Zion teen earns first runner-up status in Chicago teen pageant
By Judy Masterson firstname.lastname@example.org | @JudyReport October 28, 2013 7:14PM
Niah Sproul, 16, of Zion, carries her trombone during the casual wear phase of the Miss Teen Chicago competition, held Sunday, Oct. 27, at Roosevelt High School in Chicago. Sproul, who was named first runner-up among contestants age 16-19, is a member of the Zion-Benton Township High School Marching Band and Wind Ensemble.| SUBMITTED PHOTO
Updated: December 1, 2013 7:27AM
Niah Sproul of Zion, who took first runner-up in the Miss Teen Chicago pageant this week, has a message for young people who may be feeling insecure about their abilities or their looks: own yourself.
“I’m proud of the body I’m in, of the life I have,” said Sproul, 16. “I’m proud of my family and friends. I feel my life is great the way it is and I don’t need anything or anyone to change it.”
That includes the Miss Teen pageant, which Sproul entered on a whim and the notion “I’ll give it a shot.”
Judges for the pageant, which was held Oct. 27 at Roosevelt High School in Chicago, voted their approval of Sproul’s unapologetic attitude, her self-ease and confidence during the two-day contest that put personality at the forefront. Questions included “What makes you unique?” and “What kind of first impression do you make?”
Sproul, who vied against more than 70 girls ages 16-19, plays trombone in the Zion-Benton Township High School Band and Wind Ensemble, and last winter, she auditioned for the reality TV show “The Voice.” When judges asked where she would be in five years, she answered in school, studying for a career in either law or medicine, which, she told judges, would make her family proud, but more importantly, make her proud.
Asked by another judge for a Plan B, Sproul said she would pursue a career in the music industry. That’s when the judge asked her to sing.
Sproul, who hadn’t prepared a song − the pageant included no talent phase − obliged with a verse from Adele’s yearning “Daydreamer.”
“My nerves kind of took over, so I just kind of stopped,” said Sproul, who after making the final 10 in her age category, was the first to be called upon to answer one last question − different for each finalist.
“Mine was ‘What is your definition of success?’” Sproul said. “I said ‘Being happy with your accomplishments, happy with your goals and happy with your life.”
Sproul, who is also assistant drum major and member of Sister to Sister, a group of African American students who do charity work, is known for her cheerful, outgoing disposition.
“I’m not afraid to laugh and talk with people,” Sproul said. “People ask ‘Why are you so happy in the morning?’ and I’m like, ‘I have no idea.’”
The daughter of Toya and David Sproul of Zion, Niah, who has three younger siblings, walked away from the competition with a large trophy and a $350 gift certificate for a couture prom dress.
“We’re just so incredibly proud of her,” said Toya Sproul. “She has so much energy and confidence. She’s a great role model.”
“You’ve got to be yourself,” Niah said. “Dare to be different. Don’t try to be like anyone else.”
The winner of the Miss Teen Chicago contest was not yet released at press time.