Krysteen Romero feels more at home in the paint with a basketball, but on Sunday she’ll compete to be Miss Teen Maine International.

RANGELEY – Krysteen Romero uses words like “ambitious,” “driven” and “strong” to describe herself.

“Girlie-girl” just doesn’t seem to fit.

Romero, 15, is a brawny, 6-foot-tall, jeans and T-shirt gal.

But this Sunday, on her 16th birthday, that all might change. The Rangeley Lakes Regional School sophomore is set to don her glamorous, spaghetti-strapped, pink evening gown and glide down the runway at the Miss Teen Maine International Competition.

“My dress is pink, and I don’t like pink,” Romero said. “It seems superficial, but I might end up liking it.”

A dominating center known for her pressure in the paint on a basketball court, Romero seems more at home slinging softballs and shooting soccer balls than shopping. But Romero admits to a feminine side.

“I consider myself athletic, and I have a lot of guy friends, but I do like girl stuff, too,” she said, her long, kinky, blondish-brown hair pulled up in a loose bun. “I am concerned with how I look, but I don’t go all out.”

Still, she said, “No one ever thought I, of all people, would do this. I am excited, though. It’s going to be fun.”

Romero heard about the pageant through her grandmother, Nana Haines of Phillips. Romero’s mother, Robbie Richards, convinced her to take a shot.

The contest is just another in a long line of challenges for the sophomore. “It’s something to give me new experiences. I am excited to know what it’s all about and excited to try something new.”

On Friday, Romero, her mother and grandmother will travel from Rangeley to Augusta to begin her busy three-day weekend as a beauty queen. She’ll make an appearance in the Maine State Parade in Lewiston on Saturday, learn makeup and hair tips and tricks, and even sign autographs at Wal-Mart in Augusta. “Who wants our autographs?” she asks, throwing her head back and howling at the thought of it. “It’s so surreal.”

Finally, on Sunday, Romero will celebrate her birthday by competing in four areas of competition: fashion fun wear (20 percent), aerobic wear (20 percent), evening gown (20 percent) and the interview (40 percent).

Romero is the only girl from western Maine competing in the pageant. She and nine other girls will face seven judges in their quest to be crowned the first-ever Miss Teen Maine International, pick up over $10,000 in prizes and head on to the national championships later this summer in Chicago.

For the personal interview, Romero is planning to talk about a topic she knows all too well. Her platform is the negative consequences of drugs, alcohol and underage smoking. She knows about those topics because she is a teenager and also a member of several youth groups, through her church and her school, that try to combat substance abuse issues.

“I am not going in there to win,” she said. “I am doing it to make myself heard about what I believe in. Being Miss Teen Maine is about more than just looks. If I did win, I believe the biggest prize would be my voice getting heard.”

“This pageant gives teenage girls a nonexploitative arena to spread their message and be a positive role-model,” said Rebecca Pushard, pageant director and 2000 Mrs. Maine International. “This, I can guarantee you, is not your stereotypical pageant. Beauty helps, but beauty is on the inside and brains are the most important.”

This will be a whole new avenue for Krysteen, Pushard said. “She’s going to walk away from this and say, ‘That’s pretty cool.'”

The last time Romero competed in the Augusta area, it was in February at the Western Class D semifinals’ girls basketball game. Her top-seeded team lost, and she cried.

That won’t happen if she doesn’t win on Sunday. She will be too busy getting ready for her next softball game.

Plus, she has 16 candles to blow out.

“I want to get out there and make something for myself, and making good decisions and taking advantage of every opportunity you can in high school is a reflection on who you are, and what you are going to become,” Romero said.

“I’ll just be myself, and whatever happens, happens.”

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