Belhaven native crowned Miss NC High School America

Published 4:15 pm Monday, January 22, 2024

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For Washington Daily News 

In a display of talent, poise and determination, Mia Paniagua of Belhaven, North Carolina, was recently crowned Miss North Carolina High School America 2024 at the pageant held on Jan. 14th in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Paniagua, a sophomore at Pungo Christian Academy, is not just a beauty queen; she’s a multi-talented individual who excels in sports and academics. Her journey into the world of pageantry began at the age of five when her mom’s friends encouraged her to participate in her first pageant. Fast forward to 2019, at the age of 11, Paniagua emerged victorious in the Belhaven Miss Independence pageant. 

“I had a big personality and didn’t know how to use it,” shared Paniagua. “The pageant helped me build confidence and discover who I am.” 

A turning point came when Paniagua received an Instagram message from a former title holder inviting her to join the High School America Organization’s pageant. In 2022, she clinched the Miss NC Jr. High title and secured the first runner-up position at the National competition. 

Her motto, “what’s meant for me won’t pass me by,” reflects Paniagua’s resilient spirit. Her preparation for the competition involved walking lessons, interview rehearsals, and extensive wardrobe and mental preparation. 

“It’s given me social skills and opportunities I never thought I would have,” emphasized Paniagua on the positive impact of pageantry on her life. “It’s shaped me into a better woman.”

Paniagua’s recent victory brought scholarships, aligning with the Miss High School America mission of providing educational opportunities for young girls and women. Over the next year, she will not only compete at Nationals but also actively promote the organization’s official national platform, B.R.A.V.E. (Building Respect and Values for Everyone), an anti-bullying campaign.

“I plan to continue making an impact throughout the year,” said Paniagua. 

Paniagua’s commitment to community and empowerment extends beyond the stage. After her reign as NC Jr. High, she recruited five girls from Eastern North Carolina to participate in the 2024 competition, aiming to share the transformative experience she had. Paniagua encourages first-time competitors to approach pageantry with an open mind, leaving preconceived notions behind. 

The pageant weekend, with its mix of rehearsals, interviews, and camaraderie, culminated in Paniagua’s well-deserved victory. With over 160 contestants this year, Paniagua’s goal is to see participation numbers triple, ensuring that more young women benefit from the Miss High School America experience.

“I represented Belhaven at my state pageant, and now it’s super special that I can represent North Carolina at a national level this summer,” she added.

For those interested in keeping up with Paniagua’s journey, follow her on Instagram @missnchighschoolamerica or connect with her on Facebook as Mia Nicole.