With eight years of pageant experience under her crown, Stoughton seventh grader Corley Suddeth knows how to channel nervous energy into poise and royal success.
Corley, the daughter of Jim and Shannon Suddeth, applied those traits to earn the title of 2021 National American Miss Wisconsin in the Pre-Teen division at the state pageant in Middleton in August.
Next up, Corley, 13, who attends River Bluff Middle School in the Stoughton Area School District, will represent Wisconsin during Thanksgiving week at the National American Miss (NAM) national pageant at Disneyworld in Orlando.
There Corley will compete for the NAM Pre-Teen national title among contestants from other states, with judging expected to include formal wear, personal introduction, interviews, resume and community service.
With an emphasis on growing confidence, public speaking and setting and achieving goals, participants in NAM range in age from 4 to 24, according to namiss.com. Contestants compete for cash, prizes and scholarships in six divisions, from Princess through Miss, based on a contestant’s age as of January 1. Pre-Teen is for ages 10-12.
The whirlwind pageant week also includes opportunities to perform in optional runway models and fun fitness judging, as well as visiting with modeling agents and photographers, according to NAM.
Joined by mom Shannon in an interview, Corley told the Hub she’s not too worried about nerves and looks forward to the chance to compete at nationals, grow in confidence and meet new friends.
“Through the past eight years, I get less and less nervous every year,” said Corley, who attended her first NAM event at age 4, and who participated in Pre-Teen nationals in Orlando last year in the All-American competition, reserved for state runners-up in a queen’s court.
“Competing constantly has definitely helped my nerves,” she said, “because I know what I have to do, and I know what it’s all about.
“I’m just super-excited to go to Orlando and take away lots of life lessons that I can pull into my regular life.”
For Corley, in addition to school where science is her favorite subject, that regular life includes chores with her four brothers at the family’s home in rural Stoughton. Among the tasks, Corley tends to Shorthorn heifers, which she said she enjoys showing at fairs through the Triangle Troopers 4-H club.
A champion gymnast and competitive dancer with the Stoughton Gymnastics club, Corley said her experiences there have helped her in NAM competitions, and vice versa, especially with time management.
“I’m always on the go, but NAM has really helped me with organizational skills, so I’m always pretty organized,” Corley said. “Every day is kind of the same routine, so I get used to it.”
Shannon said that pageant participation has led to modeling opportunities for Corley with American Girl and Kohl’s. The latter engagement had Corley trying on clothes as a “fit model,” Shannon said. Corley then met with Kohl’s executives who invited her to share how she thought the garb could be improved.
Closer to home, for her NAM community service project, Corley said she serves as a Munchkin Mentor for Stoughton Gymnastics and she enjoys “helping littler kids do gymnastics.
“NAM really pushes for community service, so I love volunteering in my community,” she said.
Reflecting on participation at state, for the formal wear competition, Corley said she loved her gown of royal blue, a Jovani that she and her mom found at a pageant store.
As a hairdresser for about 20 years and seamstress, Shannon said she had the honors for hair styling and sewing Corley’s outfits for other phases of competition. For makeup, Corley pointed out that none is permitted in the Pre-Teen division.
Whatever the outcome at nationals, Corley said she intends to continue in NAM. Many NAM participants also compete in Miss USA and Miss America, and those pageants could be in her future, too, she said.
For a career, Corley said she would like to combine her love for science and animals by becoming a marine biologist, specializing in shark research.
Science shows that sharks have a low incidence of cancer, and Corley said she hopes to pursue connections through marine biology that could help to “find a cure for cancer” for people.