Teen pageant queen uses platform to make a difference

Jun 28, 2022

It’s good to be the queen.

Dartmouth resident and Dartmouth High rising senior Hannah Lima has been in pageantry for most of her life, but it wasn’t until last September that she lifted the crown after being named Miss New Bedford Outstanding Teen.

But winning the competition was just the beginning.

“Some people just think you wear a crown and show up for a parade but it's a lot of work,” said Hannah’s mom, Judith Lima. “The calendar is always booked — sometimes double booked.”

Two of Hannah’s focuses since becoming Miss New Bedford Outstanding Teen have been volunteering — a cornerstone of her pageantry resume — and promoting kindness within the community.

The annual competition is a part of the Miss America Organization’s teen division, which is open to girls aged 13 to 17 from the Greater New Bedford area.

Lima had entered the event twice before, but had never placed before winning the 2021 pageant.

Now, she said, she is happy knowing that her determination has paid off.

“It feels good knowing that all my hard work and time is done and has been recognized,” she said.

After winning the pageant, Hannah competed at the state level for the title of Miss Massachusetts Outstanding Teen, where she placed third and won individual awards for scholastic achievement and community service.

One of her biggest accomplishments since becoming Outstanding Teen was successfully lobbying the City of New Bedford to create a “Day of Kindness,” which was celebrated for the first time on April 1 of this year.

“I wanted to do something that involved the whole community,” Hannah said, adding that she has been planning the concept since before she won the competition.

She said that she chose April 1 because it was the day that she arrived in America after being adopted from Korea before her first birthday.

Though she was cautioned by New Bedford officials that April 1 — April Fool’s Day — might lead people to take the concept as a joke, Hannah said she was adamant that she wanted to share the kindness she received from her adopted family with the rest of the community.

“Well it wasn’t a joke to me because it was the day I was adopted and I came home to my family,” she said. “So I wanted to share that with the community and the world.”

And that is far from Hannah’s only contribution to her community.

Hannah has been volunteering since she was 6, when she performed at nursing homes and community events with a New Bedford vocal troupe called Voices in Time.

“I eventually saw the impact I was making on others’ lives,” she said. “That’s something I can continue for my whole lifetime — helping others and volunteering any chance I can,”

Now, Hannah works mostly with United Way of Greater New Bedford.

She also uses her platform as Miss New Bedford Outstanding Teen to raise money for local charities.

Recently, she collected $3,400 through her fundraiser, Hannah’s Bags of Kindness, to buy clothes, sundries, and school supplies that will be donated to children in foster care.

Hannah has been interested in pageantry since she was a little girl.

When Hannah was little, her mother, a former Miss Massachusetts, signed her up to join Mayflower Princess, a mentorship program that pairs young girls with older pageant contestants.

Pageants, Hannah said, have four judged components: interview, talent, evening wear, and physical fitness.

She said that of the four, the most difficult portion is evening wear because it includes a random on-stage question that contestants have to answer on the spot while maintaining their poise and confidence.

For the talent portion, Hannah used to sing, but at the competition this past fall, she opted to perform an original spoken word poem about her experience being adopted from Korea.

She said she discovered the talent when her high school English class did a Poetry out Loud competition in which everyone was required to pick a poem from a list and perform it in front of the class.

After winning the classroom competition, Hannah moved on to the school-wide contest. When she won that, she moved on to regionals, and finally the state level competition, where she placed in the top 12.

She said once she realized she had a talent for it, she knew it would make a good talent for competition because it would stand out from the other contestants, most of whom either sang or danced.

“I never would have thought I’d be doing poetry of all things,” she said. “It was something unique because I had never seen anyone do that at a competition.”