Arts & Culture
Lehi teens to compete at state pageant
The Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen competition is less than a month away and Lehi has not one, but four remarkable young women, including a set of sisters, competing for the title. For two days, Feb. 24-26, Annabelle McKinnon, Savana Brown, Desiree McKinnon and Chloe Baines will be onstage at the Covey Center for the Arts in Provo showcasing what they’ve learned and practiced over the last year.
Annabelle McKinnon, currently serving as Miss Lehi’s Outstanding Teen, competed for the title three times before winning. “This program has given me so much confidence and shown me what it means to truly be outstanding,” said Annabelle.
Annabelle’s favorite part of the Outstanding Teen program is the Social Impact Initiative (SII). Each candidate in the Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen program writes a statement describing an issue they’re passionate about. Title holders base their year of service around that issue as their Social Impact Initiative. Annabelle McKinnon created an adaptive theater program at the Lehi Arts Center for children and young adults with disabilities, Stage for Everyone, for her SII.
“We were able to put on the show ‘Disney Spectacular’ last year. I am so grateful for this experience – it has been amazing,” said Annabelle. Each cast member with special needs had a stage buddy to help them with lines, choreography and props. The Lehi Arts Center donated the space, T-shirts, props, sound and lighting for the show. The performances raised more than $2300.She’s already started rehearsals for the next Stage for Everyone production, ‘Bugz’ with performances scheduled for Feb. 3-5 at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. “I hope to more than double the amount I’m able to donate to the arts here in Lehi with this upcoming show,” Annabelle declared.
The excitement for the Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen competition outweighs the nerves for Annabelle McKinnon. “I’m very excited to get close with the amazing girls competing,” she said. “This program has helped me grow so much and I’m excited to show Utah the things I can do.”
Savana Brown was crowned Miss Lehi’s Outstanding Teenduring the height of the pandemic in 2020. Her title this year is Miss Pioneer Valley’s Outstanding Teen, and she gets to be on the Covey Center stage once again for a shot at Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen.
“Before my experience with this program I was incredibly shy,” Savana recalled. “I would not talk to ANYONE. Now I am able to hold a conversation, give a presentation and even stand in front of adults asking me tough questions.”
Savana’s favorite part of being a titleholder is the Social Impact Initiative. She took inspiration from her little brother Lincoln for her SII This is Me, I Am Not My Disability. “Lincoln was born with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus. He’s mentally and physically delayed. At 12 years-old he uses forearm crutches to walk, and he often gets left behind or forgotten in the excitement of recess at his elementary school,” Savana explained. “My goal is to get everyone to see Lincoln and others like him as people rather than a disabled person. Yes, they have a disability, but that disability should not be their defining factor.”
Savana’s favorite part of Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen is the fashion show before the judged categories of the competition. This year’s theme is ‘Through the Decades’ and Savana will be in a 1970s get-up. “I absolutely love the ‘70s style and the piece I’m wearing definitely shows that,” she said. “The fashion show is always really fun because it’s a time we can all be goofy and not have the stress of the competition.”
“My first experience with Miss Lehi’s Outstanding Teen was watching my older sister compete,” remembered Desiree McKinnon, sister and second attendant to Miss Lehi’s Outstanding Teen, Annabelle McKinnon. Desiree is currently Miss Timpanogos’ Outstanding Teen and will compete for the state title this year.
“I told myself that I would never do a pageant and never wear an evening gown but watching my role model on that stage changed my mind,” Desi continued. “All the prep and work that went into it was so much fun! The girls in the pageant were a huge blessing to me and I am so glad I became such good friends with them.” Desi’s talent is ventriloquism, a performance that never fails to surprise and delight the judges and the audience.
Desiree’s calls her SII “Project Lift.” She and her Dad assembled a group of friends to perform acts of service for families and individuals who have been nominated. They show up for work or to present a check in a parade of 4×4 vehicles. “My Dad is a 4×4 fanatic and loves to work on our Jeep. It’s basically his sixth child,” she laughs. Desi is also an ambassador for the non-profit organization “Heart to Home.” As part of that group she has painted, cleaned, organized and given Christmas presents to families in need.
“I have become so much more confidant in who I am and what I can become because of the Miss Outstanding Teen program,” said Desi. “The state pageant will be a new experience for me. I’m lucky to be able to do this with my sister and other amazing people I love and who care for me.”
Chloe Baines was crowned First Attendant at the 2021 Miss Lehi’s Outstanding Teen competition and currently serves as Miss Traverse Mountain’s Outstanding Teen. “I had so much fun with all the girls that I made the decision to run for Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen,” she said.
Chloe chose Read to Succeed, Educational Inclusivity for her SII because of her own struggle with dyslexia. “I felt worthless and outcast in elementary school when I was taken out of class to get help with reading,” she remembered. “There are so many ways to help students with dyslexia without singling them out and separating them from their classmates. These tips and tricks help all students, not just the ones struggling to read and write.”
Chloe volunteers at the Lehi Literacy Center twice a week. “Volunteering is truly the highlight of my week. The kids are so determined and confident. I enjoy watching them achieve their goals,” she said. Chloe is hosting a book drive for local refugees right now.
“My favorite part of the competition is the onstage question. Even though it’s probably the most nerve-racking part for me, I love getting to walk out on stage in a beautiful dress and express my feelings to the audience and judges,” said Chloe. “I also can’t wait to see the girls and what they come up with for the fashion show the night before the competition.”