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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

City Teen Wins the 2005 National American Miss Massachusetts Teen Talent Crown

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, July 21, 2005

Tonia O'Brien, 17, of North Adams, plans to compete in a National American Miss pageant in November.
North Adams – Tonia O’Brien, 17, of 78 Brickyard Court, sang her heart out at the National American Miss 2005 Miss Massachusetts Pageant earlier this month – and won the pageant’s Miss Massachusetts Teen Talent competition.

“I was so nervous that when they called the first runner-up, I thought that she was the winner,” said O’Brien during a July 21 interview. “I realized that I’d won when they handed me the big trophy.”

The talent event win means that O’Brien is eligible to compete in a scheduled November National American Miss Pageant in Anaheim, Calif. for the title of National All-American Miss.

O’Brien said that she plans to enter the national event, and is hoping for some community support.

“I really need sponsors,” she said.

Sponsors Needed

The pageant regulations require state-level pageant contestants to compete for the overall state title, and also recognizes the winners of several competition categories, including talent, spokesmodel, actress, most photogenic, and sportswear. The national event allows contestants to compete in selected categories, and O’Brien said that she will compete in the national talent event.

But she would like a chance to compete for the overall title.

“If I had enough sponsors, I could try for the full title,” she said.

Pageants are loaded with expenses that contestants must meet, many of which are associated with the gowns and other clothing the entrants appear in during the competitions. There is also a pageant entry fee and travel and lodging costs. Information about the pageant is available at the www.namiss.com and www.namiss.com/askabbie/ Internet web sites.

First Pageant, First Win

O’Brien’s chances at a national win may be better than one might think; the talent title was won during O’Brien’s first foray into the pageant world.

“This was my first pageant and I came back a winner,” she said. “I really didn’t enter to win; I’d heard a lot about pageants and I wanted to see what it was really like. I really just went to have a good time.”

The event hosted four age-specific competitions: Princess, Junior Teen, Pre-Teen, and Teen. O’Brien competed against about 60 girls in the Teen division. A young woman from Fitchburg, Mass. won the overall crown, O’Brien said.

O’Brien sang a song she wrote with musician/songwriter Jack Waldheim titled “Break the Drive-Wheel” at the July 16-18 state event, which was hosted at a Sheraton hotel in Danvers, Mass.. She sang the original song followed by the National Anthem during a July 21 Cal Ripken Youth Baseball League championship game at the Bud Anderson Field in Williamstown; the local Cal Ripken league was one of O’Brien’s sponsors for the state pageant.

Going For It

The Drury High School senior has already shown that she possesses the moxie to pursue her dreams; last year, she was one of hundreds of hopefuls who auditioned for the “American Idol” television program. While the audition didn’t result in a spot on the program, the experience did give O’Brien an idea of how challenging a singing career can be. The challenges act as inspiration, she said.

O’Brien is presently recording an as-of-yet untitled CD that is scheduled for a March release. She and Waldheim are reviewing about 18 songs for the recording sessions; about 13 songs will be recorded, O’Brien said.

Family Matters

Her mother, Nellie Gifford, is tremendously supportive of O’Brien’s pursuits, O’Brien said.

“She’s so proud, and she spends so much time helping me, with shopping for the pageant and stuff. I could not do any of it without her.”

A strong family presence was integral to O’Brien’s success at the state pageant, she said.

Her brother Craig Gifford, 10, was in the audience, as was her sister Gayle O’Brien, 31, who traveled from England to watch O’Brien perform.

“[Craig] bought me a crown while we were there and it was so cute,” O’Brien said. “And my sister, she lives in England and she came to see me, too, and that was so awesome.”

Confidence Fits in a Suitcase

Gowns, make-up, hair baubles and suitcases are not the only items that O’Brien intends to carry to the Anaheim pageant.

“I’m taking along the idea that I am not doing this for judges, I am doing this for myself,” she said. “I’ll bring my confidence.”

And with one pageant and one title under her belt, O’Brien said she’ll bring something else along.

“Now, I can bring experience,” she said.

Anyone interested in sponsoring Tonia O’Brien for the National American Miss pageant may contact Nellie Gifford or O’Brien at 413-664-9527.

Susan Bush may be reached by e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.

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