Reston bound: Little Miss angles for state crown

LeiLani Steddum has her sights set on a national title. If the chips fall in her favor, she'll end up winning a free trip to Disneyland and maybe even land a coveted modeling contract.

That's one ambitious kindergartener.

"ABCs and 1-2-3s, that's what I want to teach when I grow up," she says in her opening monologue, but her goal of becoming a teacher doesn't take into account any of her current modeling aspirations. LeiLani is a finalist in the state National American Miss pageant and will be traveling to Reston this week to battle for the right to represent Virginia in the national competition.

"I'm going to wear a crown for my pageant," says the Charlottesville tot excitedly.

Indeed, that's precisely what got her hooked in the first place. LeiLani first became interested in competing when she saw a promotional mailing featuring pictures of the crown in the junk mail pile before her parents had a chance to throw it out. She promptly began begging her mother to help her enter.

LeiLani still has the fickle enthusiasm of any other five-year-old, though, so getting her to practice isn't always easy for those involved. "My mom makes me," she whispers, somehow hoping not to be overheard by the woman sitting two inches behind her.

Her mom has help, though, because it has totally become a family affair. LeiLani's grandmother picked out some of her outfits, and her dad and brother will both be supporting her as part of her entourage to Reston. "He's excited more than me," says LeiLani of her brother.

And her mother is more than just a practice coach. She's currently helping LeiLani organize a fundraiser, which came together late last week in the form of a lemonade stand on Banbury Street. Sales and donations will help pay for the trip to Reston, and her teachers at Greenbrier Elementary have already pledged to purchase a glass or two.

It's not all glamour for this little girl, though. She loves to read– as long as it isn't homework– and enjoys sports, particularly soccer. That sometimes sets her parents on edge as the August 26-30 pageant draws nearer.

"They won't let me ride my brother's two-wheeler because they're afraid I'll get bruises," LeiLani sighs. But their concern makes a bit more sense considering her idle playtime nearly lead to disaster several times.

"And I did try another hobby, and it's right there– ice skating," she says, gesturing towards the rink nearby.

"Once," she recalls, perhaps explaining her unusual enthusiasm for pageant competition, "I fell right on my head."

LeiLani Steddum