By SARAH DOOLITTLE, Four Points News
River Place 16-year-old Sydney Palmieri placed in the top 15 in the Miss Texas Teen USA pageant recently, following in the footsteps of her mom, who was crowned Miss Georgia USA in 1996 and Mrs. Texas America in 2004.
As a junior at Hyde Park High School and one of 104 girls competing for the title of Miss Texas Teen USA in Houston Nov. 25-26, Sydney was thrilled for the opportunity to participate in the pageant — her first — despite initial reservations.
“I actually used to be against (pageants)… Why would you put yourself through that?… It’s something you have to go through yourself to understand it really,” said Sydney.
The pageant world is one Sydney grew up familiar with through her mom, Jenny, who is originally from Atlanta.
Rather than participate in a smaller, local pageant for the chance to attend the Miss Texas Teen pageant, Sydney applied “at large” to the statewide pageant and competed under the title Miss Travis County Teen USA 2017.
“Having some practice… would have benefited me,” explained Sydney. She decided, though, to skip the local pageant and to enter at the state level. Or as Sydney put it, “Just jump right in.”
Jumping right in is Sydney’s strength, one she’s cultivated through her other passion, singing.
“She’s been singing for as long as she could make sound,” Jenny said.
“The guys that I sing with are dads,” she said of the band. They perform at the Steiner Ranch Steakhouse one night a week and are, “really cool and have really good insights for me.” (One member of the band is the songwriter of “God Bless the Broken Road” and plans to use Sydney to record new songs this spring.)
Performing live has taught Sydney a lot about self-confidence. “For me, if you have a fear and you conquer it, it’s the best feeling ever.”
Going into the statewide pageant, Sydney knew she would be facing some stiff competition. “(The other girls) are not just pretty; they’re valedictorians, They’re class presidents. I think there’s a common misconception that it’s just a beauty pageant.”
Her mindset entering the pageant: Hope to win. Still, she had no real expectation of winning, “because it’s a very unreasonable goal to go into your first pageant and win.”
Instead she focused on the benefits of the in-depth process. “You really learn a lot more about yourself,” said Sydney, in addition to working with, “an interview coach, a walking coach, a makeup coach.
“One of the hardest things for me,” she said wasn’t applying perfect eyeliner, or walking in six inch heels. “It was learning the dance. I am so uncoordinated!”
Still, she said, she had a secret weapon. “Even if you’re not confident at all and you are freaking out inside, which was me the majority of the time at this pageant… I just acted like I knew what I was doing. The girls all thought I had done it before.”
Former Miss Georgia and Mrs. Texas, Jenny, watched her daughter blossom before her eyes during the process. She is also someone who had judged pageants herself.
“I can tell you from my perspective the growth that I saw in her, that she’s too young to appreciate probably right now,” said Jenny.
Mom and daughter both relished their newfound shared connection: pageants. During the competition Sydney wore a crystal crown pin and ring that her mom received from winning Miss Georgia. “It was the total mother-daughter moment, because she passed that on to me.”
Theirs is a family of many accomplishments. Besides her mom’s titles, Sydney’s dad Cosmo played football for the University of Texas and sister Ryan, a senior at Vandegrift, has a volleyball scholarship to Southern Methodist University.
Though she did not win the title — this time — Sydney maintains a healthy perspective.
“There’s only one winner… The girl who won, her name is Brenna Flynn, she deserved it. It shouldn’t have gone to anyone else. It was her year… I was so happy for her.”
She celebrates instead the opportunity for personal growth. “Even if it sounds super clichéd, the statement ‘Everyone’s a winner’ totally applies in this situation.”
After all, “Different judges like different things… you can’t take it too personally.”
While landing in the top 15 did not come with any prizes, it did include what Sydney’s mom laughingly calls “bragging rights,” as well as “confirmation that your hard work has paid off a little bit.”
“Because if you lose,” said Sydney, “here’s what you gain: You just learn so much about yourself. You just made all these new, amazing friends. (And) you’re in shape.”
Her mom Jenny, looking to the future, dared to make a prediction for Sydney. “My take on it is that if she stays with this, she will win this… I’m 100 percent sure.”