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Pennsauken’s UrbanPromise is changing what it means to be in a beauty pageant with its “More Than A Beauty Pageant” event. The pageant was created to teach young girls about confidence and self-esteem, and help them realize their full potential.

UrbanPromise runs two schools, job training, after-school programs and more, all aimed at providing children and young adults with the skills for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth and leadership.

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Photography by Ashely LaBonde, Wide Eyed Studios

The nonprofit will host the pageant in partnership with the Women’s Mentoring Program and the StreetLeader Program. The goal of the pageant is not to choose someone who is the most beautiful, but to show the girls that they are all beautiful. It will be held on Jan. 28 at 7 pm at UrbanPromise Ministries High School. Tickets cost $25.

Twenty-five girls, ages 16 to 18, from UrbanPromise’s various programs will participate in the pageant. They will perform a talent, answer questions from the judges and model a dress and an outfit that represents their personal style.

A few weeks before the pageant, the girls will begin practicing their talents and etiquette in preparation for the show. Motivational speakers, etiquette teachers and other volunteers will speak to the girls about self-esteem and the pageant. Then, they will sleep at the high school the night before the pageant and begin preparing for the show as soon as they wake up. Volunteers will also help on the day of the pageant by donating clothing and doing the girls’ hair and makeup.

This year, UrbanPromise is working to improve the professional aspect of the event, according to Rita Weber, Development Officer of UrbanPromise. Weber said she’s reached out to local, professional businesses for donated services. She is also looking for mentors like moms and businesswomen to speak to the girls about female empowerment.

Weber said it’s important for the girls to participate in this pageant so they can have the opportunity to see positive female role models. She said the girls may not have a woman in their lives to look up to so, it’s important that they come together in a safe environment and support each other.

“We want to give these girls a good base of confidence so that when they go off to college they have a solid self and they have that empowerment already in place,” Weber said.

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