LYNN — When 10-year-old Gabriella Krochmal was named Miss Congeniality, they had to call her name twice because she couldn’t believe it.
Last month the Lynn native took home the title in the pre-teen group at the East Coast Pageant USA in Springfield. Her family signed her up for her first pageant one week before the show, just a day after the dress they ordered online arrived.
Now, the owner of a large iridescent crown and a title, the pageant rookie is preparing for the national pageant competition in New Jersey on July 26-28.
“I was nervous,” she said. “There were a lot of people there and the judges were right in front of me, but I knew I just had to be myself.”
Gabriella’s mother, Daisy Krochmal, said getting her daughter ready for the last-minute pageant was a family and friend effort. Krochmal’s coworker at the Lynn Girls Inc. curled Gabriella’s hair on Friday using paper towels, a hair trend that uses no heat, and they were kept in her hair all day Saturday.
“We showed up to the pageant with the paper towels still in her hair and, while we definitely got some weird looks, they came out great,” said Krochmal. “I didn’t realize how prestigious it was going to be.”
Gabriella is a middle child, between her older brother Gregory, 12, and her younger sister Giavanna, 1. With the busy life of a family of five, Krochmal said Gabriella really stepped up and helped them when her sister was born.
“We wanted this pageant to be something for herself that she could enjoy,” Krochmal said. “She’s been such a mini-mom, helping me with Giavanna for the past year.”
The most important thing Gabriella gained from participating in the pageant was self confidence, she said. She is missing a tooth, No. 10 to be exact, according to her, and it always hindered her from smiling.
Krochmal said, while her oldest daughter grew up with a passion for posing for the camera, she never felt comfortable letting out a smile. Now, according to Gabriella, that has all changed.
“I love smiling now,” Gabriella said. “I felt so confident in myself after the pageant.”
Now, in the months ahead, it is all about preparation. Gabriella will not only compete against winners from all over Massachusetts, but from New York, Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well.
At the first pageant, the judges scored based solely on personality, runway, and beauty. For the national competition, Gabriella has to focus on putting together an act for the father-daughter portion and perfecting her interview skills.
In an interview with the Item, Gabriella was asked how she planned to practice those skills.
“I am preparing for the interview right now with you,” she replied.