A hopeful heart: Local student to compete in national pageant
Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 12, 2015
This November, 15-year-old Hideaway Lake resident Amanda Fenger will represent not only Pearl River County, but also south Mississippi at the Miss Heart of the USA 2015 National Program in Orlando, Florida.
She is the daughter of Linda and Clay Cole and the late Theodore Fenger, Jr. She is a sophomore at Pearl River Central High School.
It was a mere year ago when Fenger decided she wanted to enter the pageant world and already she will be competing on the national level this year.
“I wanted to be on the dance team and I told my mom that if I didn’t make it, then I wanted to participate in pageants,” Fenger said. “I always got stopped in the mall and asked if I was a model. They told me I should.”
The first pageant she participated in was Beauty and Bows in Woolmarket, where she was named queen of her division.
“A lady pulled me aside and told me if I got a coach, I could be something big,” Fenger said. “I like meeting new people and they are all really involved with volunteering. You have to really be dedicated.”
Since her first pageant, Fenger has competed in about 15 programs and has won a title at each one. Her coach is Debra Godber from Saucier.
On June 20, she competed in the first preliminary pageant for the Miss Heart of the USA at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. In the teen division, Fenger won 2015 Central Mississippi Miss Heart of Freedom Queen of Hearts for donating the most food and she also won Teen Miss Heart of Freedom Miss Photogenic.
According to the Miss Heart of the USA website, one of their main goals of the pageant is feeding hungry families in the community. In addition to entry fees, contestants are asked to bring a minimum of 10 non-perishable food items to donate to a local charity in their community, the website states.
On Aug. 1, Fenger competed at the state level in Hattiesburg, where she won her spot as a contestant in the national pageant. She was named South Mississippi Teen Miss Heart of the USA.
“I didn’t think I had won the state pageant,” Fenger said. “My mom said she thought I did, and when I won, I was pretty shocked. I wanted to go to nationals in Orlando and I get to go to Disney World.”
According to a pageant release, there will be nine divisional titles and supreme beauty titles awarded. In addition, there will be four “signature” titles and additional “fun” titles. There will also be nine divisional “sweetheart” titles and one additional “sweetheart” title for each signature and optional title awarded. Two winners from each state will compete for national titles.
In addition to her pageant performance, Fenger is also participating in optional categories, including modeling a heart-themed outfit, the interview category, the photogenic category and the category of compiling a community service scrapbook. The group even sends out challenges through their official Facebook page. The points awarded in these categories will be added to her overall score.
There are numerous responsibilities that come with her title, which include volunteering, making appearances at other pageants and wearing her sash and crown to inform people about the pageant, as it is still a small one.
On the local level, Fenger volunteered with Manna Ministries and on Thursday, she dropped off about 60 cans of food at MeLinda’s Fine Gifts during the store’s food drive.
“The pageant focuses on volunteer work and feeding the hungry,” Fenger said.
Fenger’s mother said she is excited for her daughter.
“It’s something I never had growing up and I want to see her excel,” Cole said. “It’s always good to volunteer and give back and with each pageant, you do. You keep learning.”
Fenger hopes to at least rank in the top 15 during the national pageant, but said she has learned many things from her experiences.
“I learned how to hold myself and it has given me confidence,” she said. “It’s made me more outgoing and the interview portion will help with job interviews and look good on college applications. You learn how to be professional.”