Megan Okumura had never competed in a pageant before.
So, before she headed to Idaho in June to compete in the Miss Teen of Utah 2016 pageant, she had some homework to do. She fired up her DVD player and took some notes from Sandra Bullock in “Miss Congeniality” to prepare, and that was that.
When she completed the three-day contest and received the crown, her parents were so shocked they didn’t even have their camera ready to capture the big moment on film. Okumura didn’t mind she was surprised too.
“When I won the crown, it was one of the most shocking things ever,” the Hillcrest junior said of her achievement. “I was so overjoyed, it was amazing.”
Okumura went on to represent Utah in the Miss Teen of America competition where she was fourth runner-up. With her state crown she received a $1,000 cash scholarship and funding for Hillcrest to participate in a Special Olympics inclusion event. But Okumura, who also won the talent portion of the competition, says she won much more than money.
“When I won the crown, it was a big self-esteem booster for me because I was struggling with my self-esteem before that,” Okumura says. “I thought, maybe if I go to this pageant it will help boost my self-esteem, and it did just that. That was the biggest thing I got out of winning just that self-esteem and confidence.”
Okumura’s parents watched their daughter head toward the Miss Teen of Utah competition with awe. They knew that their daughter president of the American Sign Language club at Hillcrest, member of the Sandy Youth City Council, hard worker, and dreamer of someday being a special education teacher was special.
“We knew she had accomplishments, her teachers knew she was doing great things, but she didn’t believe it,” says her mother Sharon Okumura, a now-retired career educator and former principal of CSD’s Canyon View Elementary.
This pageant isn’t Okumura’s first accomplishment. In 8th grade, she served as a student body officer for her school, in 6th grade she won an award for Women in Engineering at the regional science fair (her submission for a public safety announcement against domestic violence was recently chosen by Sandy City), and somewhere in there she wrote a children’s book.
Okumura, author and illustrator, named the book “The Bare Beauty.” It tells the story of a tree that was mocked for not having enough leaves. Sharon Okumura says the story mirrored her daughter’s thoughts and feelings as she came to realize that she had her own talents and gifts that made her beautiful.
“That’s what I see her learning from all of this,” she said. “She doesn’t have to compare herself to everybody else.
As Okumura prepared to head to the national competition in Minnesota in November, she didn’t need to watch any more movies to get ready. She was ready to win, or lose either way she knows she’s already a champion. And if she ever forgets, her crown is there to remind her.
“I just keep it in my room,” Okumura said of her tiara. “It’s a trophy to me. It makes me really proud of my hard work.”