After being crowned Miss High School America Saturday night, Carina Romero blew kisses like she was a pageant veteran.
But she's only been doing pageants since September.
"I was so excited to win a national pageant this early in my career," said Romero, 16, a Hammond School sophomore.
She beat out 50 high school students at the contest held at the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Mo.
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"I worked so hard to get there, and it was months of training," said Romero, who won $10,000 in scholarship money.
She should be a winner: Her coach is Cy Frakes, owner of Gowns and Crowns, the local pageant business that was chronicled on TLC's "King of the Crown" reality series.
Romero, who plays on Hammond's varsity golf team, entered her first pageant to support her 6-year-old cousin, Gabby Pope.
"I love the idea of pageants for little girls, and she wouldn't do it unless I did it with her," Romero said.
And Romero won, even though she bought her dress the day before.
And she won in January at the state pageant.
The mean-girl stereotype of pageant girls is something she'll use her crown and appearances around the country to change.
"(I'm) letting them know what it really is to be a pageant girl, and kind of break that stigma that everyone has against it," she said.
- Otis R. Taylor Jr.