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Miss Southeast Arizona reflects on competition, prepares for Miss Arizona pageant

	Chad Cromer/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

	Natalie Sanchez, a journalism junior, was crowned Miss Southeast Arizona and is now preparing for the Miss Arizona competition.

Chad Cromer/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Natalie Sanchez, a journalism junior, was crowned Miss Southeast Arizona and is now preparing for the Miss Arizona competition.

A UA student is preparing for the Miss Arizona competition after she was crowned Miss Southeast Arizona.

Natalie Sanchez, a journalism junior, was crowned Miss Southeast Arizona on April 20. Sanchez said she was in shock when she found out she had won.

“I almost couldn’t believe it. Every time I would compete in a pageant, there would be one thing that would go wrong but in this one, I just did my full out best and I was just so happy,” Sanchez said. “When they called my name, I had this huge smile on my face. It wasn’t poised at all but it was genuine.”

Sanchez said she struggled with literacy growing up and decided to make this issue her focus throughout the course of the pageant. Through the creation of seminars for parents and children, as well as volunteer work and outreach, Sanchez said she wants to promote a stronger literacy platform in Arizona, and now she will get the chance to further her mission while in pursuit of the Miss America crown.

Her pageant style, defined as “classic,” may appear effortless on stage, but Sanchez said a lot of hard work has gotten her to this point. Sanchez competed in the Miss Tucson Valley Competition a total of three times beginning in 2011, when she placed first runner up and won the title of Miss Congeniality. The following season she did not place, and the third season she was given the quality of life award. Sanchez said that the successes she has celebrated and the mistakes she has made within the world of pageantry have allowed her to find herself.

“In my second [pageant], I had a really bad spray tan so I looked like an orange oompa loompa, and I [sang] a contemporary Broadway song, which [wasn’t] my style,” Sanchez said. “Eventually, I realized it would be better to stick to what I am. I shouldn’t try to pick what I think the judges like or what past contestants have done that works. The more I remained true to myself, the more I was able to succeed.”

Sanchez was crowned first runner up at the Miss Pima County competition, but almost decided not to compete to be Miss Southeast Arizona because she “had done so many [competitions] already.”

Alex Moe, Sanchez’s boyfriend and a history major who graduated from the UA in 2012, admitted that at first, he didn’t want Sanchez to compete to be Miss Southeast Arizona.

“My younger sister has competed in pageants so we kind of know how it works and when you don’t win it is disappointing,” Moe said.

Sanchez said that she cast her doubts aside and realized that she would much rather try out and see what happens than be stuck wondering “what if.”

And now, with a crown to show for it, Sanchez said she knows that her effort paid off. Moe added that, in hindsight, it was good that she didn’t take his advice.

“I am so happy for her,” Moe said. “For her to win, it’s a big deal for her. In everything that she does, she just thrives.”

Sanchez recalled waiting for the announcers to call the winner’s name.

“All of the girls were really beautiful and talented so no one really knew who was going to win,” Sanchez said. But Charmayne Ortega, an English junior at UA South and a friend and fellow competitor, said that she saw something special in Sanchez from the beginning.

“When they announced Natalie as a winner, it was no surprise to me. I, personally, thought that she was going to win. I was blown away by her performance and talent,” Ortega said. “I was beyond ecstatic for her. I am really happy that the judges made such a great decision because she is going to be such a great representative.”

Sanchez said that this sense of camaraderie and friendship among the other women is always her favorite part of the pageant.

“The girls are so sweet and it is important to support each other,” Sanchez said. “It is a competition against yourself, not against others, because if you are directing all of this negative energy toward other contestants, then it is not going to be fun for you and you are not going to be focused on being the best you can be.”

The current Miss Arizona, Piper Stoeckel, will pass down her crown on June 22 and the competition will begin again. As this event approaches and preparations intensify, Sanchez said she strives to stay grounded in who she is.

“I know everyone gets highlights and extensions and all of these crazy things, but I honestly think natural is more beautiful,” Sanchez said. “That is a message that I want to relay back to younger girls — to embrace your natural beauty. It’s really about finding your own style, who you are and sticking true to that.”

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