Sophomore Despina Ades, who will turn in her Miss D.C. Teen USA crown this December, made it all the way to the Miss Teen USA competition this August. Hatchet reporter Emily Holland talked with Ades about ditzy pageant-girl stereotypes, celebrity treatment at Miss Teen USA, and balancing work and play as a pageant queen.
HATCHET: You’re from Chicago. How did you make the transition from Chicago pageantry to D.C.?
ADES: I mean the transition, well, being a freshman and preparing for Miss D.C. Teen USA was absolutely horrendous, to an extent. And joining Greek Life, too, because I’m in Chi Omega, it was difficult, but everything was really all about time management. So instead of going out to dinner with my friends, I’d have to go to the gym, which is really not fun, but obviously, it was worth it in the end.
HATCHET: How is D.C. pageantry different from your competitions in Illinois?
ADES: Well, obviously, here, you’re asked a lot of more politically based questions. I wouldn’t say it’s a huge difference, honestly, besides, like, the type of competitors that you have. In Illinois, at least, because it’s a lot bigger, you have a little bit bigger of a pageant industry than you do in D.C., but it’s still nothing like the pageant states like Tennessee and Texas or anything, so it wasn’t that hard of a shift.
HATCHET: How crazy was the actual experience of the Miss Teen USA pageant?
ADES: Well, imagine getting off a plane in the Bahamas to have a limo waiting for you, and then to basically be treated like a celebrity for a week, complete with security everywhere you went. Being at Miss Teen USA at the Atlantis [Resort] in the Bahamas was absolutely incredible. Even though we were on about four hours of sleep each night, we made the most of the experience.
HATCHET: What is your ritual before a competition?
ADES: First, it’s all about staying true to yourself. I know this is going to sound like a broken record, but it can get really easy to lose yourself, and you’re like, “Okay, I’m competing against 49 other girls,” and you go, “Oh, her hair is longer than mine,” or “Her legs are skinnier than mine,” or “She’s tanner than me,” and it’s just like, “Really? No.” Ultimately, at the end of the day, I think that you are your biggest competition, because they want the girl that’s the leader.
HATCHET: How is the typical pageant-girl stereotype being combated nowadays?
ADES: There’s actually very few “pageant girls” that fit into that stereotype, but those are the ones that end up having the million YouTube hits, so I think that’s kind of sad. There’s so many of us like me. I’m a GW student, I’m a double major, and that’s my main priority. I only have a year being Miss D.C. Teen USA and I just think it’s about, you know, I’m just Despina. I think that having smarter and more well-rounded girls be the leaders is also inspiring the young girls to start competing.
HATCHET: Where do you see yourself going in the future?
ADES: In the immediate future, I know that I have to give up my crown in December, so I am looking forward to getting to be a normal college student for a little while. I’ll finally be able to eat some of that Whole Foods mac and cheese! As far as life goals go, I want to be a diplomat, so after graduating from GW, I’ll go to law school. I also want to join the Peace Corps, so I’ll have that for two years, which I’m really looking forward to.