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It takes some nerve to step into the spotlight and let others other judge your every move.

That’s why one Rapid City woman wants to make it easier for girls and young women to take that first step into the world of pageantry.

Shapeera Afraid of Lightning recently took the helm of a trio of pageants open to South Dakota tweens, teens and 20-somethings.

Afraid of Lightning, the current Mrs. South Dakota and a former Miss South Dakota United States, hopes to draw contestants who are new to the pageant scene.

“I try to tell girls, ‘It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done a pageant before,’” Afraid of Lighting said. “This is a great way to start.”

The Junior Miss South Dakota High, Miss South Dakota High and Miss South Dakota Collegiate pageants will premiere Oct. 15 in Rapid City.

Girls in the sixth through eighth grade are invited to compete for the title of Junior Miss South Dakota High, but the titleholder does not move on to a national competition. Winners of the Miss South Dakota High and Collegiate contests, however, advance to the Miss High School America and Miss Collegiate America pageants in San Antonio, Texas, in March.

Title seekers square off in three categories: personal interview, fun fashion and evening gown.

Contestants aren’t judged on how well they glide across the stage in a bikini or belt out a Sinatra classic. Swimsuit and talent competitions are absent from this competition.

Some people avoid pageants for fear of those two categories. Perhaps they don’t care to hit the runway in swimwear. Maybe they’re not artistically gifted.

Afraid of Lightning hopes to entice those would-be competitors with the promise of not having to prance around in a swimsuit or perform.

Earlier in the day of the pageants, judges will conduct private interviews. They’re not out to stump interviewees. They want to get to know each person and learn about her experiences and aspirations, Afraid of Lightning said.

“It’s a chance to get a feel for who the girl is, what kinds of things she does in the community and get an idea of her future ambitions,” she said.

“Fun fashion” gives entrants a chance to flaunt their fun side. Every contestant gets to pick out apparel from a local clothing store and model it. Nicole Robeck Fashion Boutique in downtown Rapid City will loan each girl and woman an outfit for the evening. Ensembles are intended to reflect contestants’ personality and radiate confidence.

During the evening gown segment, judges weigh their impressions of overall appearance, poise and stage presence.

It’s Afraid of Lightning’s favorite part of the evening.

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“No matter where you are in the pageant, how you felt about the interview or talent portion, evening gown is always that time when everyone looks beautiful,” she said.

Homecoming queen was the only contest Afraid of Lightning had entered before she competed in and won the title of Miss South Dakota United States in 2002.

Her experience paved the way for future endeavors. Today she and her husband, Quincy Afraid of Lightning, are co-pastors of the Miracle Center in Rapid City. She’s a member of D’Vine Favor, a gospel singing group that includes her four sisters. The 29-year-old dance instructor also teaches at Central High School. She opted to substitute in the classroom this school year so she could

devote more time to the business of being Mrs. South Dakota and directing pageants.

This fall marks the debut of the Junior Miss South Dakota High, Miss South Dakota High and Miss South Dakota Collegiate pageants. Afraid of Lightning said she’s anxious to get off to a good start.

“I’m doing everything

I can to make it successful,” she said. “I want to make it something that the girls will want to come back and do every year whether they win or lose.”

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