Brooke Riley hasn't been in a beauty pageant since she was two. But with the support of her family, no professional coaching and a little luck, she has a chance to become Miss Massachusetts.
Riley will represent Lowell in the Miss Massachusetts USA pageant this weekend at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. The competition will determine who will represent Massachusetts in the Miss USA pageant owned by Donald Trump. The contestants will be judged in evening gown and swimsuit competitions on Saturday, as well as in a one-on-one interview with the judges on Sunday. For Riley, a student at Rivier University, her admission to the pageant was an unexpected delight.
"We were on a cruise and we were talking to a lady that told us Miss Massachusetts took place in Lowell, so we figured I could give it a shot," says Riley, 19. "It's just every little girl's dream, I've always wanted to be a model, so when it came up I just had to do it."
A sophomore at Rivier, where she's studying to become a special education teacher, Riley also is the captain of her college dance team along with being a competitive ballroom dancer. She works as a nanny and a tutor, and she models for Finding Hope With Fashion, a nonprofit organization that puts on an annual fashion show for charity. Riley's managed to fit the pageant into her already busy schedule, but she craves constant activity.
"I think it's just preparing me for everyday life," says Riley, who spends much of her free time with her family. Her grandmother, Valerie Flynn, downloaded sample interview questions and has grilled Riley for the past few weeks for her one-on-one with the judges. But she's especially appreciative of all the support she's gotten from her friends and other people in Lowell looking to support a local girl who grew up going to the Bailey School, Daley School and Lowell Catholic High School.
"My family is so supportive," says Riley. "My mom is my best friend, and I'm really close with my grandparents, they all want me to do what makes me happy. Everybody in the Highlands, too, has been great, I think because it's such a tight-knit community."
Some contestants seek the help of professional pageant experts to perfect their presence on stage, but Riley wants to keep it natural. She and her family think that if she does that, she'll do fine.
"We tell her to be herself and let her personality shine through," says Leah Flynn, her mother. "Be who she is -- just a kid from Lowell."
Tickets for the pageant are available by calling 781-321-3500.