Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

McNary student helping redefine ‘pageant girl’

McNary High School senior Brandi Urban was named Oregon’s American Miss queen in May and will represent the state at the national pageant in November. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
McNary High School senior Brandi Urban was named Oregon’s American Miss queen in May and will represent the state at the national pageant in November. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

At 17, Brandi Urban has achieved something a lot of people spend much of their lives seeking: self-confidence.

Being named Oregon’s National American Miss in May was just part of the journey.

“I had a queen from another pageant take me under her wing the first time I competed. That helped me through the first year, and it was a big part of the reason I had so much fun. Now I get to do that for other girls,” Urban said.

Urban has competed in the National American Miss (NAM) pageant since her sixth grade year and won the crown and the title for the first time this year. She also scooped up awards for Cover Girl, Most Volunteer Service, Best Thank You Letter, Most Recommendations, Most Ticket Sales, Portfolio Award, Spirit of America and Outstanding Participation.

The volunteer service award is one she’s particularly proud of given her high level of involvement with Eagles Auxiliary 2255 fundraisers and charity drives, as a counselor for Outdoor School, and as official team photographer for the Salem Spartan rugby team.

“It was a surprise to learn that they were actually awarding it based off volunteer service during the prior three years, but I’d always used one year’s worth of service and still won it,” Urban said.

As the youngest of five siblings, Urban spent most of her younger years trailing them and her parents from activity to activity while searching for her own identity. She chose the NAM pageant precisely because it was so unlike anything her older brothers or sister had done.

Her mom, Crystal, balked at the idea at first, but watching Brandi deliver her introduction during her first NAM competition was all she needed to cross over to enthusiast.

“She was the quiet one, never causing a ruckus, never asking for anything and, after that very first pageant, she started having an opinion and speaking up for herself,” Crystal said. “When I heard she had to get up on stage and give her personal introduction, I almost passed out. I didn’t recognize her. She started showing me that she’s okay with who she is and I’ve grown to really appreciate that.”

Since winning the crown, Urban has participated in a few parades with more to come, will attend the Washington state pageant as visiting royalty and even had a one-on-one talk with Rep. Kurt Schrader.

“It was really interesting to get to know a congressman as a person after learning all about what they do in school,” Urban said.

All of it will lead up to competing for the National American Miss title in Anaheim, Calif., in November. She’s hoping to earn Cover Girl honors there by selling ads for the program. She achieved the feat in the Oregon’s state pageant by collecting more than $4,200 in donations averaging about $20 each.

More than that, she’s hoping to win the service award. As part of her attempt, she’s planning a dress collection event for Abby’s Closet, a non-profit that supplies evening wear for girls who might not otherwise be able to afford attire for proms and other high school social events.

“I’ve gotten most of my dresses from Abby’s Closet and always give them back after I’m through with them,” Urban said. “Every girl is beautiful no matter the age, race or size. It’s about who you are inside and out. I want to show that to other girls, and doing this for Abby’s Closet is a way to spread that message.”

She’s hoping to collect 1,000 dresses with the event that isn’t quite prepped for scheduling yet. She’s also looking forward to a planned outing with the other contestants in November that will take the group out into the community to feed the homeless.

Urban is aware she doesn’t quite fit the stereotype of the pageant queen, but that’s part of her plan as well. After all, knowing how one defies the norm – and being accepting of it – is the first step toward possessing any amount of self-confidence.

“I can look at myself and say I did something, and now I can talk to other girls and you can do the same thing, or more,” Urban said.

To sponsor Brandi in her bid for cover girl at the national pageant, contact Crystal at 503-910-7953.