Persistence Pays: Miss Iowa Teen USA Heads to Nationals

© Miss Iowa Teen USA 2014 Amanda Armstrong will compete for the national title on Aug. 2. Photo courtesy Future Productions, LLC

At the age of 14, introverted and self-proclaimed nerd Amanda Armstrong let her mom talk her into joining a beauty pageant to overcome her shyness. A life-long honor roll student, Armstrong places a high importance on her education; however, the pageants have helped her develop a strong self-esteem. "It really just opened the doors for me socially, emotionally and definitely in a business world," she said. "It's helped me so much with my interview skills, it's boosted my confidence so much and I've gotten to meet so many amazing people in this process, including the state competitors. They're all very driven and very dedicated, and they have a lot of poise and confidence. It's put me in a good group of people." Armstrong placed second runner up for two years before winning Miss Iowa Teen USA 2014 earlier this year. She said the first time around, she was going into the pageant process "kind of blind" without much direction. She just knew she wanted to be herself. But by her third year, she felt ready to win the crown and take on the responsibilities of representing the state of Iowa. "(By the third year,) I was just going to go in there and have as much fun as I could and be myself to the fullest and be proud and confident of who I was," she said. "This last time, I knew it was my time. I knew I was ready, and ready to go and be a state titleholder and do as much good as I could for the state." But preparing for nationals was not an easy task. Armstrong learned to eat healthy, and dedicated herself to hitting the gym as well as the books. She said she learned good workout tips, like walking backward on the treadmill to tone her backend and thighs. And now, she's discovered a hidden talent. Armstrong can walk backwards, text, read a book, and sing all at the same time. She said it takes a lot of coordination not to fall. "There really is no miracle pill. It just takes a lot of work and you really have to work at it," she said. "So you just really have to be dedicated and driven and make sure you're doing the right kind of thing to get your body in shape, and also be at a mental standpoint where you're ready to be there and be yourself and be confident." But Armstrong hasn't given up on her studies for the pageant. In fact, she has become a role model for brainiacs everywhere. The 17-year-old senior at Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School has been nominated to receive the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists Award of Excellence in Washington D.C. She said she wants to attend either Iowa State University or the University of Iowa, and someday become a pediatrician. "You can be beautiful and be smart and confident," she said. "You don't just need to have beauty, but you need to have it come from within." Since winning the state title, Armstrong has been a strong advocate of "Girl Talk" - a program aimed at high school girls mentoring junior high school girls and helping young girls improve self-esteem. She has even started a local chapter in Sioux City for the program. Armstrong will compete for the national title of Miss Teen USA 2014 on August 2 in the Bahamas. The show will stream live at at 7 p.m. MST.