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Miss Texas 2012 contestants stand on stage. Photo courtesy of Miss Texas Facebook page.

Tuesday evening, I found myself in the audience at the Miss Texas 2013 preliminary competition.

Full disclosure: one of my best friends is a contestant (hint: she was formerly Miss Allen). I promised her she could count on me to cheer her on at least one night of the pageant, so there I was at the Miss Texas talent portion of the contest—sitting among pageant moms donning t-shirts with their daughters' faces, holding glittery posters and watching nervously as their contestants sang ballads, danced jazz routines and recited monologues in hopes of winning the crown.

I'll share with you another personal detail: I am not a pageant girl. I'm not a tomboy by any means, either; I was a dancer for 15 years and a trained vocalist. But the Miss Texas pageant is extremely entertaining, no matter how much (or little) you can identify with your inner pageant girl.

And, it's a subsidiary of a legitimate, widely-respected organization. Winning the Miss Texas pageant is the official prerequisite to the Miss America scholarship pageant, to be held in 2014. (Now, Miss America is not to be confused with the Miss USA competition, run by the Miss Universe organization). The Miss America organization is the largest scholarship provider to women in the world. According to the website, the Miss America Organization and its state and local organizations provided more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance in 2012. Not too shabby.

Many view pageants as events glorifying excess (big hair, expensive gowns, tanning beds, etc.). I'm reminded of the flick "Miss Congeniality" where Sandra Bullock's character says about entering a beauty pageant as an undercover cop, "I'm not gonna parade around in a swimsuit like some airhead bimbo that goes by the name, what, Gracie Lou Freebush and all she wants is world peace?"

Granted, we've seen some pageant queens get tongue-tied in the past, but I can honestly say that, in my experience, Miss Texas contestants are talented, beautiful and intelligent. In their on-stage questions, young women spoke about their platforms, advocating for everything from Parkinson's disease research to anti-bullying efforts. Each of the contestants has taken time out of their personal schedules to present their platform to elementary school students all over the state.

It seemed to me that these women truly care about the future of our state and country. And it's admirable that they work so hard for scholarships. It's difficult to imagine spending the time and money necessary to prepare for the competition for any other reason than personal betterment—that's something I can get behind.

The competition is going on all week long at the Allen Event Center, and I'd highly suggest it as a mother-daughter activity. Wednesday evening contestants will be answering on-stage questions, Thursday is evening gown and fitness competition. The finals are Friday and Saturday evening. You can purchase tickets here.

If you need another reason to go, remember this: North Texas natives have historically done well in Miss Texas. The last four winners have hailed from Ennis, Coppell, Fort Worth and Southlake. 

You can find Dallas-Fort Worth area "Miss" contestants below and a list of Miss Texas "Outstanding Teen" contestants here. Which one is your favorite? (Go Miss Limestone County!)

Miss Texas 2013 Contestants 

Miss Allen, Risa Mitchell

Miss Arlington, Michelle Hanson

Miss Carrolton, Brittney Bennett

Miss Dallas, Monique Evans

Miss Denton County, Kelsey Conrad

Miss DFW, Christine Tang

Miss Duncanville, Lakesha Clark

Miss Fairview, Whitney Wylie

Miss Fort Worth, Rachel Garrett

Miss Frisco, Kate Samuelson

Miss Kaufman Co, Emily Falkenberg

Miss Keller, Kaylee Killingsworth

Miss Limestone County, Keli Kryfko

Miss Mansfield, Shelby Marston

Miss North Texas, Ivana Hall

Miss Plano, Megan Clark

Miss South Dallas, Suzanne Mills

Miss Southlake, Taylor Lowery

Miss Tarrant County, April Zinober