Mother-daughter team battle cliches, bullying

Raven Hopen has been competing on the pageant circuit for several years, incliuding the national All-American Girl pageant, but she is yet to walk off the runway with a title.

She has won several of the “optional” awards, including Miss Congeniality in both the Washington state and national levels of All-American Girl competition.

But the Bonney Lake teenager was still left out of the major awards and began to notice that when there were model agency scouts at the pageants, they would dismiss all of the girls larger than a size four, of which Raven was one.

“I felt like that was a factor in it,” she said. “It wasn’t so much skill-based or talent-based; it was how you looked on stage.”

Because of that, when Latasha Raines, executive director of the inaugural Washington Plus America Pageant and a former Miss Plus America herself, approached Raven and her mother Kym about competing in the Washington Pageant, she decided to take a chance, though not without giving it some thought.

“I heard about the ‘plus’ and was like ‘I don’t know,'” Raven, 16, said this month. But then she thought about the modeling agencies and it changed her mind.

“I know it’s not going to be an issue,” she said, adding, “I don;t look at it any different from a regular pageant and I don’t think anyone else should either.”

“It levels the playing field,” said Kym Hopen, who was also talked into competing in the pageant’s “Mrs.” division, her first competition.

Kym said it will be nice to see a winner who is a not a “walking stick” for a change.

“Who’s to say the size of my clothing makes my platform any less important,” she said.

Though Kym had never competed in a pageant, Raines also approached her at the same time and encouraged her to join, though Kym said she originally said no because she was unsure of herself and her physique, though Raines was persistent.

“She said ‘you’re falling into exactly what we’re trying to get away from,” Kym said. “I thought, ‘Oh NO! I am!'”

Then Raven turned the tables on her, telling her mother to lead by example and nt be afraid, as well as get an opportunity to see what a pageant is like through the eyes of a contestant instead of from the sidelines as a mom.

It was enough to persuade Kym to give it a try.

“I’m just going to buck up and go for it!” she said.

This weekend, the mother-daughter team from Bonney Lake will each get up to represent their hometown and strut their stuff in hopes of bringing home the title.

So is Raven offering her mother some advice on her first pageant?

“You could say that,” raven said with a laugh, but added that she has turned her mother’s “you decide what you want to do” lines back on her for a change.

“I said ‘You can;t use that line on me!'” Kym said as both broke into laughter.

But Kym describes being on the stage instead of next to it as “nerve-wracking,” adding that while she considers herself outgoing and comfortable with herself, being on stage is a different story.

“I have a higher level of respect for Raven or any person who can get through any level of events,” she said.

The pair will both be promoting an anti-bullying platform, something the Hopens have had to deal with in the past.

“It’s something that’s close to both our hearts,” Kym said.

Kym and Raven are both promoting and anti-bullying platform.

The pageant is scheduled for Saturday – Monday at the Holiday Inn in Everett, Wash.