Her crowning moment

Senior Allie Graves crowned Miss Texas’ Outstanding Teen

Photo+courtesy+of+Allie+Graves.+
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Her crowning moment

Photo courtesy of Allie Graves.

Photo courtesy of Allie Graves.

Photo courtesy of Allie Graves.

Photo courtesy of Allie Graves.

Story by Addison Cross, editor in chief

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39 contestants, then 12, then five, and then there was one. Senior Allie Graves was given a new life on Friday, June 28. A life she had been waiting on since she was a child. 

“I was in the Lone Star princess program, and so I always saw girls get crowned, my mentors were in the [Miss America] Organization, but It wasn’t until eighth grade, going into freshman year that I actually started competing in the [Miss America’s Outstanding] Teen organization,” Graves said. 

Graves was crowned Miss Texas’ Outstanding Teen 2019. Graves competed against 38 other girls, but decided to take a new approach to the pageant this year that eventually landed her on top. 

“I wasn’t worrying about the diets, I wasn’t worrying about, you know, all these exterior things. I was more worried about ‘Where’s my heart at? Do I really want this?’” Graves said. “In the beginning, I was like, ‘I really don’t know if I want to do this’…but I was taking for granted all the opportunities that come through this organization.”

Finding herself in the journey was the most important step, according to Graves. Her goal was to make this competition as real and honest as possible. 

“So, the only thing that I really did different this year was I just offered myself, and that was going to be enough, and it just happened,” Graves said.

I just offered myself, and that was going to be enough”

— Allie Graves

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Her honesty even carried over into the moment she won, as Graves refused to give the audience a rehearsed reaction if she was crowned. 

“There’s so many girls that fake their reaction and everything, but I felt like a cloud was like put over my head. Like, it wasn’t real. I didn’t even [imagine] during rehearsals, that could be me,” Graves said. “I just was overwhelmed and in shock.”

Graves wasn’t the only person in shock, however. Her parents and director collapsed to the ground, overwhelmed with pride and surprise. Graves, in a stupor, wasn’t even sure where she should walk. 

“It didn’t feel real at all, like I had people that had to push me to places to know what to do,” Graves said. “And It’s just now that being in Texarkana feels real.”

While Graves does admit that she looks forward to facials and teeth whitening, the whole reason behind her wearing the crown and sash is to advance her platform, What Love Can Do, based on her own personal story with childhood abuse and adoption. 

“I think that everybody has a story, not necessarily abused, but divorced parents, being bullied, everybody has some sort of low in their life,” Graves said. “And that’s kind of why I love just ‘What Love Can Do’… I make sure that kids know that they should be a priority as far as it goes as protecting [them], and they should be protected in the house, they should be made a priority and they should be loved.” 

Although Graves now has the opportunity to share her experience with the entire state of Texas, she doesn’t plan to abandon the work she’s started at Texas High. 

“I actually have talked to the TISD Board of Trustees, and it was like counselors and everything, as to what my situation was,” Graves said. “It’s just making people aware of this story, not being ashamed because a big part of how I see things, my perspective, is based on this story.”

Graves uses tools she’s picked up on and the resources around her to help advocate against child abuse and for the foster care system.

“[A big part is] continuing to tell my story, especially during months like May and April, that are, you know, awareness or prevention months,” Graves said. “One thing that I’ve done specifically with older people is the idea of a ‘trust triangle,’ from an organization based in Florida. You have three people that you memorize who they are, so in case you’re in a situation where you know you’re not safe, then you can go to them, or you can tell them about it.”

Furthering the work in schools, Graves also focuses on making sure teachers know signs of abuse so that they can also help. 

“[I] also equip educators and teachers and principals and everybody to say if you’ve seen any warning signs of kids being physically or emotionally abused, you need to take action, because this is an avoidable problem,” Graves said. “And especially being in Texarkana where there’s so many sex trafficking circles between Little Rock and Dallas, it is my mission to start in schools.”

Above the platform and the title and the crown, however, she is still a 17-year-old girl. 

Photo courtesy of Miss Texas’ Outstanding Teen Organization.

 

“This title has changed everything. I have an agent and sponsors,” Graves said. “The scholarships, the opportunities, experiences, and the refinement of character, all of that I just look forward to because I have been like praying for a change, not necessarily like a title. But I just got so stagnant in the way that I was like living and so I’m really excited to see all the changes and how I end up at the end of the year.”

According to Graves, the best part has been being able to see herself in the young girls she encounters. 

“Somebody came by and they had their daughter and granddaughter with them. I had my crown and sash on and we were taking pictures,” Graves said. “That reminded me of myself because I was in that spot, like looking at these girls like, ‘Whoa, they’re so cool, she’s a princess and she lives in a castle,’ like that little moment where she was getting out of the car taking pictures, those little moments have meant the most to me and kind of like, shocked me into like, the reality of what this title means.”

In addition to winning Miss Texas’ Outstanding Teen, Graves also received the award for Preliminary Talent, Overall Talent, Miss Congeniality and tied for first place in College Interview. She will compete at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen July 23-27. 

“Three weeks until Miss America[‘s Outstanding Teen],” Graves said. “That’s not real…  But I think [MAOT] is something that I’m really looking forward to. Especially being like a Texarkana girl representing in… a national competition is again really, really crazy.”

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