ANAHEIM, California – Once upon a time before COVID-19, in a land far, far away, a little girl from the New River Valley arrived on a flight to Hollywood. Having prepared an original speech titled, “My Favorite Character Trait: Kindness,” Blacksburg second-grader Elizabeth Black took the stage at the National American Miss (NAM) Pageant and placed in the top 5 in the United States for the Princess Spokesmodel category.
Elizabeth had earned her slot in the national pageant in California by securing the top interview score among the contests from all over the commonwealth and finishing as the runner-up on the Queen’s Club at the qualifying pageant in Reston.
Hundreds of girls from around the country convened at the Anaheim Marriott across from Disneyland for the week-long event. As a naturally friendly and outgoing person, Elizabeth enjoyed meeting a diverse group of people and making new friends, each with her own story of how she reached the national pageant.
Joelle Shenk of JoELoe Productions worked one-on-one with Elizabeth to refine her speech and perfect her delivery ahead of the national competition. "Elizabeth is a talented, kind, hard-working fireball,” Shenk said. She is “a lovely combination for a theatre student. I’ve had the joy of working with Elizabeth on multiple occasions, but preparing for her pageant, I saw her take hold of the material to not only make it sharp, but make it her own. I love seeing those moments in the children I work with. The moment where they recognize their own creativity and get excited to show it to the world. Keep going, Elizabeth!"
National American Miss’s slogan is “Growing Confidence,” and the pageant prides itself on offering girls an opportunity to develop stage presence, communications skills and poise through a number of competitions that include personal introduction, formal wear and interview. NAM rules require contestants in elementary school to refrain from wearing any noticeable makeup, so the focus remains on how each girl commands the stage, interacts with others and presents herself to the judges. The judges hailed from various backgrounds including the entertainment industry, modeling, academia and corporate leadership.
“What attracted us to this pageant system is the focus on community service and the encouragement for each girl to be her genuine self, whether that means showcasing her interest in sports, the arts or something else,” said Elizabeth’s mother, Sarah Black. “Girls are asked to provide their grades from school and be ready to discuss their goals and how they plan to reach them.
“Elizabeth worked so diligently and made the most of the opportunity she earned,” Elizabeth’s mother said. “She was proud to represent our beautiful region of Southwestern Virginia and our home of Blacksburg on stage.” Sarah believes Elizabeth’s humility and sincere concern for others combined with her upbeat personality and ability to connect with an audience contributed to her success. Elizabeth completed her volunteer hours at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Blacksburg where she and her family are parishioners.
Elizabeth is the daughter of Jonathan and Sarah Black, and she and her older sister, Emily, and younger brother, Ethan, are all students at Kipps Elementary School. Emily achieved a similar accomplishment at NAM in 2017. Elizabeth received support not only from her parents but also from her extended family in Illinois and Pennsylvania. She is the reigning Miss Blacksburg until the next pageant season begins in the fall.