North Dakota baby beauty

While Sophia Grace McKeen may be a toddler and have a tiara from a recent pageant she won, her mother, Christi McKeen, said she is far from being anything like one of the toddlers featured in the hit reality TV series “Toddlers and Tiaras” on TLC. Conversely, McKeen said she herself is far from being anything like one of the stage moms seen on the same show.

Sophia was recently awarded the title of 2013 North Dakota Tiny Supreme Beauty for U.S.A. Productions Inc., producers of the nationally recognized Dream Girls U.S.A. Pageant Program. She is the daughter of Aaron and Christi McKeen, of Minot. As the winner, Sophia will enjoy a fun year of making appearances and being involved in her community.

The pageant program, U.S.A. Productions Inc., has been featured in a documentary on the Discovery Channel and is “known for providing real opportunities for real girls who possess personality in the modeling, acting and/or entertainment industries,” according to the press release. The Dream Girls U.S.A. Pageant Program is for girls ages “baby and older.” It offers separate age groups in which to participate for on-stage modeling events and a spokesmodel event that enhances their public speaking ability, as well as introducing and promoting interactive community service participation. Each year, more than $250,000 in scholarship savings bonds, cash awards, prizes and awards are given at the local, state and national level.

McKeen said her daughter won the pageant – which is not a beauty pageant, she pointed out – at the state level and will go on to compete at the national level in St. Louis on July 8. At the time of the pageant, Sophia was 14 months old. She was the first runner-up overall in the baby division and won first place in the Tiny Supreme Beauty category at the state level.

“She scored the highest points in formal wear, and the trophy is three inches taller than she is – and the crown does not fit on her head,” McKeen said.

In order to enter Sophia in the pageant, McKeen said she just had to complete some paperwork and mail it in. The pageant was in Fargo during the last weekend of April. Sophia won the city title, McKeen said, which was a given since there is no city pageant in Minot. Categories in the pageant included runway fashion, where contestants could not wear denim, and runway casual, where contestants could wear costumes that had denim, McKeen said. Awards for best hair and best eyes were also given, and Sophia scored enough points in the runway fashion category to win as the North Dakota Tiny Supreme Beauty.

McKeen said she decided to enter her daughter in the pageant because she thought Sophia is adorable and has a fabulous personality.

“I know I’m partial because I’m her mom,” she added, “but people kept telling me how adorable Sophia is and that she brightens peoples’ day.”

McKeen and her husband entered their daughter in the pageant just for fun, she said, although Aaron was reluctant at first.

One thing McKeen said she wanted to note is that she did not give any candy or soda to Sophia to keep her awake during the long day of the pageant. “Sophia took a nap when she needed one,” she added. McKeen said she saw other mothers giving their children drinking soda or Pixie Stix, however.

“The judges said they (the babies) are babies and were judged as babies,” McKeen added. “Sophia was herself, period – no sugar.”

“I was absolutely awestruck and couldn’t believe it,” McKeen said, when she found out that Sophia had won as the North Dakota Tiny Supreme Beauty. “I was just thrilled she won.”

McKeen said the whole pageant experience was positive and fun.

For the year of Sophia’s reign as the tiny supreme beauty, McKeen said Sophia can make public appearances, but being a spokesmodel and the community service factor are non-issues until contestants are 4 years old. McKeen said Sophia will be featured on a float in the North Dakota State Fair Parade on July 20.

“She has a beautiful sash and a crown, so anyone who wants Sophia to make public appearances, she’d be available,” McKeen noted.

Additionally, McKeen said she will get Sophia started on participating in community service, but that will consist of activities Sophia is aware of, like playing with the dogs and cats at the Souris Valley Animal Shelter or visiting with the residents of Trinity Nursing Home. The pageant organization wants the year to represent the year of the pageant winner’s age, McKeen explained. “That’s why I’ll take Sophia to the animal shelter and to the nursing home, because she understands playing with the dogs and cats and making old people laugh,” she added.

After Sophia competes at the national level of this pageant, McKeen said she and her husband might continue entering their daughter in more pageants, but it will also depend on some things. Aaron is in the military and they will be moving soon, she noted.

“We’re not opposed to it, but we will be checking into what the next one is about,” she said.

For now, though, McKeen, Sophia and her family will be focusing on the national competition coming up in less than a month.

“If she doesn’t win, she doesn’t win,” McKeen said. “We’re just excited because Sophia is having a good experience.”