Freshman Prides Herself on Pageant Successes


Kitchen’s background in pageantry has taught her many valuable skills. (Courtesy of Emma Kitchen for The Fordham Ram)

When walking through Rose Hill, you may catch a glimpse of Emma Kitchen, FCRH ’26, hanging around campus. It might be a rare sighting, seeing how she balances academics, the Fordham Varsity Dance Team and a social life all in her first year of college. However, she also balances the duties and responsibilities that came with winning Miss West Virginia Teen USA 2022. 

Since she was 14 years old, Kitchen has participated in pageants in West Virginia and has been a trailblazer ever since. “I wanted to be a strong figure in my community,” she said when asked why she started down this path. She came from a small town in West Virginia where everyone knew each other, and wanted to have a positive impact on the people surrounding her. With the title, she knew she could have a platform where she could vocalize her passions and spread awareness about local causes. 

For example, one of Kitchen’s proudest moments involves the West Virginia Fairs and Festivals Organization. Kitchen said that this organization is a huge part of her community and that by participating, “I was able to talk to a lot of younger girls, which I really enjoyed because that’s where my passion is.” 

All of the 80 different festivals have a pageant winner associated with the cause that the festival is being held for. They all come together and compete for the title of Miss Association of Fairs and Festivals. She attended as Miss West Virginia Teen USA to spread positive messages. “I just try to be as relatable and positive as possible and try to encourage them in whatever they want to do.” 

A big part of the message she emulates is to not fall victim to what she calls the “comparison trap.” “It’s very much a skill to see your individuality and what makes you different as a strength rather than a weakness,” she said in regards to the competitive nature of the pageant world. She explained that it took her many years to be able to walk into a room of talented girls and be able to see her own worth. “There is always going to be someone better than you,” she admitted, “and the goal is to do it for you and the joy of the activity.”

She also said she tries to break common stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding the pageant industry. Many people view pageants as superficial and solely based on looks. However, she highly stressed the importance of social work and community engagement. She explained that, “A pageant is very much a job … you have many responsibilities you need to fill.” There are numerous community service engagement opportunities and a social media presence that come along with winning a pageant title. “They set up opportunities to speak at different events, fun runs, fundraisers … you get to meet people and talk to political figures about issues that you think are affecting your state or even your generation.” 

She said being in these competitions has been very beneficial and “they’ve prepared me for job interviews, they’ve taught me how to be comfortable onstage in front of large groups of people and talk under pressure, and they just taught me to hold myself with confidence.” The interview portion of the pageant holds the most value for Kitchen. She says that’s where the judges really get to know the girls and see how they interact with their community. Since the title has commitments outside of just winning, they need to be sure the winner is able to continue their work past the pageant weekend.

Kitchen most recently won the title of Miss Teen Universe USA for the pageant this summer in Peru. She was chosen out of a plethora of pageant winners from the states to be a representative of America. One of the main reasons she was picked was due to her YouTube channel where she posts vlogs and updates about her life. “Being a representative who is well-spoken and has a lot of different ambitions and drives is important.” Her composure and genuine character displayed through her YouTube showed the judges how much she truly cares about the causes she supports through her pageantry.  

Kitchen is very grateful for the skills pageants have given her and knows they will support her in any future endeavors. She plans on passing the torch to the next generation of pageant girls. Although she has already accomplished so much, Kitchen has a bright future ahead of her and many people to inspire.