MacKenzie Longbrake wowed the crowd and judges on Sunday evening during the Miss South Dakota Teen USA Pageant at the Brandon Valley Performing Arts Center in Brandon, South Dakota.
The 16-year old’s calm and confident attitude helped her win over the judges, advancing her to the Top 5, an announcement that came as a surprise, said MacKenzie.
“This was my first pageant, ever. I was very surprised that I got picked, being that this was my first year competing. There were a bunch of other girls who had been doing this for three to five years. It made me very emotional because I knew I made my family and friends proud,” said MacKenzie.
It took months of hard work to prepare for the pageant, something that MacKenzie says she had to prioritize between school, sports, homework and rodeo.
“I spent hours going over the walk, talk and posture. I had to learn how to do my hair and makeup within a specific time limit. That was pretty challenging and took me a long time to get down. I have a reziness to me that had to work on,” said MacKenzie, as she chuckled explaining what she meant.
The “reziness”, MacKenzie said, was her habit of saying phrases such as, “Oh, next” and “weh” and “not even”, which she had to refrain from saying during the pageant.
MacKenzie said all the hours of practicing and answering different questions did not prepare her for the one question she randomly drew out of a box — “What is one thing you could change about your past?”
MacKenzie said she had to think fast and give an answer to a question that she really did not connect with, given her young age.
“I’m only sixteen and haven’t really experienced much yet. All the other questions were about future and college plans, but I didn’t know what to change about my past. I was so nervous to answer, so I said I would change having an attitude as a child, which I did,” said MacKenzie.
The Dupree High School sophomore shared advice with young people who, like her, are accepting challenges at a young age and who are preparing for life after high school.
“Stepping out of your comfort zone is pretty hard, but in the end it is helpful in life. If you do not step out of your comfort zone, it will be hard for you to accomplish other things in life. Be courageous, be fearless. Having fear is a good thing, but it’s not something that should hold you back,” said MacKenzie.
Molly Longbrake shared her feelings about her daughter’s accomplishment.
“We are very proud of her and are super excited and happy for her. She was very nervous at the beginning, but we encouraged her because it was a learning experience and a chance to make friends. We’ve always known that she is beautiful, inside and out,” said Molly.
MacKenzie said she plans to compete again next year for the Miss South Dakota Teen USA title. She is the daughter of Dakota and Molly Longbrake, and Jae Smith, and is active within her school and community, participating in 4-H, choir and high school and Indian rodeos.