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How to Successfully Transition From Preteen to Teen

Bailey Bennett, Miss American Teen 2017, Miss American Coed pageant system
Bailey Bennett, Miss American Teen 2017 for the Miss American Coed pageant system, in her crowning moment. Photo courtesy: Bailey Bennett Instagram.

Some parents may breathe a sigh of relief when their daughters are able to participate in the Teen division due to some of the challenges of Preteen, which can be one of the trickier divisions to navigate. With an age bracket typically made up of 10- to 12-year-olds, various challenges exist in Preteen, such as trying to keep up with wardrobe while hitting several growth spurts a year.

If you’re a parent like me, you certainly don’t want your children to grow up too fast! However, in my opinion, the Teen division doesn’t present as many challenges.

There are quite a few factors for contestants to consider when aging up into the Teen division. One of the main keys here is to do good research. Read on to help prepare as you venture into new territory!

How to Successfully Transition From Preteen to Teen


The most important tool to successfully transition from Preteen to Teen is to do your research. Not all pageant systems are created equally, so it is important to understand the expectations of each division’s competitors before you sign up. (Read: 5 Reasons Why You Should Compete in a Teen Pageant)

“Study your age division of the particular system you are entering to be sure you are along the right lines with the look they are going for,” said Mary Swenson, pageant coach and owner of Confidence & Poise, LLC. (Read: Top 10 Pageant Coaches of 2016)

Start with speaking to your state director and gather materials about the competition, if your pageant system has state directors. They are such a wealth of information and are there to help you on your pageant journey. Read the information they provide you, then read it again! Develop a good list of questions to ask once about the Teen competition once you’ve gathered and reviewed the preliminary information. (Read: 3 Misconceptions Contestants Have of Pageant Directors)

2016 National American Miss Georgia,National American Miss Georgia
2016 National American Miss Georgia titleholders at the National American Miss Georgia open calls 2017. Photo courtesy: Miss Georgia Junior Teen 2016, Caroline Puri Instagram.

A great resource of information are contestants who are familiar with the pageant system. Look for someone who is a return contestant that has competed in several of that pageant’s age divisions. This person should be able to tell you the major differences that were experienced going from Preteen to Teen.

Look to pageant parents for advice, as well! Parents and/or guardians sometimes have the a leading edge when sharing feedback about a system, as many are helping manage their own preteen and teen’s transitions through the pageant world. (Read: Guidelines for Parents When Practicing for a Pageant)

Parents can offer a different perspective than their contestant. They typically get to watch each contestant, not just their own child, compete in the events. Parents have a bird’s eye view of the stage competitions during the pageant that the contestant may not have. Ask other parents what they have perceived as popular during the Teen portion.

2017 International Junior Miss Colorado,2017 International Junior Miss Colorado,Ashley Berry
2017 International Junior Miss Colorado titleholders at the International Junior Miss Colorado 2017 pageant. Photo courtesy: International Junior Miss Colorado Teen 2017, Ashley Berry Instagram.

Check out pageant photos on the web and social media from last year’s competition. This can especially give you a good idea on proper Teen attire. Be aware of who won and placed, and take note of what wardrobe items were successful for those contestants. Choosing similar items (but don’t copy the outfits, of course!) is likely a safe tactic. Pay particular attention to evening gown colors and styles, as well as interview styling. (Read: How to Dress for Pageant Interview as a Teen)


Speaking of interview, you may likely see quite a few differences in the questions you are asked as a teen. There are some Teen pageants that may ask you current events related questions, so make sure you are well aware if this could be a possibility. (Read: What Are The Best Resources To Use To Study Current Events?)

Miss Teen USA 2017,Miss Minnesota Teen USA 2017, Tori Trittin
Miss Teen USA 2017 state titleholders enjoying time together in Las Vegas, NV during the 2017 Miss USA pageant. Photo courtesy: Miss Minnesota Teen USA 2017, Tori Trittin Instagram.

Here are three great ways to practice in your spare time for Teen interview questions that will require answers that are a bit more mature and well thought out.

First, read through our list of Teen practice questions and jot down bullet points of items to include in an answer. Some contestants chose to journal their thoughts on specific questions they know may be imperative.

Second, play trivia games with friends to help increase your general knowledge! There are lots of apps available to try.

Finally, watch the news to keep attuned to what is happening. In addition, The Skimm is a popular news tool that I’ve used for quite a few years. Top news stories are explained and sent to you via email each morning. You likely heard The Skimm mentioned during this year’s Miss USA competition! (Read: Top 5 Onstage Questions and Answers from Miss USA 2017)

USA National Miss Virginia Titleholders,USA National Miss Virginia
2017 USA National Miss Virginia titleholders at the 2017 USA National Miss Forum. Photo courtesy: USA National Miss Virginia Instagram.


Makeup is likely another new world to venture into. If you’ve mostly competed in natural pageants, you may not have worn makeup as a Preteen contestant. Teen makeup should be utilized to enhance the natural beauty of the contestant without looking too mature. The key is to make sure you look like a Teen.

“Keep it age appropriate, though,” Swenson said. “This isn’t the Miss division yet.  You should still look your age.”

A good pageant makeup artist will be able to advise you in designing the perfect Teen makeup look. (Read: 10 Steps to Creating the Perfect Miss Teen USA Makeup Look)

Evening Gown

As you review pictures from prior year’s pageants, you will gain quite a few ideas in regards to your evening gown. Keeping your pageant guidelines in consideration, it’s always advisable to stick with pops of color and avoid any deeply plunging necklines and high slits.

Teens should focus on styles that are fun while showcasing a fresh, youthful image. (Read: What Are the Best Pageant Evening Gowns for Each Age Division)

Makenzie Craig, Miss Tennessee Jr. High America 2017 and Hannah Newman, Miss Tennessee High School America 2017 with Miss Tennessee Elementary America Pageant Ultimate Grand Supreme at a parade appearance. Photo courtesy: Miss Tennessee Jr. High 2017 Instagram.
Miss Tennessee Elementary, Jr. High and High School America 2017 titleholders at a parade appearance. Photo courtesy: Miss Tennessee Jr. High 2017, Makenzie Craig Instagram.

After the Pageant

Finally, don’t forget the multitude of opportunities that open for you as a titleholder. If you win your Teen pageant, you’ll have the opportunity to continue to volunteer in the community and speak about your platform.

“Developing volunteer work, community service and your platform becomes even more significant as you move up in age divisions,” Swenson said.

Many pageants are currently seeking the total package, so don’t forget about the importance of your service work! Even systems that seemed more beauty-focused in the past are crowning titleholders with strong community involvement achievements.

Going Forward

Research, research and more research! Really get to know the system you’ll be competing in before signing up. Make sure it is a good fit and that you understand any rules and requirements.

Make sure to practice in your Teen wardrobe prior to competition. Your heels may be a bit higher, earrings a bit bigger, and it’s possible you may be wearing lashes for the first time. Do a full dress rehearsal with your friends or parents to make yourself more comfortable before you hit the stage.

Check out all of Pageant Planet’s Teen coaching tips here. In addition, coaching with one of our experienced team members can help put your best foot forward in your next teen pageant. Check out our one-on-one coaching and/or VIP membership here.

Good luck!

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