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McCowan waves to the audience as she takes her first walk as Miss Kentucky’s Outstanding Teen.

Thanks to her stunning smile, deep commitment to her community, sparkling personality and one truly gorgeous evening gown, Madison McCowan handily took the tiara and was crowned Miss Kentucky’s Outstanding Teen Saturday.

She will compete in the much-celebrated Miss America pageant in Florida in August.

“It was really fun,” McCowan said. “The girls were really nice. It’s hard not to like each other because we have so much in common.”

The victory was the result of months of hard work. Every weekend, McCowan drove to Louisville to take dance classes to prepare for her talent performance, which featured a theatrical jazz dance. She underwent rigorous interview training. And she spent a considerable amount of time getting her platform — the charity Pay It Forward — established.

The competition, at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset, pitted McCowan against 22 other girls. It involved an interview Friday evening and two pageants on Saturday, one in which the girls’ talents were showcased, the other involving the physical fitness, evening gown and on-stage interview categories.

In addition to taking home the title, McCowan also won the community service and physical fitness awards. Her winnings include a $10,000 scholarship from Union College, $9,500 in wardrobe certificates and a $500 scholarship from Images Model and Talent Agency.

The North Laurel High School senior started touring the pageant circuit three years ago, competing first in the Laurel County Homecoming pageant. After winning first runner up, she was immediately hooked.

“It’s just the friendships,” she said. “We are all so close. I guess the media makes us out to be self-centered and catty and we’re really not. We’re all really positive role models.”

For this pageant, McCowan said the eight-minute interview, in which she was asked questions about stem cell research and “Octomom” Nadya Suleman, was challenging.

“But the hardest part would be the on-stage interview because the questions are submitted by the fellow contestants,” she said. “It’s probably the most nerve-wracking part.”

McCowan experienced another tense moment when she fell while practicing on stage before the pageant started. Unhurt but mentally rattled, she took a quick moment to regroup before diving into the competition. Her perseverance paid off, and when she felt the sash drape around her, she was overwhelmed.

“I cried — and then I ate,” she laughed. “I was just really thrilled to be there.”

Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at tkaprowy@sentinel-echo.com.

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