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Melissa Le's pageant journey leads to Miss Louisiana's Teen crown

Sunday, April 14, 2024
Melissa Le's pageant journey leads to Miss Louisiana's Teen crown

Photos by Steven Palowsky
Ruston High School sophomore Melissa Le is crowned 2024 Miss Louisiana’s Teen by Laura Jane Kirkpatrick, last year’s honoree.

Melissa Le's pageant journey leads to Miss Louisiana's Teen crown

After completing her performance for the talent competition, Melissa Le makes a dramatic exit from the piano.

Melissa Le grew up watching the Miss America pageant with her mother. She admired the poise, intelligence and talent of the women competing. It fueled a dream she too might be there one day.

Fast forward to 2024, and the Ruston High School sophomore finds herself among such accomplished women after being named Miss Louisiana’s Teen last weekend. With it she’s earned an armload of scholarship money as well as the opportunity to compete in the national Miss America’s Teen later this year. It’s a dream she’s had since beginning her pageant journey.

“I have dedicated the past two years preparing for this role,” Le said. “As a local titleholder (Miss Louisiana’s Watermelon Festival Teen), I saw the impact I could have to better my community, and I knew I wanted to do that at a state level too. The amount of hard work and preparation I put into this experience really made taking home the specific pageant title all the more special. The Miss America Opportunity has a long history of empowering young women, and I have seen first-hand the influence it has had on people’s lives.”

While admitting the entire experience was exciting, Le also points out there were challenges as well.

After being named to the Top 11 while winning in dual preliminary areas for both Talent and Fitness and Wellness, she realized she would soon compete at the state level alongside the most intelligent, talented and beautiful young women Louisiana has to offer. It forced her to meet her doubts head-on.

“As I prepared, I experienced some self-doubt and low self-esteem from the internal pressure I put on myself to do well,” Le said. “I had to shift my mindset and take care of my mental health throughout this journey.”

Le’s ability to focus served her well. For the second consecutive year she was honored for her stunning piano prowess, a skill she worked hard to cultivate over the past 11 years. And while thrilled to know her hard work had once again paid off, she found herself completely surprised about the Fitness and Wellness recognition.

“In preparation for this pageant, I struggled to find confidence,” Le added. “I made it a priority to maintain a healthy lifestyle and take care of both my physical and mental health. I was honored to share my fitness journey with the audience and am humbled the judges chose me for such an honor.”

When named among the Top 5, Le said she was already at peace with where she found herself and what she had accomplished. She knew she had done everything she could and was honored to have progressed so far.

However, upon being named one of the final two contestants she felt the emotion surging within her.

“I could hear my heart pounding when I was standing as one of the final two waiting for a name to be called,” Le said. “The whole competition experience was exciting, but it never sets in how badly you want something until you are so close. The moment my name was called I started bawling. I was completely in shock and so full of emotion. There really are not enough words to express the sheer joy and gratefulness I felt.”

Le also expresses tremendous gratitude for her parents, adding she would not have been able to experience these opportunities or reach her dreams without their hard work, sacrifice and unwavering support.

She also credits her piano teacher Jeanne Patterson who has been with her every step of the way, along with her local director Ashley Owen and others who have mentored her throughout her pageant journey.

“The support and help I have received from mentors, friends, and community members is unparalleled,” Le said. “It is so important to have people in your life you can lean on, and I am so grateful to have a village behind me.”

With the crown now in place, Le begins her journey as an agent for change. She selected STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education for her platform and she has great hopes for what she will be able to accomplish over the next year.

“From a young age, I always loved math and science,” Le recalled. “STEM is the future, with 80% of future jobs being STEM jobs. Working with the SCILS Region 8 LASTEM Center and area STEM camps showed me that there are so many children who need access to more experiences, role models, and activities in STEM. I find it so important to help bring STEM to the communities of Louisiana. It is my goal to reach as many people as possible to ensure I can share the joys of STEM with them.”

As an ambassador of the Miss Louisiana Opportunity, Le also hopes to raise awareness around and participation in the organization. She said not only is it a chance to try something new and gain confidence, it’s a way to empower girls and women to serve their community, share their talents, and earn tuition scholarships.

To accomplish her goal, Le plans to speak at various events about her experiences as a titleholder, perform and entertain with the piano or by singing, and represent the state of Louisiana well. She’s already made her first stop at Cypress Springs Elementary School in Ruston. As a proponent of trying new things, she believes it provides an opportunity to encourage girls while helping them build the confidence necessary to get them out there while doing something they love. It’s something she envisioned for herself, even as a child.

“Little Melissa knew she wanted to achieve so much,” Le noted. “At the time, she probably did not think she was capable of doing anything of this magnitude but I know she would have been thrilled. Even at a young age, I have had the desire to help people. Whether being a friend or through community service, I wanted to make an impact. I have grown so much since being a little girl who dreamed of helping people and now I am here with the platform and the capacity to serve. It is such an honor to be a part of the Miss Louisiana’s Teen legacy. Little me would be proud.”