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Westfield senior Keegan Connor reflects on her journey to Miss Indiana’s Teen

Sydney Young

Staff Writer

February 14, 2024

Photo courtesy of Roger Manning

Crowning moment - Keegan Connor accepts the title of Miss Indiana’s Teen after competing in a week-long pageant against 29 other girls.

As the crown was placed on her head, Keegan Connor knew that her years of hard work and dedication were finally worth it.

The 17-year-old student took home the title of Miss Indiana’s Teen on June 17, 2023. Since then, she has been working relentlessly to make her state proud. Connor has been competing in pageants through the Miss America Opportunity for five years.

“When I first started in pageantry, I really expected it to be a beauty pageant,” senior Keegan Connor said. “Through the Miss America Opportunity, I found that it was completely the opposite. Yes, we wear nice dresses and we all get done up, but at the same time it’s really all about being a passionate and driven woman and finding the social impact you want to have on people.”

Connor, who dreams of performing on Broadway, began participating in pageants to strengthen her performance skills. The talent portion allowed her to showcase her singing as well as become more comfortable on stage. 

“She is a triple threat,” theater director Lance Grubb said. “In all that she does, she puts 100% into, whether it’s the acting, the dancing, the singing. She’s always been super coachable. I like to say that if students are coachable, then they can do anything and achieve their goals.”

Competing has played a pivotal role in growing her confidence, especially as she begins the process of auditioning for musical theater programs at various colleges. However, pageants have been much more than a platform to grow her talents.

“After I went through a few local competitions and even went to state, I found out that I really stayed for the sisterhood,” Connor said. “It really meant a lot to me, especially since I only have one brother, to have this outlet of amazing women to surround myself with.”

The Miss America Opportunity pageants contain multiple sections, including talent, interview, evening gown, onstage question, and fitness. While the talent portion has always been one of Connor’s favorites, she found that the interview also became a highlight over time because it gave her a space to talk about her scoliosis platform.

“When I was 13, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis with a 48-degree curve,” Connor said. “I created my nonprofit called Keegan Cares that advocates for scoliosis awareness. I have my own website with a flyer that points out the recognizable signs of scoliosis, and I am also working with two bipartisan representatives to get my scoliosis screenings bill, the Keegan Cares Bill, into legislation to get scoliosis checks reinstated in Indiana schools.”

Connor has also spoken with doctors and researchers and presented in schools across the state. Pageants have created many possibilities for her, but it hasn’t always been easy. The road to becoming Miss Indiana’s Teen was challenging, but the work didn’t stop after she won. 

“When I was first crowned Miss Indiana’s Teen, I felt a lot of pressure, mainly from myself,” Connor said. “I had such a standard for myself, especially thinking about the people that came before me. There’s always comparison in the pageant world no matter what. At the same time though, I felt relieved when I won because I had a feeling that this was my year, and I knew I had ideas and things to run with.”

Despite Connor’s positive mindset, it can still be difficult for her to handle all the stress that comes with competing. Fortunately, her loving family has been by her side throughout her years of pageantry.

“I try to support her with things like giving her positive affirmations and pep talks before each competition or appearance,” Connor’s mother Sheryl Matthys said. “We even pray, not that she wins over someone else, but that she has clarity in her thoughts and strength and in her energy to just be her and let that shine.”

Overall, pageants have given Connor countless opportunities to use her voice and make a difference in the world. Not only has her confidence grown, but she has also learned what it truly means to be passionate.

“You should always pursue your passions and go after your dreams,” Connor said. “As silly or as big your dreams may seem, you should never stop chasing them.”

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