SCV teen shines at international pageant

Jordenn Thompson competes at the International Junior Miss in Austin, Texas. Courtesy of Goodwin Photography

As with many kids, Canyon High School senior Jordenn Thompson spent her childhood delving into various activities. 

Whether it was sports, acting, modeling or pageantry, Thompson’s done it all. 

Now, the 17-year-old has found her way back to one of her oldest hobbies — and is excelling at it once again.

How it all began

From the age of 2, Thompson used her charisma to pursue acting, modeling and pageantry. 

“She sacrificed years of going to school and time with family and friends to work,” said her mother, Lacey O’Connell. “We lived in other states and other countries for filming for months at a time.”

As she got older, sports, school and family became more of a priority for Thompson, so much so that she asked to retire when she was 10 to concentrate on them.

“She’s a very hard working young lady — she has always been,” said Kaitlyn Bell, Thompson’s pageant coach who’s known her since she was 5. “She’s always had just a really good work ethic, even early on in life. Even at a young age, she always wanted to push herself to her best ability, so I think that’s something that a lot of kids that her age didn’t have, and I think it’s really carried on in her pageant career, as well.”

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when Thompson saw a local state pageant that she got the itch to try it again.

“I told my mom, ‘I kind of want to do pageants again,’ and so from then on, it kind of got me hooked on them again,” she said, adding that it helps that pageantry is also one of the activities she can do with her sisters. 

Canyon High School senior Jordenn Thompson. Courtesy of Austin Ryde

More than just a love for the stage

When getting back into pageantry, Thompson began to realize more would be expected of her than when she was younger. 

“It was more about the face and your outfit because … they don’t really expect you to be able to really correlate offenses (answer questions),” she said. “(Now), it really focuses on your skill, and I think that’s one of the biggest lessons that it’s given me.” 

For Thomspon, pageantry now gives her the opportunity to gain confidence in herself and her abilities.

“A lot of the pageantry system is really focused on interview and how well you can compose yourself and portray your ideas,” she added. 

Pageantry’s focus on community service has also allowed Thompson to fall in love with getting involved in her community. 

“In the beginning, it was really about (doing it for) the pageant, but as I continued to do these projects in the community, it kind of became more about myself — I wasn’t even thinking about the pageant anymore,” she said. “I kind of think that’s like one of the best things about pageantry is that maybe they pushed you to do these things, but in the end, you’re the one doing it and making an impact.” 

Returning to the stage

As she got more comfortable, Thompson decided to branch out and compete in larger pageants, including those at the national and international level. 

“When I go to these bigger pageants, it’s hands-on, it’s practicing your walk every day, getting down these routines, lots of interview practice because you get these questions thrown at you that are either about yourself or about problems in the world — or literally, anything — so you really have to be prepared and on your toes, but you also have to be calm and collected,” she said. 

Recently, Thompson traveled to Texas to compete in her first international pageant, and despite it being nerve wracking due to the hard work she’d put in, she was determined to go in with the mindset of simply having fun and being herself, even choosing to compete in her naturally curly hair for the first time.

Even so, after feeling the most confident she’s ever felt while on stage, Thompson was ecstatic when she made it to top 15 and would be competing in the finals, and though she was happy to have made it to that point, she admits she nearly had a heart attack when learning she’d made it to the top 5.

“It really wasn’t even about winning at that point — the fact that I had made it that far just by being myself and being confident was literally all I needed,” she said. 

Thompson ended up placing as first runner up against girls from all over the world, and also winning awards for international photogenic, international academic excellence and fourth runner-up in casual wear. 

Thompson had worked hard to pay for the pageant herself, doing odd jobs, like babysitting, which made her all the more proud of her accomplishments.

“It was quite the hussle, and it was quite impressive,” Bell said. “That’s just not something you see out of a typical 17-year-old, so that was really cool. … I think that her hard work, her sweetness and just what a good person she is and her desire to help her community and her desire to spread her message to others (is incredible).” 

Jordenn Thompson competes at the International Junior Miss in Austin, Texas. Courtesy of Goodwin Photography

Hard work pays off

Thompson also received a scholarship for her win at the international pageant, which she said is perfect timing as she looks toward her future. 

It’s the skills she’s garnered through pageantry that Thompson is looking forward to using as she goes into college to become a travel neonatal nurse.

“College is a really big step in becoming an adult and branching off by yourself,” she said. “I think my experience with pageantry, being able to talk for myself, stand up for myself, adapt on the fly and navigate what’s around me is really going to be useful when I’m living on my own.”

“It’s been really exciting for us as a family to see all of her years of hard work paying off this year,” O’Connell added. “In addition to the pride we feel in her accomplishments we are equally as proud of the success she’s finding in advocacy through pageantry. She’s using her voice to promote change, inclusion and service.” 

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