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Growing up as a queen

Cara Hays
Photo by David Bartley, Image Photography 
Cara Hays turned 19 in early May 2002. That's a big birthday for any girl. The carefree teenage years are drawing to a close, and the era of being a grownup is in sight. It's an exhilarating, sentimental, scary age.

But Ms. Hays has more to think about than most 19-year-olds. You see, she's not just a teenage girl, she's Miss Teen America.

Cara Hays
Photo above by David Bartley, Image Photography. Photo at right, courtesy of Raven Fenmore
Cara Hays
A decade ago, no one could have predicted she would someday be wearing a crown. The little girl from Little Rock was a "serious tomboy." She had a Peter Pan view of life. She didn't want to grow up.

But of course she did grow up, as little girls do. First she entered into what she remembers as her "shy" phase. Her body was changing, her dreams were changing, and even the world seemed to spin a little differently.

Cara Hays Cara Hays
Photos above and at left courtesy of Raven Fenmore
Cara Hays
Photo courtesy of Raven Fenmore
After that awkward interlude, Ms. Hays blossomed into a dazzling young woman with a dream of an entertainment career. And she realized that pageants might be the first step on the ladder of fame. A friend had told her about the Miss Teen America competition, where a girl must have brains, talent, grace, beauty . . . and youth. "I knew it was the last year I would be young enough to compete," she said.

So there she went, and there she won.

Cara Hays will never be 18 again. But we like her very much at 19. And who knows what 20 will bring?
  
Miss Teen America archive
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