroom of the Stamford Marriott are wide awake, dressed in

A preteen girl adjusts her cowboy hat before taking the stage for an evaluation by judges.
A few spots behind her, another girl nervously runs her fingers through her hair as she inches closer to the stage. Two girls standing back-to-back talk to each other about their clothes.

A boy kneels and brushes off his sneakers so they'll look just right when he takes his walk across the stage. Nervous parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters stand offstage, crossing their fingers and applauding the kids. Maybe it's their child, they think, that can be a winner and maybe reach for even bigger things.

Welcome to the world of children's beauty and talent competitions, in this case the national finals of the International Prince and Princess Pageant.

And meet Hailey McGinnis, 6, and 10-year-old Katie Kurata, friends and neighbors from Milford, just two of some 300 competitors, ranging from infants in arms to 28-year-olds, gathered here this weekend.

Though Hailey and Katie are relatively new to this scene this is only their second pageant - the girls have invested hours of practice to get to this ballroom. Their first competition was in November in the state International Prince and Princess pageant. Katie won the state Junior Miss title, for girls ages 10 to 12, while Hailey was the state's first runner-up in the Little Miss division, for girls 6 to 9 years old. Hailey, 6, seems to be the more likely pageant candidate. Her mother, Kim, calls her daughter a "girly-girl" who loves glitter and fashion. "I just like dresses," Hailey says. "They're cool to wear."

-------------------------Sharon Foran, Katie's pageant coach and operator of Lady Cassaday's Finishing School in Milford, was one of the reasons Katie decided to add pageants to her activities list. "I like to do the modeling," she said. "You can do dance moves or turns. You can do whatever you want to do." How long Katie continues with pageants is up in the air, her mom says. While some parents look for modeling contracts and want their girls to be glamour queens, Stacy Kurata wants Katie to be a regular little girl. "She would like to do modeling and commercials. If that happens, great, but I'm not willing to chase it," Stacy says. "I don't want her to give up her childhood for acting."

------------------Competitions within the pageant offer different ways to shine. The modeling portion lets them strut along a catwalk in fancy dresses - or in the case of the boys, clean, fresh suits and the occasional top hat. Most of the kids are poised, working carefully not to step over their feet and trying to maintain a cool smile. When a group is finished on the runway, they line up before judges for review. Almost immediately, a covey of parents lines up behind the judges, shouting encouragement and instructions. "Smile!" a parent yells to her daughter during the Little Miss modeling event. Another yells, "pick up your racket" to her daughter, dressed as a tennis player. The kids smile gamely. Stacy Kurata and Kim McGinnis only offered a few words of encouragement to their girls before their turns on the catwalk. "Have fun up there," Kim said.

---------------- Epilogue:

Kim McGinnis had a feeling her daughter had been bitten by the pageant bug. So they'll pack up and go to Danbury next month for the All-American Boy & Girl Pageant. "She keeps asking when the next one is," Kim says. "She wants to get a crown. She's full gung-ho about it." Read More