Pageants are a newly discovered passion for recent graduate Stephanie Chervenkov.
The 18-year-old Bel Air resident was crowned 2012 Miss Teen Maryland USA in October and has been busy making appearances and preparing for the next step, competing in the national Miss Teen USA pageant, ever since.
"I haven't been in pageants all my life," Chervenkov said.
She explained the October pageant was only her second. She took part in the Miss Teen Maryland pageant the previous year, and although she did not win, decided to do it again.
"I wanted to go back because I just had so much fun," she said.
Chervenkov said she learned a lot in the first pageant, like how to choose the right type of gown.
"I prepared by myself," Chervenkov said.
Without a pageant coach or anyone to guide her, the young woman returned to the pageant, this time to win.
"I was in complete shock, I didn't expect to win," she said.
She later added her parents, who are originally from Bulgaria and now live in Bel Air, were both surprised and happy when she won, as were her grandparents and 9-year-old brother.
While the road to Miss Maryland Teen USA was one she traveled alone, Chervenkov now has a pageant prep team and a pageant coach to help her on her way to the Miss Teen USA pageant.
The teen, who was born and raised in Bel Air, has done a lot of travel within the past seven months, from making appearances at different functions in New York City and D.C. to flying to Las Vegas.
Earlier this month, she graduated from John Carroll School and later that afternoon, left for Las Vegas to watch the Miss USA pageant live.
"That was definitely an experience I wouldn't have had otherwise," Chervenkov said.
She explained winning Miss Maryland Teen USA has opened a lot of doors for her.
"Over the year I've grown a lot," she said, later adding, "It makes me more confident."
She said even her family has noticed a change. Chervenkov admitted she used to be shy, but now knows how to present herself in the best way, making her more confident.
She says that confidence and ability to present her best self will be invaluable in the future and in her career, whatever that turns out to be.
The 18-year-old plans to attend Notre Dame University of Maryland in the fall and one day hopes to own her own makeup business.
In the short term, however, Chervenkov is sure about one thing—she's glad she became involved in pageants.
"Now I'm in love with pageants, they're so much fun. Many people don't understand what goes into it," she said.
She said preparing for a pageant involves things as smal as practicing how to work, she said while that sounds simple, it's not.
She explained women in pageants make that smooth and flawless walk seem unpracticed.
"It's not that easy," Chervenkov said.
She said the interview is what sets you apart from the rest.
"Everyone's going to look beautiful," she said. "I wish the crown could go 50 ways."