On Saturday, Aug. 5, this year’s Miss Londonderry and Miss Londonderry Outstanding Teen were crowned at Londonderry Middle School.
Nine girls competed for Outstanding Teen and ten young women competed for Miss Londonderry. In the end, 16-year-old Grace Henry of Durham, and 21-year-old Mariah Laroque originally of Derry, NH, took the titles, respectively.
Miss Londonderry is not Laroque’s first title; she was crowned Miss Greater Derry last year and next year will be her fourth time competing in the Miss New Hampshire pageant. Last year, she was a part of the top ten, though the crown was eventually granted to Miss Auburn Lauren Percy.
To compete in a pageant, each contestant must have a platform. Drug Free America is Laroque’s, something she has been a part of for a number of years and continues to advocate for. Though she currently lives in New Jersey for school – she is a part of the Institute for American Musical Theatre – she still calls New Hampshire home.
“I will always represent NH. It’s my hometown; it’s where my heart is,” she said.
There are multiple stages to the Miss competition, and the ones that hold the greatest weight percentage-wise are the talent portion, the pre-pageant interview, and the final question, with a ranking of 30%, 25%, and 20% respectively. While the audience is not privy to the pre-pageant interview, the talent portion and final question are a part of the on-stage proceedings.
For her talent, Laroque sang Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” to thundering applause. The final question is randomly chosen from a hat by the contestant; Laroque’s regarded President Trump’s plans to scale back illegal immigration, how some believe that immigration makes the work-place more competitive, and whether or not scaling immigration is the right thing for this country.
In response, she said: “I can understand how it might make the work place more competitive, but this is the United States. I believe it is a place filled with dreams and opportunities for those who come in. As long as you’re coming in legally, you’re coming here to work, you’re coming here for your family, you’re coming here to support your dreams and your family, I think that it’s something you should be able to do. I don’t think that he should be able to cut back as much as he’s planning on doing.”
Moving forward, Laroque plans to begin preparing for the Miss New Hampshire Pageant and hopes to represent Londonderry to the best of her ability, as well as her platform Drug Free America.
The Outstanding Teen (OT) competition is slightly different than the Miss competition; instead of a bathing suit portion of the pageant, the OT has a Lifestyle and Fitness portion in which the contestants preform a short routine to show how physically fit they are. In addition to this, the contestants’ scholastic achievement is taken into consideration. Like the Miss pageant, the OT’s score breakdown is similar, with the highest percentage being talent, private interview, and a combined score of evening wear and answer to the final onstage question.
Also like the Miss competition, the teens are required to have a platform; Henry’s platform is Selective Mutism, Educate to Excel, and her onstage question was to explain what the biggest misconception about selective mutism.
“The biggest misconception about selective mutism is a lot of people confuse it with being shy,” she explained. When a child has selective mutism as a result of a change in setting, “those changes in setting really affect them and make them feel like they can’t speak up; when a child’s just shy, those changes don’t affect them as much.”
Moving forward, Henry will compete in the 2018 Miss New Hampshire Outstanding Teen pageant. In the meantime, she plans to share her platform with local schools to “educate parents and teachers on how they can help their students and children thrive,” and help children who are affected by it to “not let selective mutism define them.”
Also crowned at the August 5 pageant, were both the Miss and Outstanding Teen titles for Manchester, and the Outstanding Teen for Auburn. Marissa Moorhouse won Miss Manchester and Lauren Breen won Miss Manchester Outstanding Teen, while Emily Spencer won Miss Auburn Outstanding Teen.