Vets grad gears up to compete in Miss Teen USA pageant


She’s intelligent. She’s gorgeous. She’s Miss Rhode Island Teen USA 2012 and her name is Livia Stencel.

But don’t call her a beauty queen.

“A lot of people have a certain image of girls who are in beauty pageants; they think it’s all about who the prettiest girl is and who looks the best, but it’s really not about that,” said Stencel, 17, who just graduated from Warwick Veterans Memorial High School, where she was a member of the volleyball and swim team. “You have to have personality, character and poise. When you compete in bathing suit and evening gown, it’s more about the way you present and carry yourself.”

Stencel, a straight-A student who maintained a 4.0 grade point average through her senior year, was crowned Sept. 18 at the Rhode Island Center for Performing Arts in Cranston and will represent the Ocean State in the national Miss Teen USA 2012 pageant, which is scheduled for July 28 at Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas.

The event will be aired live on U-Stream, which can be accessed via the Internet by visiting and typing “Miss. Teen USA” into the search key.

Aside from the swimsuit and gown competitions, Stencel said, a portion of the pageant will involve a series of interviews led by a panel of judges.

“Right off the bat, they ask you questions and it’s tough because it’s the first impression you make,” she said. “That’s how they’ll remember you when you’re on stage. It’s nerve-wracking but as long as you’re yourself, you’re OK.”

While she’s feeling a bit anxious as the event approaches, she exudes confidence, which is perhaps one of the main reasons she earned the crown she currently holds.

The Miss Rhode Island Teen USA 2012 competition is the first pageant Stencel ever participated in. She entered the competition with only three weeks of preparation.

Initially, she figured she’d do it for the experience, as she said she never perceived herself as a girl who would be interested in pageants. Still, she learned that she thinks it’s “fun” and “different.”

“Once you’re there competing against all those girls, you realize how badly you want the title,” Stencel said. “I can’t even begin to explain that moment on stage when I won. I was breathing so heavily and my hands were shaking. The girl that was Miss Rhode Island Teen last year, Lindsey Bucci, was holding the sash and trying to get it on me. I was a zombie.”

In addition to the crown, Stencel won a scholarship to Lindenwood University in Missouri. Unfortunately, because the college is far from her Warwick home, she decided not to enroll there.

However, she is set to attend Rhode Island College in the fall. She is yet to declare a major but is thinking about taking up economics and financing, as math was her favorite subject in high school.

“I’m kind of a nerd,” Stencel said with a laugh. “I’m really focused in school. I try to study hard. I come from a very strict Polish family, which is good because during high school I strived to do better and it gave me a really good sense of accomplishment. Every time I’d get an ‘A,’ I’d be so happy. Even when I’d get a ‘B,’ I’d be like, ‘I can do better.’”

Doing better and making the world a better place are her goals as Miss. Rhode Island Teen USA. Recently, she has taken part in a great deal of community service, as she has made many appearances at schools within the state, as well as met with Girl Scout troops.

Throughout her journey, Stencel said she’s made it a point to inform children about anti-bullying and educate them on the risks of social media.

“I tell them, ‘If you use Facebook or other social media sites, you have to be careful because there is controversy and many kids are getting hurt,’” she said. “Younger kids should know all about that. They think, ‘Oh, I can talk with my friends and share pictures,’ but they don’t really know the dangers.”

Further, she does her best to help them build self-confidence and character.

“At one of my appearances, I remember telling the girls, ‘You always have to be yourself,’” Stencel said. “Honesty is always the best thing you can give somebody.”

Also, before Olivia Culpo, 20, a Cranston resident who in June was crowned Miss USA 2012, Stencel and Culpo often made appearances together. Stencel thinks highly of Culpo.

“I love her,” Stencel said. “I spent my reign with her when she was still Miss Rhode Island and it was fun because she always made me laugh. She’s very genuine and giving. We get along so well.”

Stencel continued, “We met great people and worked with so many good organizations. It gives you a good feeling when you leave because you gave something back. It’s a big job to take on, but it becomes a journey and it goes by so fast. The opportunities are just endless.”

Also, Stencel is grateful to her sponsors, as local businesses have been pampering her as part of the Miss Rhode Island Teen USA prize package, including Salon Panache at 1103 Park Avenue for styling her eyebrows, Calma Salon at 1280 Park Avenue for doing her hair and Scott’s Fitness, Inc. Personal Training Services for helping her stay in shape for nationals.

“They provide all their services to me for free,” Stencel said. “They are so giving.”

When she’s not making appearances or preparing for nationals, Stencel is working at one of her two part-time jobs, including Caribbean Tan, a tanning salon located at 206 Buttonwoods Avenue across from Work Out World, and Gate Medical Center at 215 Toll Gate Road, where she was recently hired as a medical assistant and receptionist.

But most of all, she’s working hard for the national crown and is asking for a little bit of help from her friends, as fan voting started July 1. To cast a vote for Stencel, visit, click “contestants,” scroll to Rhode Island and click her photo.

“You can vote from Facebook, Twitter or an email account up to 10 times a day, so if you have all those, you can vote 30 times a day for me to be in the top 16 at the final show,” she said. “It’s tough because I’m going up against states like Texas and Alaska and then there’s little, tiny Rhode Island. I’m trying to get as much support as possible.”

The Miss Rhode Island and Miss Rhode Island Teen USA pageant will be held Sept. 8 and 9, respectively, at the Rhode Island Center for Performing Arts in Cranston. For more information, visit


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