A newcomer and a pageant veteran took home the top teen titles at the Miss Augusta Pageant.
Competing in pageants is "so much fun getting to meet all these girls," said Kendyl Pennington, a Lakeside High School sophomore who was crowned Miss Savannah River Outstanding Teen at Augusta State University's Grover C. Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre on Feb. 5.
Leah Via, an Augusta Christian Schools junior, won the title of Miss Augusta Outstanding Teen in her first pageant appearance.
Pennington started competing under the Miss Augusta pageant umbrella when she was a toddler. The pageant has several age categories for little girls and for teens and adults.
"Wee Miss, Tiny Miss, Pre-Teen Miss -- I've been all of those," said Pennington, who is also a former Miss Augusta Outstanding Teen.
Via was a spectator at last year's Miss Augusta Pageant and enjoyed what she saw. It prompted her to try this year's, and she's glad she did.
"It was a great experience," she said. "I had so much fun."
Both teens plan to use their titles to help others.
Via wants to bring awareness to teen eating disorders.
"I feel everyone looks up to the latest magazine trend," she said. "They feel so much pressure to be Barbie when character and how you treat others should be more important."
Pennington uses her singing and dancing talents to boost the self-esteem in younger girls. Her platform is empowerment through the performing arts.
As Miss Augusta Outstanding Teen, she shared these talents with a group of "at-risk" girls. Pennington helped them create a Father's Day program at their church. She choreographed a dance for them to the song Butterfly Kisses .
"They were so excited," she said. "Everyone was crying."
Pennington, who takes dance at Bradley Fine Arts, said her dream is to be on Broadway, but she's also got her eye on the Miss Augusta title when she's old enough.
The Miss Augusta and Miss Savannah River titles are preliminaries for the Miss Georgia and Miss America competitions. There are state and national pageants for the outstanding teen, too.
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