Summerville couple takes reins of state pageant

  • Friday, March 7, 2014

Provided In 2011, Avery Close was crowned Miss Teen South Carolina International. This year contestants from across the state will compete for the South Carolina Miss Teen and Miss crowns April 18 - 19. The registration deadline is March 15.

Ball gowns, interview questions, manicures, hairspray, athletic wear and philanthropy. Well-versed pageant girls know these elements like the back of their hands. But for Rich Carnahan, there was a bit of a learning curve.

“I know nothing about pageants other than what I’ve learned,” he said. Carnahan’s wife, Tiffany, was his teacher; she participated in pageants growing up and after marrying in 2008 decided to get back into the hobby. She was crowned Mrs. South Carolina International in 2013.

That’s when Rich discovered the International Pageants, Inc. brand was something unique.

“I really liked what they stood for. They understand a pageant should come after church, school and family.”

When the Carnahans realized South Carolina’s International Pageant had leadership vacancies, the Summerville couple decided to get involved.

“Let’s show the girls what a pageant system can really be,” Carnahan remembers saying to his wife.

In September 2013, Tiffany, who has a background in nonprofits, became the executive director and Rich, who has worked in marketing and advertising, became the associate director and recruitment manager of Miss Teen and Miss South Carolina International. This year’s pageant, which will take place April 18 – 19 at the Charleston Music Hall, is the couple’s first pageant since beginning the roles.

The pageants cover two age groups: Miss Teen, ages 13 – 18, and Miss, ages 19 – 30. Contestants across the state first register to claim a local title, such as “Miss Teen Summerville” or “Miss Charleston.”

The contestants compete in four areas: interview, fitness wear, fashion runway and evening gown, worth 40, 20, 20 and 20 percent, respectively.

The Miss Teen and Miss South Carolina International are preliminary pageants; once the winners are crowned they will go to Jacksonville, Fla., to compete for the Miss Teen and Miss International crowns, which will be awarded Aug. 2.

The competition is still considered a pageant because “we have glitz and glamour and evening gowns,” Carnahan said, but he doesn’t consider the competition a “beauty pageant” as it’s stereotypically referred to.

“We’re not a bikini and talent competition, we have fitness wear instead to show we promote a healthy lifestyle. We’re looking for well-rounded individuals in our interviews, something more than 13-year-olds parading around in tiny bikinis.

“The International system is really more about celebrating the achievements of the girls that are involved, we are a platform-based system,” Carnahan said. “I don’t even like the term ‘beauty pageant’ because [International is] based on other things like interview skills and achievement.”

The pageant judges are experts in the fields competitors will be judged on, he said, like philanthropy, fitness, etiquette and fashion.

Of all the pageant’s unique elements, Carnahan said his favorite is the end-goal, which is more than just winning a crown.

This year’s winners will each receive a book deal for any genre.

“They will get residuals on that for the rest of their life. And to be a teen and a published author, that’s going to help with going to college, getting into grad school, getting a job…” he said.

The deadline to register is fast approaching and while Carnahan said the competition has had an abundance of enrollment from upstate, there are still plenty of titles available to register within the local area. The final entry deadline is March 15.

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