Miss Teen Tahoe Truckee: A little different from the rest
Clad in a metallic hose clamp bracelet she pulled off of a spa hose and blue plastic ring from the board game “Pretty Pretty Princess,” Miss Tahoe Truckee Jennifer “Jenni” Ward is not your typical pageant contestant.
And the Miss Teenage California Scholarship Pageant, which 15-year-old Ward will compete in later this month, is not your typical pageant. There’s no swimsuit competition and poise and appearance only account for one-third of the judging.
At first, Ward said she was wary about entering the pageant Ð it was unlike anything she had done before. Then she found out more than $30,000 in college scholarships and prizes were at stake for the winners at the state level, and Ward went for the Miss Tahoe Truckee title at full steam.
“Because I come from a huge family, we don’t have a lot of money [to send everyone to college] Ð but everyone in our family is incredibly bright,” Ward said of her five siblings. “Being in this pageant, if I win any money, it’ll give more of a chance to my siblings.”
Pageant organizers sent Ward a three-page application to fill out to compete for the Miss Tahoe Truckee title Ð Ward sent the pageant a 50-page binder filled with her accomplishments, biographical information and letters of recommendation.
Ward is an honor student at Tahoe Truckee High School. Last school year she was the president of Sierra Mountain Middle School and the 2003 student of the year.
She is also intensely interested in drama. At age 6 she played the segment before the caterpillar’s butt in a Truckee Tahoe Youth Theater production. She has since moved on to lead roles with the company and done some work behind the scenes. She will be in the chorus for Truckee High’s production of “Footloose” next month.
Lori LeClair, Ward’s mother, said her daughter hasn’t always been so driven but “she was always different, with regard to her theatrical silliness … if she ever had to give a presentation, instead of a normal presentation, she’d add something extra, and then in middle school, she would put 120 percent into everything she did. She hasn’t gotten too serious, though.”
While in seventh grade, Ward initiated a fund-raising drive after Sept. 11, 2001, called “Pennies for the Pentagon and Nickels for New York.” Bottled coins filled a corner of her classroom, and during any given lunch period, Ward would be counting coins at her desk in the classroom, wrote Ward’s former teacher Sara E. Colborn in a letter of recommendation to the pageant committee.
“Some days friends would accompany her; other days she would count by herself,” Colborn wrote. “That’s the way Jenni is Ð she will do her very best to bring us all along with her, but she is never afraid to go it alone. Whatever it takes. She is an individual.”
Ward is one busy girl. In addition to acting, student leadership and academics, she’s held part-time jobs since she was old enough to work.
“I like to keep myself busy,” she said. “To me, it’s just easier to have a lot of things going on.”
Once she graduates from high school, Ward wants to attend a junior college in Southern California and transfer to New York University to study interior design Ð which is where the scholarship money would come in handy, she said. While in New York City, she wants to pursue her dream of becoming a Broadway star.
“Jenni hasn’t come from a silver spoon family, but she makes the most of everything,” LeClair said.
One of Ward’s biggest challenges in preparing for the pageant has been gathering the funds to compete in the competition. So far, she has received support from several local sponsors, but she still needs money for air fare, clothing for the competition and other miscellaneous expenses.
Aside from the monetary aspect, Ward will face another, very different challenge: high heels.
During the gown competition, Ward will have to wear high heels, and platforms don’t count.
“I’m learning how to walk in heels,” she said. “I’ve never worn them before; I’m more of a Roxy shoe kind of person.”
She’s also a hose-clamp-bracelet and plastic-ring wearing Ð hard-working, yet fun-loving Ð type of person; Miss Teen Tahoe Truckee not your typical pageant contestant.
To support Jennifer Ward
The Miss Teen California Scholarship Pageant, sponsored by Danfranc Productions and the California Scholarship Federation, will be April 16 Ð 18 in Los Angeles.
Anyone interested in donating money to support Jennifer Ward in the pageant can call 587-9968. Any amount is welcome.