In a matter of weeks, University of Washington student Starla Sampaco will be heading to the Bahamas to compete for the job of Miss Teen USA, a pageant owned by NBCUniversal in partnership with Donald J Trump.
Sampaco will be judged in three categories that are evenly scored: interview, evening gown, and swimwear.
Sampaco said winning the title is about having confidence.
“Physical appearance does not determine a contestant’s success in pageantry, but having a sense of self does, especially in the Teen division,” Sampaco said. “It’s about personality more than ‘beauty.’ Communication skills (both non-verbal and verbal) are much more important.”
Effective communication skills have been an area of emphasis for Sampaco for the last three years. In addition to being interviewed by local newspapers, a Canadian talk show, and a few online media shows, she’s also been the one to ask the questions. In May, Sampaco acted as the red carpet host for Spotlight on Seattle: the Who’s Who Networking Event of the Year.
With all this practice, has Sampaco been in a position where she was lost for words? You bet. Back in March, Sampaco volunteered at the Go Red for Women luncheon for the American Heart Association. Marni Hughes, an anchor for Q13 FOX News, was the emcee for the event.
“I thought I should approach her [Hughes] since I also want to go into broadcast journalism,” Sampaco said. “I was calm and composed until I started talking. I blurted words like ‘Hi … pageant … journalism … U-dub … internship.’ I must say that I’ve never lost my cool like that before. I felt like such a dork. It was definitely a face-palm moment, but she was really nice to me, and she gave me her card in case I ever want to intern at Q13.”
However, Sampaco has proven to be determined. When Sampaco first competed for the job of Miss Washington Teen USA, she didn’t make the semifinals her first year and became first runner-up her second year. In her third try for the job, the rest is history.
“The job is a lot harder than I expected, but it is also so much more rewarding than I ever could have imagined,” Sampaco said.
Since she became Miss Washington Teen USA 2014 in October 2013 at Highline Performing Arts Center, the title has allowed Sampaco to be a special guest at a Utah Jazz NBA Game and at a Mariner’s game, do photoshoots and participate in at least 30 appearances.
“The Rick Rizz’s Toy Drive was my absolute favorite,” Sampaco said. “I participated in handing out gifts to the kids that stopped by. If it weren’t for the toy drive, a lot of them would not have received holiday gifts, so it was really special to see their adorable little smiles.”
Sampaco is mindful that she’s in the public eye and with it comes great responsibilities.
“Every now and then, I receive fan messages and autograph requests from young girls who follow me on social media,” Sampaco said. “One of the best compliments I’ve ever received came from a mom who said that she wants her daughters to grow up to be like me when they grow up. I understand that there are certain expectations of me as Miss Washington Teen USA, whether I am wearing the sash or not. This job has given me the gift of publicity, and I want to use it in a positive way.”
Sampaco said she’s ready to represent Washington at Miss Teen USA. More importantly, she said she’s ready for a promotion of being Miss Teen USA.
“Pageants face a lot of criticism in American media, but all of my experiences up to this point have prepared me with the skills I need to be a positive brand ambassador for the Miss Universe Organization,” Sampaco said. “My personal platform is on diversity and beauty standards. If the judges give me the opportunity to share my story on a national level, I hope to empower young women with the message that being different is not the same as being defective.”
Starla Sampaco will be competing for the job of Miss Teen USA on August 1 and 2 at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in Nassau, Bahamas. On October 19, Sampaco will be passing her title on to the new winner. For more information about Miss Washington Teen USA, visit MissWashingtonUSA.com.