When Anna Abramova was filling out forms for last year’s Miss Cities of America 2001 pageant she accidentally signed up for the glamour competition, in which contestants were judged solely on facial beauty.
"The only reason I signed up was because I thought I was checking something else," the Madison High School junior said.
Anna didn’t think she had a shot in the glamour category, but she was wrong: she ended up coming in first, winning the title of Miss Teen Glamour 2001.
<bt>Later, when overall pageant winners were being named, Anna was in the running again. As she waited for the results to be announced, she told herself she wouldn’t mind if she didn’t place because she had already won the glamour competition.
But she came in second for the overall crown of Miss Teen 2001. As she looked into the crowd, Anna saw her sister, Vera Ettenger, who came with Anna to Orlando for the mid-December 2001 pageant. When the pageant results were announced Anna said her sister was crying more than Anna herself was.
"I didn’t expect her to win," said Ettenger. "There were hundreds of girls from all over the country. A lot of the other girls had experience or professional helpers, like make-up artists or hair stylists. We had no one. She did her own make up and I helped her a little."
Luckily Anna’s mother, Mila Abramova, was a designer at Vienna’s White Swan Bridal shop. She custom-made the four competition dresses to fit her daughter’s proportions.
Anna had never been in a pageant before, and found out about the competition when a letter came in the mail, inviting her to a Northern Virginia qualifying pageant. Out of around 400 girls, Anna was named second runner-up and qualified to go to nationals, held in mid-December 2001.
Anna said she made some fast friends at the week-long pageant, including Guinevere Burner, a Madison sophomore who roomed with Anna in Orlando. And even though most girls she met were laid-back and not especially competitive, sometimes she felt some competitive friction.
"A girl would be acting kind of rudely and then I’d find out she was in the same age division as me," Anna said.
<bt>For winning the glamour competition Anna received a free portfolio of professional modeling photographs. She was also approached by some modeling agents, who said they "loved her look."
"I said, ‘OK,’ but I don’t think I’m cut out to be a model," Anna said. "I love to act. But maybe I’ll try modeling as a way to get money for college. If it works out I’ll do it. If not, OK."
Anna is part of the drama club at Madison. She also dances ballet and plays the piano. Her grades are consistently high, in the A-range, and Anna is considering attending George Mason University, James Madison University or, possibly, Georgetown University. Although she is proud of her success at the pageant, Anna said she doesn’t take it too seriously.
"It’s a title. It’s not like I’m queen of the world," she said. "I’m still going to go out dancing with my friends the next day."
She said one of the hardest parts of the competition was the guilt of winning.
"I felt kind of horrible," Anna said. "There were all these girls who were so great, but they didn’t win."
She said she may compete at the pageant again next year, but she is not completely sure.
"It’s just something to remember when I’m 90 years old. I can tell my grandkids that I went there and that I had some fun and that I wasn’t as bad looking as I am now."