By Kendal Groner
After entering the pageant world only two years ago, Unicoi County High School freshman Zoie Stout has taken home several titles, two of which were Miss Northeast Tennessee and Miss Christmas Spectacular during a double pageant in January.
“I was very excited and I’m so happy for her,” said Angie Stout, Zoie’s mother. “I know she has the voice and the will to accomplish things she sets her mind to.”
Before working her way up to earning the title of Miss Northeast Tennessee, Stout’s first pageant was Avery’s Angels, a small medical benefit pageant. During the Avery’s Angels Pageant, Stout competed against two other girls and won prettiest dress, prettiest eyes and the princess, or first-runner up title.
“That one was really fun because it really opened a new door for me,” Zoie said.
This past August, Zoie competed in the Fairest of the Fair pageant, and although she didn’t place, she was still recognized as the most photogenic contestant. During a Christmas Pageant she won high point Battle of the Beauty, followed by a big win with Miss Twin City 2017.
“Twin City is Bristol, Tennessee, and Bristol, Virginia, and fortunately I won that title because that’s what really boosted everything from then on,” Zoie said.
Residents of Unicoi County may recognize Stout as Miss Cinderella Unicoi Beauty 2017, Miss Strawberry Festival 2017 and from the Unicoi County Apple Festival where she won the title of Miss Teen Apple Festival 2017.
“I was so nervous for that because it was my first time answering questions on stage, but I was fortunate enough to win that one,” Zoie said.
The question Stout was asked at the Apple Festival was if she could be any famous person for a day, who would she choose.
“I said Sarah Young because I read her Christian devotions every night,” she said.
Stout had to go through an interview process during the Miss Northeast Tennessee and Miss Christmas Spectacular pageant and although she said it was intense, she found it enjoyable.
After winning Miss Christmas Spectacular in the preliminary double pageant, where she was chosen out of 16 competitors, Stout will compete in Miss Tennessee Spectacular in June.
Each pageant takes a great deal of preparation, according to Stout, who is thankful her mom is a hairstylist that is able to assist her with her hair during preliminary pageants.
“The night before there’s a lot of getting stuff together,” Zoie said about competing. “Every pageant has gown wear, but some also have casual wear. The night before and the morning of I have tons of butterflies, but once I’m on stage everything changes and I realize it’s everything I’ve prepared for and wanted to do.”
Along with improving her speaking skills, Zoie said entering the pageant world has allowed her to meet new people and form meaningful friendships.
“I really like meeting new people and you get to meet so many new girls,” Zoie said. “Most of my close friends now have come from pageants. It also builds your self-confidence and self-esteem.”
As soon as she enters a pageant that requires a talent portion, Stout said she is already planning to sign a song in sign language.
“I have about 20 songs completely memorized,” Zoie said. “With sign language, I can talk to some kids that can’t communicate using their mouth. My mom gave me the idea to make it my talent and I’m really excited about it.”
Since beginning to learn sign language, Zoie has taken it upon herself to make efforts to bring sign language into Unicoi County schools. She said she and school officials are discussing the possibility of starting a sign language class at the high school.
Her platform for the class, “Fight Like a Bear,” is inspired by her brother Barrett Stout, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
“That would be really cool if I could accomplish that,” Zoie said about offering sign language at the school. “I think it would be just as helpful as something like French. You can really talk to anyone using sign language.”
In addition to competing in pageants, Stout is a member of the Unicoi County High School track team, cheer team and Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) club. She is also participating in an upcoming production of the play, “Cheaper by the Dozen” with the drama department.
After high school, she has aspirations to attend college and enter the medical field, possibly working with children as a pediatrician. Stout said she truly loves kids, which is exemplified by her volunteer work at the Unicoi County Childcare Center in her spare time.
Stout said she encourages any young girls considering pageants to give it a shot and explore the benefits that can come from participating in the competitions.
“I would say go for it,” Zoie said. “You never know what’s going to happen until you try. I was a softball, basketball girl and now I’m a pageant girl and I love it. It’s so fun and it helps with so many other things. It makes you want to work hard and really get involved.”