By Ritika Jain
Mya Xeller is a rising model bracing the industry with unwavering confidence and a refreshing perspective. She currently holds the title of Miss Teen World America Connecticut at 15 years old and is a long time competitive dancer. She said she got her start in modeling by participating in pageants. Initially, pageantry didn’t spark her interest until she saw members of her dance team pursuing it. She encountered a new threshold in her first pageant, which was only the beginning of her journey.
“I did my first pageant when I was around 11 to 12 years old, and just the feeling I got on stage and being able to express who I am on the inside and show people you can be who you are—that’s the best thing you can do in life. That really pushed me to get into modeling.”
When asked if this was nerve-wracking for her at such a young age, she said her experience through dance allowed her a better footing to face pageant’s competitive nature. While there is an apparent stigma around pageantry that makes it seem superficial and exclusive, Mya expands on how those labels are misleading and what pageantry means to her.
“I feel like people from the outside look in and see that girls are competing based on what they carry on the outside. Through my experience, I’ve learned that it does not matter what you look like on the outside, how expensive your outfits are, how much you spent on your gown or if you hired a team to do your hair and makeup. It really is about your knowledge, who you are as a person and how you express that in pageantry.”
She adds that pageantry offers girls the platform to speak out on social issues and connect with others who are determined to make a difference. For Mya, the surface-level glitter and glamour of the industry doesn’t match up to the profound impact it has had on her voice, friendships, and career. She entered in Miss Teen World America last minute, her first national level pageant, not knowing what path her life would take.
“I have that personality where I see something and I think ‘Oh I can do it. I’m just going to do it.’ I competed and I was shocked I ended up taking the title and was extremely overwhelmed with excitement. As my journey to nationals began, I started to see how powerful pageantry was because I was starting to do things and make a difference.”
Mya has also been able to showcase her passion for dance through pageants. As a competitive dancer from the age of 3, she mostly dances in her talent acts and performs a tap solo she masters every year. She says the two genres are a blend between extracurriculars and a medium through which she can express who she is.
Mya speaks with humility and gratitude for every opportunity she gets. She credits her team, which includes her mom, director, pageant coach and friends and family, whose support was indispensable in her journey to nationals.
Arriving on the heavily exhausted topic of quarantine, the extra time has led Mya to achieve more personal goals. With a schedule void of bookings and flights, she created an IGTV channel called “Instyle with Mya Xeller” which features makeup tutorials, fashion videos and pageantry tips. Through this channel, she’s exhibited her passion for fashion and current trends from one teenager to another. Over the phone, she filled me in on her favorite fashion trends.
“I love old denim outfits. I had a photoshoot right before quarantine started and one of my favorite shots was wearing an all denim outfit. Another thing that bounces off of denim is bell bottoms jeans. They have such an old fashion vintage look and I love that. I feel like everyone, including myself, is into skinny things and tight clothes, but I think loose fitted clothing is making its way back in.”
Mya’s talents have even been offered a spot on a reality show called “Next Big Thing.” The show surrounds a number of rising stars in different fields—an olympic ice skater, a rapper, an actress, a makeup artist and more—and their journey to fame. Mya reflects fondly on the experience and how teens watching can connect to their stories.
“You have a bunch of teens who are so inspired and determined to make it big but also very relatable on a teen level. You get to see that not only are they working in the industry but they’re still kids doing fun things, getting boyfriends and then breaking up.”
Mya’s optimism and candidacy promises her a career full of possibilities. To her, pageantry and dance are forms of expression that not only present her abilities, but also allow her to open up to an audience and display who she really is. She’s always underlining the importance of being good, making a difference and connecting with others.
“I feel like even if one day I'm the most famous person in the world, I'll still love talking to people no matter how big I get. I'll always love being that person that makes someone feel like they have a friend. There are so many teens and grown adults in this world that just need someone to talk to.”
Ritika Jain is an editorial writer who focuses on all things fashion, pop culture, and important social events. Follow her on Instagram.