A 17-year-old Hilo High School senior was named Miss Hawaii Teen USA 2018 on Sunday, the first time an East Hawaii contestant has earned the crown in nearly two decades.
Kylyn Rapoza competed against 16 other contestants during the statewide pageant at the Hawaii Convention Center on Oahu. She is the first Big Island winner since 1998, when Hilo resident Tobie Carter (now Fujimoto) won.
“It feels like a dream, honestly,” Rapoza said Tuesday. “I feel like I’m possibly being punked or something or it’s not real. It felt amazing to represent Hilo and the community that helped raise me, and to just represent the island in general. It’s been 20 years since we’ve had a Hawaii Island girl bring home the crown and I feel honored to finally bring it home.”
The teen pageant is for girls ages 14-18. It’s the official state preliminary to the Miss Teen USA pageant. Contestants are judged equally on an interview, a fitness wear category and an evening gown component.
As winner, Rapoza will represent Hawaii at the Miss Teen USA pageant in July in Arizona. She will be one of 51 contestants. Kelly Hu was the last Hawaii contestant to achieve the Miss Teen USA title in 1985.
Rapoza said she’ll spend the next several months perfecting her walk, practicing mock interviews and honing her fitness and nutrition regimen.
Rapoza is an aspiring pediatrician or pediatric nurse. She hopes to attend college on the mainland next year. She said she began competing in pageants earlier as a teen and said it’s helped her build confidence and “break out of my shell.”
“I used to be very shy and awkward,” she said. “But now I can speak in crowds, so it’s definitely improved my confidence and my speaking skills. Pageants have turned me into a confident young woman.”
Rapoza first competed in the Hawaii Island USA preliminary pageant hosted at the Grand Naniloa in July.
Email Kirsten Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.