Camden's Mara Carpenter is Miss Maine Teen USA

By Susan Mustapich | Dec 06, 2018
Photos by: Creative Sparks Imagery Mara Carpenter of Camden is Miss Maine Teen USA for 2019.

CAMDEN — When Mara Carpenter watched the cable show "Toddlers and Tiaras" with her sister for fun, little did she know that she would someday be the winner of a pageant.

But that is exactly what happened in November, when the Camden Hills Regional High School senior was crowned 2019 Miss Maine Teen USA in Portland. Carpenter is the first young woman from Knox County to hold the title.

Until last year, she had never even entered a pageant. In 2017, she entered the Miss Maine Teen USA competition with no experience and won first runner-up.

Carpenter discovered the Miss Teen USA pageant on Google, when an ad popped up. She told her mom she thought it would be fun and decided to enter.

She went to the pageant last year with no coaching. While she had her family's support, they didn't know anything about pageants, she said. "We're known for a long history with Trekkers. My whole family's involved with it. We're not pageant people, we're very outdoorsy," she said

Carpenter admits she is not as outdoorsy as others in her family. What attracted her to Miss Teen USA was the fact that it was a new experience. At first she went into it thinking it would be dramatic, because that is the stereotype society sets up.

She found it "really isn't like that at all." Instead, she learned, "it's a sisterhood. It's all of us coming together, and supporting each other," she said.

Miss USA promotes “confidently beautiful” as its motto, Carpenter said. She explained it's not about worrying about being the perfect size, or how pretty you are, or being like the last title holder. The organizers are not looking for another Erin McPherson [2018 Miss Maine Teen USA], "and next year they won't be looking for another me," she said. "They are looking for someone who can uphold themselves with confidence and who has communication skills," she said.


She pointed out that the Miss USA, Miss Universe hashtag is “be more than pretty.” For Carpenter, there is a lot more to the organization than the stereotype that the pageant is just about looks. She has been told by people that if you do pageants, you don't respect yourself. She believes that if more people looked into all the things that are involved, they would see that that is not true.Part of the process is being interviewed by a panel of five judges. Carpenter was asked how she feels about kids dropping out of high school, and who she is as a person.


She said she believes that the private interview with the judges, which is not in front of a camera, set her apart. Part of what set her apart was that she was able to laugh with the judges, and have a normal conversation, she said. When they asked what set her apart from the other contestants, she told them, "It's because I'm genuine. I'm not here for the crown, and the sash, and the glam and getting the photo shoots. Obviously that's nice, but the main thing that sets me apart is I came into this knowing that I have a platform, and responsibility, and I will be a voice for people around me that don't have this platform. I can better my community. That's what I focused on, going into the interview, and I wanted to get that message across. And I did."


She didn't focus as much on her accomplishments. "It's not about what you've done. It's about what you're going to do," she said.


In 2018, at the two-day Miss Maine Teen USA and Miss Maine USA pagent at the Marriott Sable Oaks in Portland, Carpenter knew what to expect, and was more relaxed.


She had coached with a team of contestants throughout the year. She kept in contact with the friends she had made at the pageant in 2017, and made new friends at the 2018 pageant. She came out of the preliminaries feeling confident and empowered, and knowing she had rocked it, she said. The feeling of being called as one of the top 10, and then the top five contestants was exciting and rewarding, she said.


While she found the on stage question, in front of the cameras, a little intimidating, and felt she didn't do her best, she felt the judges would remember her interview, and stayed confident, put her shoulders back, and remembered to breathe. The final question on stage is something people can work on, she said, but having a personality is something you can't change for the judges.


The question she was asked on stage was "What do you think about role models and social media influencers today?"


Her answer was that she thinks the types of people we now have around us are amazing. We have diverse people in every single aspect. We have the youngest congresswomen. We're breaking stereotypes, we're breaking glass ceilings. We should be proud of where we are as a country right now, because we've gone through all these changes, especially in the last few years. Some things are good and some are bad, but all the people around us are so supportive, famous or not. It's just amazing how far our country has come.


"People can complain about the negative all they want. And when we complain we want to either protest or push for what we need in this country. But I try to focus on the positive," she said.


Going forward, Carpenter is looking forward to all of the work she will do for the community and nonprofit organiations as Miss Maine Teen USA. Her first few events are leading the Dec. 1 holiday parade in Skowhegan, a teddy bear tea party at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, where she will read to children, and work with Best Buddies, an organization that supports children with Down Syndrome.

Carpenter, who wants to at least earn her bachelor's degree in nursing and go on to earn her master's to become a clinical nurse specialist, is the very definition of "more than just pretty."

Comments (1)
Posted by: Heidi Ruth Locke | Dec 09, 2018 07:47

Mara has always been an exceptional person. So proud of one of my former 4th grade student’s at South School, many moons ago!

Congratulations! I can’t wait to see the great things you will accomplish in the future.

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