“I don’t need a crown and banner that says I am “Miss America’s Outstanding Teen” to treat people with kindness, to serve others in my community, or to make a positive impact on others.”
Hello! My name is Tia Moua. I am a determined and driven 16 year old from Spokane, Washington. I am the first Hmong-American state titleholder in the Miss America Organization as Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen 2017. I was so honored to represent Hmong people and Washington state on the national stage at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant in Orlando, Florida where I received the “Spirit of America” award along with many other college scholarships. I am also a competitive dancer and have had a passion for dancing since I began at the age of nine. I love performing dances, teaching dance to children, and volunteering! I am part of the National Honor Society at my high school and am a Running Start Student at Eastern Washington University. I aspire to be a legislator for foreign policy and international affairs or a US Ambassador because I believe it’s important to maintain good relationships with other countries and would like to promote a positive image of our country.
As Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen, my platform is Volunteerism: Giving Your Time and Talents, because I have a huge passion for volunteering! I enjoy volunteering for several organizations such as Make A Wish, the American Childhood Cancer Organization, JDRF for Type 1 Diabetes, the Children’s Miracle Network and more. I have collected food, school supplies and diapers at several drives, taught dances to at-risk youth, volunteered at live auctions, and more. I chose this platform because there are many great benefits from volunteering. Serving your community has many health benefits because you forget about your own troubles by thinking of other people instead. Also, it gives you so much joy and satisfaction to know you are positively impacting your community. You can check out VolunteerMatch.org for volunteer opportunities in your area! Simply giving your time and talents to help others can leave a lasting impact on your community and is so powerful in influencing other people’s lives.
My main source of inspiration is my heritage. I am inspired by the Hmong culture because in my perspective, we are taught to always lend a helping hand and to support others. In fact, seeing the giving hearts of many Hmong people in my community helped me choose my platform on volunteerism. I was extremely grateful for the tremendous support I received from the Hmong community on my journey towards the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen national pageant! In addition, I am inspired by the fact that my parents (who are former refugees from Laos) came to America as young children knowing no English at all. But through their perseverance and hard work, my father was able to obtain a doctoral degree in psychology and my mother obtained a master’s degree in social work. I was born in America, so to me, this gives me no excuse to not chase after my wildest dreams and support those who are less fortunate. It also encourages me to work hard in my education so I can have a successful future. I am a 4.3 GPA student and have high expectations for myself, probably due to the fact that I believe in making no excuses, just as my parents did.
One of the most significant moment during my pageant career was when I competed at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen and did not win the national title. Although I did not win the title, I learned some of the most important life lessons from my preparation leading to the pageant and from not winning. I had spent many months prior to the pageant preparing for its four phases of competition – interview, talent, fitness, and onstage question and evening gown. Every day for months, I rehearsed my talent, which was a sassy jazz dance. I participated in many mock interviews with panels of judges, my family members, and neighbors to improve my interview and speaking skills. They asked me a variety of impromptu questions about my hobbies, foreign policy, current events, my ambitions, and more. I walked for hours in my high heels that I was going to wear onstage and practiced walking in my evening gown. I worked with a personal trainer who helped me improve my eating habits and gave me exercises that would help me achieve my fitness goals. I dreamed of becoming Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. But not becoming the national titleholder helped me realize something that I still apply to my life today: I don’t need a crown and banner that says I am “Miss America’s Outstanding Teen” to treat people with kindness, to serve others in my community, or to make a positive impact on others. Through this experience, I learned that I did not need a title to validate my worth. I could not base who I was as a person on five judge’s opinions and scores. I discovered that I am enough, despite not winning the crown. In the end, it is not the crown that defines me, but the person who I become and my character that really matters. I also discovered along the way, through the countless hours rehearsing my dance, many challenging mock interviews, and late nights spent working out, I had become a better version of myself and reached past my limits of what I thought I was capable of.
For that, I am so grateful for the Miss America Organization and the Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen Organization. In addition, I was so excited to walk away with a full ride to the University of Alabama and a $1000 scholarship for being voted on by my fellow contestants as the nicest contestant, so I received the “Spirit of America” award also recognized as “Miss Congeniality!” It just goes to show that it pays to be nice – literally! I am still am in disbelief that I got the phenomenal opportunity to walk across that national stage, proudly representing Washington and exclaiming my Hmong pride into the microphone each night during my introduction.
One of the most challenging part of my career as a titleholder, dancer, and student, is balancing my busy schedule of school, twelve dance classes per week, pageant appearances, my social life, and sleeping. This year has certainly challenged me in this aspect, but I have learned to organize myself more through checking my calendar daily, communicating with my parents and siblings who help drive me to and from dance classes/ appearances, and prioritizing. This also means knowing that I must make sacrifices at times, such as not attending a family road-trip because I have a weekend-long dance competition, or attending a pageant appearance rather than hanging out with friends. But I always remember to be grateful for the great opportunities that come my way because every experience has shaped me and helped me grow as an individual.
I am eternally grateful to all the people who supported me along my journey and who helped make this experience of a lifetime possible. I am very proud to be a Hmong woman! I especially am honored to be representing Hmong people in an American pageant system because it is a reminder that we Hmong women are capable of anything and have the same possibilities as any other American to achieve great accomplishments if we put our mind to it. I encourage you all to embrace who you are and to remember your roots. Being Hmong-American, I have had to learn to embrace both Hmong and American cultures. Also, stand up for what you believe is right because you have a powerful tool which you can use to change the world – your voice. Additionally, don’t be afraid to go after your wildest dreams, because life is too short to not aim for your highest potential.
Throughout my life, an important thing I have learned is that anything worthwhile takes sacrifice and a lot of time and effort. You may not see the results right away, but do not give up and eventually your dedication and efforts will be rewarded. It took me almost a decade later after I started my pageant journey to achieve my goal of becoming Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen. This was after many years of acting and modeling classes, coaching by my mother (shout out to my number one supporter!), and several pageants where I placed as a runner up or sometimes did not even place at all. However, if you have a dream and set your mind to it, it is definitely possible. Keep a positive mind set and keep on persisting! Also, wake up each day being grateful. Thank those people in your life who have helped you along your journey and who continue to support you. Lastly, remember that the world is full of endless possibilities so don’t just dream your life, but live your dreams.
Contact info: Feel free to contact me through Instagram at “maoteenwa” or “itstiamoua” and follow my Facebook page “MWAOTeen” for updates on my journey as Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen! Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or appearance requests. Thank you for reading!