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Houma student named Miss Louisiana Teen USA

The Courier - 11/2/2018

Nov. 02--Overcoming mental, physical and societal obstacles, Houma teen Emma Brooks McAllister was recently crowned Miss Louisiana Teen USA 2019.

For the 16-year-old Vandebilt Catholic High junior, this was her second year competing in pageants.

For her first, McAllister competed in the statewide Louisiana Teen competition.

Building upon her experience as a competitive dancer, she won third runner-up on her first try.

"I loved the sisterhood," McAllister said, adding that she was eager to compete again.

But McAllister's journey to the crown wasn't easy. After spending a week in mental health treatment in Shreveport last year, the teenager has made mental health in adolescents her platform.

"Experiencing it and really just falling and getting myself back up, it really just showed me how common it all is," McAllister said. "People don't really talk about it, people don't bring it up. There's till a lot of stigma about it."

She said she was lucky to be able to survive, overcome her mental health issues and return to the stage to share her story with others.

"You may not have depression for the rest of your life, but everyone goes through stages of depression," McAllister said.

"It's brave to be so open and honest," said her mother, Heather McAllister, who has stood by her daughter's side through everything.

Emma McAllister spoke about her experiences during the interview portion of the recent pageant where she won her crown. It ended up being her favorite part, where the judges also asked about her love of art, yoga and practicing the trapeze.

Despite her success, McAllister said not everyone understands why she competes in an industry that has been known for how it judges women's beauty.

"They've been trying to break beauty standards, and for years it's always been a perfect barbie girl, and now they're trying to make it more about who that girl is instead of what she really looks like," McAllister said.

Everyone on the stage becomes a friend, not a competitor, she said.

But the moment her name was called as she stood next to first-runner up Gracie Petry, McAllister said it took a moment for the words to sink it.

"It felt like an anxiety attack," she said. "But a good one."

A few weeks after receiving her crown, McAllister said "it's amazing, I'm still completely amazed."

Watching her daughter succeed has been rewarding, Heather McAllister said.

"To see how happy she is -- and knowing what kind of personal struggles she's had to overcome and watch her shine -- as a mother, it's all I could ever ask for," she said.

Emma has begun touring the state, participating in the Buddy Walk, a fundraiser for the National Down Syndrome Society.

During her reign as Miss Louisiana Teen, she'll travel the state for appearances, fundraisers, photo shoots and sponsorship opportunities, and she'll train even harder for her chance to be Miss Teen USA in May.

All of that travel will require time away from school, but Heather McAllister said the administration at Vandebilt has been supportive.

To anyone thinking about competing, Emma McAllister said anything is possible with the support of friends and family.

"Whenever you're out there on stage, you just really have to be who you are," she said, "let go of everything and show your true self to everyone."

-- Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.


(c)2018 The Houma Courier, La.

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