Teen takes top title
A Glen Allen teen who entered her first pageant just three years ago recently confirmed that she has a knack for winning – by capturing a regional title this past summer and a national title in November.
In August 2012, Davina Seoparsan won the title of Miss American Coed (MAC) East Coast Junior Teen. A few months later, she topped more than 50 contestants from around the nation to become Miss American Junior Teen 2013. In addition to the national title, Seoparsan won the Optional National Speech competition, was first runner-up in the talent competition, and placed third runner-up in the National Actress competition.
Since her crowning, she has been traveling around to different states, appearing at other pageants and ceremonial events. But one of her favorite roles as a pageant winner is making appearances in her own community, at celebrations such as Glen Allen Day, the Harvest Festival at Meadow Farm Museum, parades through Sandston, and Recreation and Parks events at Walkerton Tavern.
And at the recent holiday Parade of Lights on the James River, Seoparsan adds with a chuckle, she even got to play "Santa's Helper."
Appearing at so many annual events in Henrico has been especially rewarding, she says, because the "regulars" who attend become an extended family of sorts.
"Pretty much the same families come back to these events every year, so I know them," she says with a smile. Seoparsan never tires of the community events, she says – and especially loves when awestruck little girls catch sight of her and gleefully squeal, "Look – it's a princess!"
But while she admits that she originally got into pageants "to have fun," Seoparsan has since come to view the competitions more seriously, and to see them as a vehicle for promoting causes that she holds dear.
"[Pageants] are a tool," she says, "to spread awareness about things that matter."
A near-tragedy in her sophomore year at J.R. Tucker helped Seoparsan recognize an issue that matters deeply to her, and that has since become her platform as a contestant.
"[A classmate] attempted suicide," she says. "I was really good friends with her, and I didn't have any idea [she was troubled]."
Shocked that her friend had almost died and that she had been clueless about her intentions, Seoporsan chose teen depression as the topic for her end-of-year International Baccalaureate (IB) project, and decided to put together a book on the topic.
"I interviewed the girl I know and other people who attempted suicide; I also interviewed family and friends of people who committed suicide," she recalls. "I added facts [about depression] along with the stories of people who were there and recovered.
"When you read it," she said, "it makes you more aware of what's going on."
With the help of others involved in the prevention of teen suicide (including Alex Slusher, founder of Hold Hope and mother of a Freeman H.S. student who took his own life), Seoparsan is working to distribute the book to a wide audience. She has also spoken at the Out of the Darkness event at Deep Run H.S., developed a foundation and website (Together We Can Celebrate Life) and is involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Although Seoparsan has always been interested in the topic of teen depression, her friend's experience helped crystallize that interest into a passion.
A few years ago, a friend came to her with a serious problem, and she helped steer the friend to a schoolcounselor. Realizing that most teens prefer talking to friends rather than counselors, however, she formed a peer counseling group.
"Kids feel better talking to other kids," says Seoparsan. "It's a chain reaction. Once one teen is impacted, that encourages others."
Seoparsan's long-range plans include attending an Ivy League school or the University of Virginia and becoming a child advocacy lawyer and, eventually, a motivational speaker.
In the meantime, her immediate goals – after performing her duties as national titleholder – are to compete in the Miss Teen pageant (the next age group up from Junior Teen), and then to compete for the Miss Virginia title.
That's in addition to her other activities, which include serving as president of Tucker's Diversity Club, and involvement with Model UN, forensics, Kick off Mentors and the YMCA's Teen Leaders' Club.
But Seoparsan will continue to pursue pageant competitions, she says, not only for the opportunity to raise awareness for her platform, but also because she likes the challenge of dispelling ignorance about pageants.
"When I meet someone and they hear I do pageants," she says, "they'll ask, 'Are you stuck-up?'"
Negative stereotypes abound, she says, partly because of TV shows that portray too-young participants wearing "a lot of makeup – and not a lot of clothes."
"But it's not all about glitz and beauty," Seoparsan continues. "You have to interview well. [Pageant judges] look for community service. It's about how they see you grow as a person."
The oldest of three children (her brother Vinny is 12 and attends Short Pump Middle School; another brother, Dylan, is six and attends Shady Grove Elementary School), Davina has had an outgoing nature since infancy, says her mother, Nirmala. In her ability to engage easily with people of all ages and backgrounds, Nirmala points out, Davina seems to be "following in the footsteps" of her grandfather, Harry Nawbatt, who serves as Guyana's High Commissioner to Canada.
But even if genetics has played a part in her facility for interacting with others, says Davina, her pageant experiences have helped to develop that natural talent and polish her communication skills.
"You learn a lot; you gain confidence and poise," she says of the competitions. "It taught me a lot of life skills, about how to deal with people, interview, and speak in front of a group."
Seoparsan chuckles as she recalls watching the video of her crowning at the national competition sometime afterwards. "When I won," she says, "I looked confused. Startled."
But it's when she views videos from a few years ago that she really sees how far she has come.
"I look back at myself before I did pageants and go, 'Ewwwwww!'" she says with a laugh.
In a more sober vein, she notes that she is still in touch with her Tucker classmate who attempted suicide, even though her friend is studying elsewhere now.
"She changed me a lot," Seoparsan says. "[Her close call] made me a lot more serious about the topic. You never know; [depression] can happen to any one of us."
She shivers slightly as she recalls being riveted by an account her friend wrote of the night she almost took her life.
"I still read it," says Seoparsan, "and it gives me the chills."
For details about Davina Seoparsan's foundation, Together We Can Celebrate Life, visit https://sites.google.com/site/twcclife/home For. details about Hold Hope, visit http://holdhope.org
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) will host a candlelight vigil of remembrance and hope Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the University of Richmond, outside the Cannon Chapel. The public is invited to attend and join MADD to honor victims of impaired driving crashes, while helping to remind the community to be safe during the holidays. > Read more.
Among participants at the Seventh Annual Coordinators2Inc Golf Tournament and awards luncheon Oct. 3 were (from left) Rebecca Ricardo, C2 Inc executive director; Kevin Derr, member of the winning foursome; Sharon Richardson, C2 Inc founder; and Frank Ridgway and Jon King, members of the winning foursome.
Held at The Crossings Golf Club, the tournament will benefit placement of children from Virginia's foster care system into permanent families through Coordinators2. > Read more.
Event will help kick of Marine Corps' 'Toys for Tots' campaign
All 140 A.C. Moore locations will serve as drop-off centers this year for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, and all toys collected will stay in the local communities served by the stores in which they are donated.
On Saturday, Nov. 15, the Willow Lawn location will kick off the month-long program by hosting a "Make & Take" craft event for kids. Children ages six and older will be able to make a craft and take it home with them. Representatives from the Marines will be in-store to teach customers about the Toys for Tots program. A.C. Moore team members will be on site to help with the crafts. > Read more.
The Dominion GardenFest of Lights Grand Illumination takes place tonight at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden! This year’s theme is “A Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden,” which celebrates the Garden’s history. You can also celebrate Thanksgiving again – tomorrow at Henricus Historical Park. More great events – Lavender Fields Herb Farm and Wilton House Museum will both host their holiday open house events this weekend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Disney’s ‘Big Hero 6,’ lovable robot Baymax delight
It may be time for Olaf to step down as our nation’s reigning cartoon character. Big Hero 6, the latest animated feature from Disney, contains a challenger to the throne: Baymax (Scott Adsit), another lovably chubby white wonder, who will bring joy to children’s hearts and invade every home in America inside a six-foot pile of Disney merchandise.
Big Hero 6 (based ever so slightly on a Marvel comic of the same name) is the story of Baymax – and also his closest companion Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter). And then also their four friends, all of whom join together to form the titular superhero team.
At first, though, it’s only Hiro, a young boy and an engineering prodigy, who’d rather spend his time in underground robot fight clubs than do something productive with his gifts. > Read more.
Bella’s feels – and tastes – like Italy should
Short Pump is known for its share of chain restaurants and strip malls, but diners looking for something more distinct can certainly find it without heading downtown or to nearby Charlottesville.
In fact, local husband-and-wife restaurateurs Valeria Bisenti and Doug Muir brought a taste of Charlottesville (and Italy) to Short Pump when they took a chance and opened Bella’s second location in the same shopping strip as Wal-Mart and Peter Chang China Cafe. (Bella’s original location is on Main Street in downtown Charlottesville.)
For a local Italian restaurant, Bella’s is as “Mom and Pop” as its gets. Valeria is Mom, and Doug is Pop. Since its opening about six months ago, diners have been eating rich comfort foods and drinking Italian wines. > Read more.
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CalendarMan Church, a White Hot Ministries program, meets every Friday morning from 7:15 a.m. to 8 a.m. at Joey’s Hot Dogs in The Shoppes at Innsbrook. Man Church helps men… Full text