Here she comes . . .
Blond, blue-eyed and almost four and one-half feet tall, young Paula Prosser has more than a winning smile.
She has winning ways.
The 11-year-old Tonganoxie girl took third place in the Miss American Co-ed pageant, held in Overland Park in July.
Again, in August, Paula placed third, this time at the Miss American Starlet competition in Palm Springs.
"I guess I'm stuck on third," Paula said.
But, no matter what trophy she wins, Paula said the most important thing is what she's learning about presenting herself.
"You don't want to hide your voice and be shy," Paula said. "I learned to speak out and let the judges hear my voice, because they really don't know what you're like until they get to talk to you."
Paula said she took lessons where she worked on improving her stage presence.
"I learned how to do better model turns, how to keep my eyes on the judges, and how to walk gracefully across the stage and up and down stairs," Paula said.
Pageant participants are taught to walk toe first, then heel, Paula said.
"That's because if you have on a short dress, when you walk heel-toe, it's not a pretty thing to see the bottom of your shoes."
But Paula said that wasn't much of a concern of hers.
"My dress was so long that I could walk any way I wanted and nobody could tell what my feet were doing," she said.
Paula, who has been taking dance lessons for nine years and voice lessons for three years, said she was fairly well prepared for the talent.
"I spent a month or two getting ready for the first one," she said. "We'd never done it before and we didn't think it would take that long."
But Paula said she learned later that most of the contestants had been perfecting their performances for a year or more.
In the Overland Park competition, she sang and danced to the song, "Born to Entertain." She also danced to a jazz song, "This is Your Night."
In Palm Springs, where Paula was one of 28 contestants, she also sang the song, "Part of Your World."
At first it was scary, she said.
"I found myself shaking behind stage once, but it wasn't that big of a deal," Paula said. "It might seem terrifying, but once you do it, you don't even think about being scared, you just walk out there and do your best."
In the Palm Springs competition, she also participated in the bathing beauty contest and modeled sportswear and an evening gown.
Looks may be part of the judging, but Paula said that's not the most important part.
"I think the personality is more important because if you go on stage and if you have a really dull voice I don't think the judges would like you as much as if you have an enthusiastic voice," Paula said.
As Paula speaks, she sits up straight, little dimples appear at the corners of her smile, her bright eyes shine and her blond ponytail swings to and fro.
She talks about living on a farm west of Tonganoxie with four dogs: Shy, Tongie, Pepper and Brittany; about taking a trip down the Missouri River on a houseboat during the summer. "I got so bored I ran two miles around the boat," she said.
And she talks about her hobbies.
"I'm into making bracelets and necklaces out of very thin string or fishing line," she said.
She also participates in musicals and just won a part in St. Mary's College, "A Christmas Carol."
She's thought about participating in more pageants, including a Show White pageant at Universal Studios this winter.
Even though Paula can sometimes appear to be the most glamorous girl anyone has ever seen, still, she's just a regular kid at heart.
For instance, if she ruled the world, things would be different.
"I'd stay up until 11 and I'd wake up at 10 and I wouldn't do my chores, but I'd try to keep the house clean take care of the dogs and cats and go shopping in the summertime," she said.
She paused, grinned a beautiful grin from ear-to-ear, and said, "And I'd probably be late for school a lot."
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