Building life skills, with pageantry

Nicole Tramack is a pretty typical 12-year-old, with a big smile and braces on her teeth, interested in dance and her Girl Scout troop, along with doing volunteer work with the local cat shelter and Early Learning center.

But the New Ipswich girl is also a bona fide beauty queen.

When Tramack was 9 years old, she watched two of her cousins go through a beauty pageant process, and was instantly interested in trying her hand at the process. She threw her hat into the pageant ring and found a place where she could fulfill a dream, wearing glamorous gowns and getting her hair and even make up done to perfection.

But Tramack’s pageants generally take place in the late spring and summertime, leaving the rest of her time free. But a lot of that time is spent building her resume for other pageants and honing her talent. Some pageants take a significant time and monetary commitment. Tramack usually competes in local pageants, but has traveled as far as Rhode Island and Florida to do her thing. And not only does she spend weeks prior to a pageant practicing a new ballet routine for her talent section and practicing her interviewing skills, she spends a lot of time during the year becoming the kind of person these pageants reward — involved in their community and with bettering themselves.

Tramack is home schooled, so she has to find other avenues to become involved. But she’s rarely idle, choosing instead to spend her time with ballet, modern dance and gymnastics, as well as multiple volunteer opportunities.

Like many people would expect, Tramack said that her favorite part of competing is getting dressed in formal gowns, and having assistants backstage help her get her hair and makeup ready. She said it makes her feel like a movie star.

But it’s not all about the glitz, she said.

Most pageants, the largest portion of the score isn’t the formal wear or talent portion — it’s the interview process, when the girls speak to the judges about everything from their favorite holidays and television programs to what they would do with $100 to spend as they wish.

Pageants, especially for young children, can be portrayed in a negative light on television these days, said Tramack’s mother, Candy Tramack, but she’s found it to be a positive experience for her daughter, helping her to build her self-confidence, public speaking skills and poise.

“I know there are negative connotations in terms of what they see on TV, but most of the time that’s really not what takes place,” said Candy Tramack. “I think the most important piece for me is that she go out, do her best and have fun. That’s really what the whole pageants are for. They’re for building confidence. It really prepares the girls for other things in life. The interview is a huge portion of their scoring. Getting the experience to be talking one on one, or even in a group setting in the interview process, that sets and prepares them for other things in life.”

And her daughter loves them, having competed in 15 competitions since she began at age nine, and is gearing up to being a new pageant season this summer.

Tramack has collected a crown or two in her pageant run, as well as a few secondary awards, including most photogenic and for integrity or character. “It feels amazing,” said Tramack of winning pageant awards and crowns. “As long as you get to carry away something, it feels really great. You feel like you did really well out there, and the judges loved you.”

But she doesn’t win every time, she said, and that’s okay too. She’s made friends on the pageant circuit, and they don’t let the fact that they’re competing against each other stop her from making friendships, either.

“We’re still there to compete, but for the most part you’re there to have fun,” said Tramack. In fact, one of her favorite aspects of the pageant is watching her competitors during the talent portion of the show, and meeting up with other pageant regulars backstage to swap stories and energy-boosting Pixy Stix.

“I want to do them until I get to the age I have to stop,” said Tramack, who dreams of one day making it to the big competitions, including the Miss New Hampshire and Miss USA pageants.

“I still want to do lots more.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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