Brilliance. The word can conjure up a variety of images. The luminocity of the rising sun over the waters edge or the beauty of a large diamond glinting from your daughter’s finger. It can even cause you to reminisce about the smartest kid in your graduating class, or the in-depth wisdom of some past sage. But for most, their mind would not settle on a beautiful, young lady preparing herself for the Miss Texas Teen USA pageant coming up this November.

However it doesn’t take one long, after beginning a conversation with Lauren Quarles of Bridge City, to realize her mind, as well as her looks, fit her into the same category as a diamond–or a valedictorian. The nearly 18-year-old has set her sights on the challenge of competing and winning the Miss Texas Teen USA title and, of course, then competing nationally against the Miss Teens from all the other states for the Miss Teen USA title. Her current titles of Miss Bridgefield and Miss Golden Triangle Teen USA are just two of her successful pageants.

Beauty comes with a price. For Lauren, it started in earnest at age fourteen. Her foray into the world of dance ended. “I hated dance but I loved recital!” recalls Lauren. Recital is make-up, stage, beautiful gowns and costumes, and the roar of applause from a watchful crowd. This she loved. So her mind turned to pageants. Beautiful gowns, a stage, make-up and applause. As it turns out it was perfect for her but in turn, it opened a whole new venue of understanding for the teen.

“People who really do not know about what happens behind the scenes do not realize all we have to go through,” Lauren explains. And she is correct. For decades beauty pageants have been popular but often portrayed as simply a gaggle of beauties with very little to say and even less ability to think. Nothing could be further from the truth. And with changes in society, availability of the internet and the stakes for winning having increased, the competition and requirements are fierce. “This is something you really have to want to do,” she states and adds, “I also think people should wait until they are old enough to decide they want to do this on their own.”

Behind the scenes there is tough physical training at least 5 days a week, the entry fees are high, cost of formal wear is a challenge, swim suits in a specified and required color and style hard to find. The bottom line is those are really just the superficial elements of competing. As Miss Golden Triangle Teen USA, she has to be above average intelligence, and out going in her personality, with verbal adeptness to take the mundane or odd, seemingly pointless question and communicate well-founded, personal opinions on the spot during a face-to-face interview with judges. With fifty percent of the overall score at the end of the competition coming from the interview segment, she must be aware of current national and world events while also having the courage to state her real and possibly unpopular opinions on them.

“Some of the questions are silly and kind of pointless. Like I may get asked, ‘If you were a shoe what kind of shoe would you be?’” The judges look for a special finesse during interviews that cause one contestant to stand out from the rest. “Coming from a small town everyone may think, ‘Oh, she’s so pretty.’ But on a stage with a hundred other beautiful girls I have to have the ability to stand out. That especially means being able to answer questions differently than anyone else.”

The costs are high but the benefits are abundant. “This has really taught me a lot about myself. I have had to look at things and determine what I really do think to look into what I believe. They are looking for originality and personality; someone they can hold an actually conversation with.” Lauren also discusses the self-motivation it takes to work out daily and how the process does build self-esteem when properly applied.

The swimsuit portion is actually about physical fitness.

“I don’t really agree with the toddler pageants like you see on television.” It is a reminder that she chose herself to follow this path. “It makes me nervous,” she is referring to being in front of the judges on stage, “because when you are on stage alone everyone is looking at you, critiquing you and judging you. They are pretty tough. But when I walk off stage I feel like I have really accomplished something.”

There are rewards that are less intangible and more concrete that are very desirable. At the state level the top ten finishers all receive scholarship on a gradient level with the young lady receiving the crown winning a $60,000 scholarship. At this level, the judges are looking for a total package. Lauren is the Golden Triangle’s best bet to win. She is poised for the title in every area and working daily toward achieving what it will take to cover the costs.

For the state pageant a $1,000 plus entry fee is merely the beginning of total expenses. Because this is a state competition that leads to a national match-up, each contestant is allowed to gather sponsors. Those businesses or individuals that contribute at least $100 to her campaign will secure an advertising spot in the professionally published Miss Teen USA pageant booklet. “This will be much different for me than in other pageants,” Lauren states with a pristine, dazzling smile, “ For this I will have to do everything myself. Hair, makeup, not to mention preparing for the interviews. We are not allowed to have any help.”

She does plan to win and go on with great hopes of winning nationally. As for going further into the “adult” pageants she is still thinking on it. “Education comes first. If I can handle all it takes to keep my grades up and still do pageants I might, but I really want to focus on my future.” For Lauren it could be Civil Engineering or Architecture, “ It’s not set in stone yet,” she smiles again her green eyes glinting, “I plan to live modestly and save for an early retirement and then go to culinary school. I want to spend my retirement busy doing things I enjoy.”

Delayed gratification. A lesson many aged adults have yet to learn. A lesson not taught by today’s society or in public school curricula, a bit of wisdom and foresight. Her grades are high, well above average, her opinions steady and her hopes elevated, she just needs some help from the region whose name she will represent: The Golden Triangle. On Nov. 25 she will be our legs, smile and class before the eyes of thousands. She is personally ready for the challenge.

Still today her challenge is generating the sponsorships to make it there, to look like the best the Golden Triangle has to offer. As a community that advocates for youth and a healthy strong generation to follow us, its time to ‘put our money where our mouths are’. This is sewing seed to a future of better things. “Any, any, any donation is appreciate, Any amount!”

To reach her about making a donation contact this writer via The Penny Record or call (409) 988-8010 or (409) 313-6173. We look for a brighter future for our state and country, as for the future of Lauren Quarles, it appears it will be brilliant.