“Something in me said ‘I want this,” said Abby Bryson, a graphic design major. “This is what I want to be. This is what I need to be’.”
That little voice was right: That weekend, Bryson was named Miss Wisconsin Teen USA 2017.
The pageant is part of the Miss Universe Organization. For the next year, Bryson is expected to make appearances at local events in Wisconsin taking photographs, answering questions and informing people about her pageant experience.
The Brookfield, Wisconsin native was 7 when she entered her first pageant, with the National American Miss (NAM) system. She won the title of Miss Wisconsin Junior Pre-Teen her first time competing. She said her appearances as Miss Wisconsin Teen will allow her to engage with the community and address issues that are important to her.
For example, the Miss Universe Organization has a partnership with Best Buddies, which promotes friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Bryson said she has an understanding of the challenges that people with disabilities face because she has a sister with Asperger’s syndrome.
She also wants to educate people about Type I diabetes, which she has.
Over the years Bryson had forged strong bonds with some of her fellow NAM contestants.
She is friends with Brittany Georgia and Kenna Harke, who was crowned Miss Wisconsin Teen USA 2015. Georgia was first runner-up in Miss Wisconsin Teen USA this year.
Before the announcement was made, Bryson said she was excited for herself and Georgia.
“If Brittany would have won, I would have been so over the moon happy for her because she’s a great person,” she said.
Georgia said she felt the same way about Bryson.
“When it came down to the final two, all I remember is shaking so badly, crying with excitement because if it wasn’t me, it was this incredible sister of mine,” Georgia said. “We started off at NAM 10 years ago and now we’re here!”
Losack asked Bryson practice questions to improve her interview and public speaking skills.
Coming from a dance background, Losack said she understood the “glitz” and “glam” of the pageant world, but the posing, walking and interview process was new to her.
“Going on stage and having to answer a question in front of a huge audience is kind of difficult for me,” Bryson said. “I just have to let myself go and realize it’s okay to laugh at myself if I do mess up.”
Bryson said she prepared for the competition by practicing her walk on the way to class.
“I probably looked ridiculous,” she said.
Bryson, who was third runner-up in 2015, returned to Wisconsin on Friday, Sept. 9, in time for check- in at the hotel with the other contestants. She said she was more stressed about her speech in Oral Communication that was due Monday than she was about the pageant.
The preliminary round began Saturday morning with an interview with two panels of judges. Bryson said she enjoys the interview portion because she likes to talk about her hobbies and interests.
Saturday evening’s preliminary round included formal wear and activewear.
Bryson said as she walked out on stage, she told herself, “Alright, this is it. You have to give it your all.”
When the final round began Sunday night she was in the top 15.
As one of the top five, she had to answer an onstage question, in replacement of the interview portion.
“When my name was called, it was such a shock,” Bryson said. “I couldn’t believe it just because with everything that had gone on over the weekend. I thought this can’t be happening, but I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”
Bryson will compete in the Miss Teen USA competition next summer in Las Vegas.
Despite the demanding time commitments, Bryson said she doesn’t plan on taking time off from TCU.
“It’s always been one of my dreams to come to TCU and I don’t think a title should stop me from doing that,” Bryson said.
Bryson and her family agree that academics come first.
“After I won my title, my mom said I still had to go to school the next day,” she said.
Bryson said she said she’ll travel back to Wisconsin about once a month.
The date and location for this year’s pageant have not been announced yet.
Bryson said competing in pageants has also taught her many life lessons like improving interview skills and learning how to present in front of a class.
You can follow Bryson’s journey towards Miss Teen USA on Instagram.