Elle Sauli has been crowned Miss Northern States Jr Teen 2014.
The 13-year-old from Newtown, who will begin her freshman year at Newtown High School this week, won the title during the New England Miss American Coed (MAC) Pageant. The event was held at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua, N.H., August 15-17.
“I was stunned when then said my name,” Elle said this week. “I felt crazy, absolutely insane,” when her title was announced, she added.
“It was a genuine response,” added Natalie Sauli, Elle’s mother, who was nearly as buoyant as her daughter still was when the pair, along with Elle’s younger brother, visited The Bee office on August 20.
The 2014 pageant represented the third time Elle competed in the pageant. It was the first time for her to compete in the Junior Teen division, which pitted her against 13 other girls.
“I didn’t expect anything, especially competing against 16-year-olds, many of whom have already competed for years,” said Elle, who admitted a “sense of satisfaction” with her win. “It was definitely an amazing thing.”
Founded in 1983, MAC pageants and New England American Coed strives “to create a fun and family oriented event,” according to its website. It’s that mission that initially attracted the Saulis to the event.
“This is about self-esteem, and teamwork with your families,” Elle said.
Judges and organizers do not allow a lot of glitz or make-up, said the Saulis.
“Junior Teen and above, you can wear make-up, but younger competitors cannot wear any,” said Natalie Sauli.
“A lot of the competition has to do with your poise when you are being interviewed by the judges, and your interaction in front of the audience,” said Elle. “Formalwear, introduction, and interviews, they all count equally toward your final score.”
Contestants do not participate in a talent competition nor is there a formalwear competition. They do dress up, however.
“Nothing with glitz,” said Elle. When her friends ask, she said, “I tell them ‘This is nothing like Toddlers & Tiaras.’ Think Miss USA, but with younger girls.”
Elle has earned her way up the winner’s ladder with her three entries.
At age 10, she placed third runner-up in the Junior Pre-Teen Division.
“I thought it would be fun to try, something to make friends,” she said, recalling her first event. She and her mother laughed recalling that year’s gown. “It was a second-hand dress we embellished with items from Joanne’s Fabric.”
She waited one year, and then in 2013, Elle competed in the Pre-Teen division. She placed second runner-up.
This year she and her family traveled to New Hampshire with a dress from Marcy’s Tailor Shop in Monroe, which had been professionally altered by Irene Rocha (who, incidentally, tailored a gown for current Miss USA Erin Brady). Elle has also received coaching from Tiffany DelMonico, whom the pageant winner says “really helped” with her presentation.
The pageant was fun, and familiar.
“MAC feels like home to me,” said Elle. “I feel I will definitely compete again.”
Next up, competitively, is the national competition in November. Elle and the other girls in her Sister Queens — the girls who have won titles in their respective New England divisions — will travel to Orlando, Fla., to compete against girls from across the country for national titles.
“That’s a lot of girls, now that I think about it,” Elle said, realizing that she will be facing dozens of competitors in her next pageant challenge. Her win last weekend means her fees to enter to national competition are covered, but additional sponsorship for travel and other expenses is now up to the young title holder.
Meanwhile, she is preparing to start school and is looking forward to her first formal appearance with her crown and sash.
In addition to a cash prize, her title, and the opportunity to advance to nationals later this year, Elle will participate on September 1 in the Newtown Labor Day Parade.
After her daughter won Miss Northern States Junior Teen Title last weekend, Natalie Sauli reached out to the Parade Committee to see if there was room for another participant.
Parade Vice President in Charge of Line-Up Robin Buchanan said having Elle in this year’s parade will be a “hometown proud” addition to the line-up.
“We typically have Miss Connecticut and Miss Connecticut Teen in the parade,” Ms Buchanan said August 21. “We were delighted to hear that we would be able to host Elle, the brand-new Miss American Coed title holder.”
Elle is equally delighted.
“I’m so excited to be meeting Miss Connecticut,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “I was so lucky to get into the parade, I know.”
She and her parents do not yet know who will be providing the convertible that she will ride in for the parade, but Elle is nevertheless looking forward to the day.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to bring this title home to Connecticut,” she said. “I’m so happy.”