By Brooke Geery
Jamisyn Baker and Olivia Suker are cousins with more in common than just a bloodline. In a few months, the girls will compete together in the Miss Vermont USA/Teen Pageant, happening June 5-6 at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe.
Baker, 15, is a sophomore at Rutland High School, and will be competing for her first time, vying for the title of Miss Vermont Teen. Suker, 19, currently holds the title of Miss New England Silver Queen, the first pageant she entered. This time she’s hoping to be crowned Miss Vermont USA. She grew up in Shrewsbury, and is currently studying human biology and cognitive science as a freshman at North Carolina State University.
This will be the cousins’ first time competing together. “We would be sister queens if we both win!” Suker said.
For Suker, competing in pageants was not something she ever considered until she actually went to see a friend in one. “It was something I didn’t know anything about until one of my sister’s friends actually was competing in Miss Maine Teen USA,” she said. “We went to watch her and the whole event was just so inspiring to watch. I didn’t realize how much poise and pageantry skills these woman develop, and I was, like, I have to be part of this!”
Jamisyn Baker became interested after shopping for a prom dress. It was there that she was recruited by Janelle Mada from Amber Sprott Boutique in Rutland, a former beauty queen herself.
“Jamisyn was such a stand out with her outgoing personality and smile that lit up the room,” Mada said. “After chatting with her about her goals and aspirations I knew she was exactly the kind of young woman that Miss Vermont Teen USA was looking for. She also had the heart to serve her community and really make a difference in this world and that is exactly what it takes to be a great titleholder.”
Although the pageant has been pushed back and rescheduled due to Covid restrictions, the girls have not let up on their preparation and there’s a lot more that goes into to performing well on the beauty pageant circuit than most people think.
“I think a lot of people think it’s just hair and makeup and glitter,” Suker laughed. “Both of us do a lot of work on our interview skills and another thing that’s important is our platform. We all have a mission to help the community through our projects. Another thing is keeping up with current events so you are prepared to talk about them during the interview. I actually keep a log of current events. And beyond that there’s all the wardrobe, walking and actual practice preparation.”
Both girls have chosen a platform they are passionate about to promote. For Baker, it’s Alzheimer’s awareness. “When I was little my Great Grandma was diagnosed and lived with it, but I was too young to really understand. In 2018, my Nana was diagnosed, and I was really aware of the cognitive decline and early signs of the disease. I have sold bracelets that say “Purple Warriors” and have raised almost $1,000 just from the bracelets I sold for $5 each. All of it will be donated to the Vermont Alzheimer’s Association.”
Suker’s focus is helping others access the educational opportunities she was fortunate enough to receive.
“One of the things that’s most important in my life has been my education and the experiences I have had access to helped me get into the college and know what direction I wanted my career to take. I got to go to camp at Georgetown University, and I know a lot of kids, especially in Vermont, don’t have that chance. I am working on starting a 501(c)(3) foundation called edYOUcate Vermont. The goal is to provide high school students with any kind enrichment programs that will help them get their future the way they want it. My hope is that it will spark interest in young people to be inspired and want to learn. It’s such a work in progress. I didn’t know how much was involved in all the paper work and going through IRS, but I am having a good time figuring it out, it’s so fun,” said Suker.
Both girls have found the process and everything that goes with it very rewarding.
“It’s such a positive atmosphere, it’s like we’re already sisters,” Baker said. “Basically we’ve met each other once or twice and had an instant bond that we knew was gonna last beyond the competition, we’re really just there for each other.”
Suker shared a similar sentiment. “Watching all these girls compete and make huge contributions to the community is great. Even if I don’t win I am just thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the sisterhood.”
For more information about Baker and Suker or to get involved with their platforms, connect on instagram @jamisyn_baker and @olivia_suker. You can also send donations directly through venmo @vermontpurplewarriors.