Alexandra Curtis, a 2010 graduate of , was crowned National All-American Miss Teen at the National American Miss Pageant in Anaheim on Sunday.
The 11-year Danville resident also won the National American Miss Alumni Association Scholarship essay contest and was named first runner-up in the acting competition.
The honors are the realization of five years of work by Curtis, a freshman at Syracuse University.
She says she didn't set out to be in pageants and that it all it began with a brochure she received in the mail from National American Miss.
"I was really involved in acting and modeling," Curtis says, and the opportunities to compete in those areas in the pageant caught her interest.
Her mother supported her participation, but with a caveat, she says.
"My mom said she didn't want me to compete if it was all about beauty," says Curtis. Her mom wanted her to gain "personal growth" from the experience.
According to Curtis, her mom particularly encouraged her to enter the speech competition, something that was not her strength.
In her first competition, she says she was more focused on getting through the speech than the competition itself.
She didn't win or place in her first pageant, but in her next one was named second runner-up.
It was that taste of placing in the top five that hooked her, Curtis says. "After that, I was in it full force."
She says her years of pageant competition have "helped in all areas of life," such as academics, team athletics and school politics. She is president of the Syracuse freshman class, serves on her class council and is president of her dorm.
Curtis says competing in pageants "pushes her to go above and beyond."
Her dad, Mark Curtis, a former KTVU news anchor, says pageants have helped his daughter "extraordinarily." He says she has gained "poise, confidence and direction."
It shows, too. Curtis spoke before about 4,000 people in June at her Monte Vista High graduation.
The four-year cheerleader and lacrosse player at Monte Vista says the competitive atmosphere in the community helped her succeed and that teachers and "strong-minded coaches" in town taught her time management and how to handle stress.
She also says that she didn't feel pressure from her parents. "We never pushed her, she pushed us," says Mark Curtis.
He and his wife initially were "cautious" about Alexandra's interest in pageants, Curtis says, but are "great believers" in letting children participate in and explore their passions.
His daughter's involvement in pageants was viewed as "no different" than any other extracurricular activity, such as soccer, Curtis says.
Alexandra Curtis plans to be a broadcast journalist and political analyst.
She says the seeds of that interest were planted as a kid when her dad would take her to a TV station he worked at in Washington, D.C., and on tours around the nation's capital. The interest took solid root when, at 16, she accompanied him on the 2008 presidential campaign trail.
Her dad sees her current ambition as inspired less by his own career than by Alexandria's own drive and experiences in pageants. He says they "opened the door to the world" for her, fostering a natural curiosity, and giving her the tools to pursue her own interests and inclinations.
Curtis describes her experience observing the candidates and the electoral process close-up as "thrilling."
Much like her experience with early pageants, she's hooked.