BURRILLVILLE – It began on a whim after Burrillville resident Hailey Chamberland spotted an advertisement for the competition on Facebook.
Now, Chamberland and her entourage are headed to Milwaukee for a three-day pageant, and a chance to represent Rhode Island on a national stage.
Chamberland, who works as store manager at Eagle Motors Sunoco/ North Country Store in Harrisville, has been named Ms. Petite Rhode Island, an honor that came as something of a shock to the self-described tomboy.
“I’m not really a girly girl,” Chamberland told NRI NOW this week. “When they picked me I was very surprised. I don’t really even like makeup, to be honest.”
Founded in 2009, USA Petite is the nation’s largest pageant geared specifically to petite women – who measure 5’6 or less.
At a towering 4’9, Chamberland was clearly qualified, and although she’d never been in a pageant before, it was free to apply, so she decided to give it a shot.
“I’ve never been into the model thing or pageant thing because I’m so short,” said the 28-year-old, who was born and raised in nearby Woonsocket. “My life wasn’t really wonderful for the past few years, so I wanted to give myself a confidence boost.”
On Tuesday, March 23, Chamberland will leave Rhode Island and head to to Milwaukee, Wis. with her mom and two friends to take part in the national competition against petite women from 49 states. The three-day pageant will include swimsuit, evening gown, judge interview, and on-stage question categories for the chance to be crowed Ms. Petite USA.
“We are looking for poised, graceful and passionate ladies that understand that their height is no limitation to fulfilling their dreams,” notes the pageant website. “The USA Petite family is a sisterhood that embraces healthy competition and a heart to serve others through our leadership and outreach.”
Chamberland noted that while pageant etiquette is not something she’s ever practiced before, she’s excited for the new challenge.
“I’m very nervous,” she said. “It’s not even just being in front of people… this is not anything I’ve ever done. I don’t like to talk about myself, usually.”
Contestants are asked to champion a, “personal platform,” that encourages leadership, community service, and kindness, and Chamberland chose “philanthropy.”
“I’m a very giving person,” she said. “I’m always the one to help financially, or lend a hand.”
Since entering the pageant, she says she’s worked to expand that giving nature and extend it to strangers along with friends and family. Over the past weekend, she put together bags of goods for the homeless, and handed them out at Crossroads Rhode Island.
“That was very, very rewarding,” Chamberland said.
She said the biggest surprise about the pageant so far is how challenging it is.
“It’s a lot of work. They want you to represent your community,” said Chamberland. “They’re looking at how you are in your every day life. Just being a role model is hard work.”
Family and friends have expressed excitement for the first-time pageant winner – including her boss at the Harrisville store, Bob DePalo.
“We certainly are proud of her, as we think the world of her.,” DePalo told NRI NOW.
In addition to the national title, all contestants in Ms. Petite have a chance at the, “People’s Choice,” award, with the winner to become the organization’s ambassador and spokesperson for the year. The title also comes with a prize package that includes a photo shoot.
To vote for Chamberland – for the cost of $1 per vote – visit https://www.usapetite.com/product-page/ms-rhode-island-petite
It all culminates next week, when Chamberland gets her first taste of national pageant life.
“It’s going to be a learning experience for sure, but I’m ready for it,” she said.