Alya Mehrtash staff writer
Some people view pageants simply as dazzling tiaras, poofy dresses and pink ribbon sashes. But what many don’t realize is that pageantry is more than the aesthetic. To sophomore Alana Morgan Perkins, pageants have been an outlet not only to showcase her style, but also to display her knowledge.
Pageantry and fashion
It’s been a passion of hers since 2015, when she competed in her first pageant and won the title of Junior Miss South Bay. Her mother, who also competed in pageants at a young age, was a big inspiration for Perkins. She also taught her the different benefits of competing in pageants.
“My mom’s my best friend. I got started [with pageants] because of my mom. She told me all about how it helps women and just how much of a great path it is to follow,” Perkins said.
Perkins loves fashion and her ability to express herself through clothes. Pageantry has given her another outlet to present her style to others.
“Picking out my favorite gown, showcasing it to a bunch of people and having them cheer for [me] and be inspired by designs that [I] chose for [my] gown is definitely a favorite part of mine,” Perkins said.
Though fashion is a prominent aspect of pageantry, it’s not the only thing Perkins loves about competing in pageants.
“I also love the judges’ interviews because it really helps me to connect with the judges and kind of prepare me for different jobs in the real world,” she said. “Pageantry isn’t just beauty, it’s about brains as well.”
For Perkins, pageantry has also come with “life long friendships that you’ll have forever.” While competing in pageants she has formed many relationships with other girls from all over the country.
“I compete in the USA system. I’ve met a lot of different girls locally who I definitely still talk to today. They’re always following me through my journey and I’m following them throughout their journey,” Perkins said.
Throughout her pageantry journey, Perkins faces a lot of stereotypes as a result of her involvement in such a field. Stereotypes, though prominent in the fashion industry, have only motivated Perkins to prove critics wrong. Through her active involvement with many groups and organizations such as the weRpossible Project and KBEV, for example, she has shown that those who love fashion are not always restricted to just that one passion.
“I feel like everyone encounters defeat, but I feel like mine has just kind of been to not let stereotypes define who I am,” Perkins said. “With fashion, a lot of times people think that just because you love fashion, ‘Oh you’re not very knowledgeable. You don’t know much about everything else. You’re just not very smart,’ and I’ve been able to prove them wrong in a way and just represent that you can love fashion and at the end of the day it’s more about your brains than it is your outside appearance.”
These stereotypes, however, do not phase Perkins, and that has been noticed by many of her friends. Perkins met sophomore Madison Heller when the two were in sixth grade, and since then they have grown to become very close friends. Perkins’ “willingness to be unique” is something that stands out to Heller.
“I think there’s something to be said about being who you are and regarding Alana, if she wants to wear something that is not necessarily trendy, that not all the other girls are wearing, Alana is fine with that and she’s comfortable with stepping out of her comfort zone. Not just in terms of fashion but in all areas of life,” Heller said. “I think being in the climate we are in today, we’re in an era where it’s all about being unique and not necessarily following what everyone else is doing.”
Through pageantry, Perkins has become involved with the weRpossible Project, and has since become a board member. The project is “dedicated to saving lives, mental health advocacy, and anti-bullying through loving everyone as they are, storytelling, mass media videos and social media.”
“I just talk to teens and let them know that people are there for them and spread the message that they should never make a temporary decision permanent,” she said.
As a result of her pageantry and her involvement with the weRpossible project, Perkins has now been exposed to the issues that many people face in the United States.
“When doing pageants, I was able to be aware of the particular issues that [are] facing our country or our generation. It’s really helped me see that not everyone is always positive all the time,” she said.
Her family has been a constant support system for her as well, and has been by her side cheering her on throughout all her endeavors.
“My family has always been very supportive with whatever I did,” Perkins said. “They love that I’ve fallen in love with pageantry because just as much fun it is to go up on stage and try to take home the crown, it’s just as much for them to help pick out everything that I need for the competition and cheer for me while I’m on stage.”
Perkins also created her own YouTube channel in 2015. She sees her channel as a medium for presenting her style and sense of fashion to the rest of the world.
“I watched videos about how people would create these really cute looks or how they inspire other people with what they’re wearing and that’s why I wanted a YouTube channel: to really showcase my style,” Perkins said.
Perkins recently attended a Girl Up luncheon, where she interviewed many guests including actress Yara Shahidi, actress and singer Sabrina Carpenter and actress Ariel Winter, and uploaded a video about the luncheon onto her YouTube channel.
“I got to talk to people like Sabrina Carpenter and Yara Shahidi and just some other really big influencers, actors and singers,” she said. “It’s really cool to see their perception on goals that we still have to accomplish in this industry in general.”
Her ability to showcase her authentic self is something that Perkins loves about YouTube. She particularly appreciates that viewers can “love [her] personality and want to have fun with [her],” through her videos.
“I love that I’m able to just be myself. I think that’s the best part of YouTube, just being able to showcase what you love to do,” she said.
She hopes that through sharing the adversities and obstacles that she may have faced throughout her journey, others can learn from her experience and be inspired by her determination.
“How I [inspire other girls] is really just showcasing that even through the negativity that I may have received or just anything that I’ve encountered in my life, I’m still able to persevere through it,” Perkins said. “That really inspires others because once they realize that you can do it, they feel like they can do it as well.”
Perkins’ pursuit to inspire others is a success even in her daily life, as she also has become a role model for her friends.
“She has a really special heart and in a lot of ways she inspires me,” Heller said. “I think her charisma and willingness to be unique is inspiring to all.”