Pageantry is rife with stereotyping. From the vapid, degrading image of it painted by denouncers in the media to allegations of corruption and sexual harassment behind the scenes, beauty pageants are portrayed as seedy and superficial, even anti-feminist. Their contestants, too, are generalized as the picture of vanity and vapidity. Miss Baltimore Outstanding Teen Hannah Bruckheim, a junior, is here to shatter every one of those assumptions.
Bruckheim has a hardworking, humble self-assurance and a down-to-earth demeanor – not a shred of the high-maintenance attitude some might expect of a pageant contestant. Like any other teenager, she likes to spend her free time reading, listening to music and watching movies. She lives with her mother, father and 14-year-old brother, who “loves video games,” Bruckheim said. “We play a lot of Mario Kart and Far Cry 4 together.”
Since Bruckheim began to relish the multifaceted pageant experience from a young age, she endured bullying in middle school due to the snap conclusions people drew about her activity of choice. Yet as she flourished and achieved success, her peers developed a respect for her accomplishments. “In middle school, people used to be very mean about it. They would see pageant photos on social media and call me ‘stuck-up’ and ‘dumb’ because they judged me before they got the chance to know me,” Bruckheim said. “It’s been much better here, though. People are a lot more understanding and genuinely interested in what I do, and they don’t judge me before they understand the program. They really aren’t just beauty pageants – they’re scholarship programs focused on style, success and leadership.”
`Bruckheim views pageantry as a rewarding and constructive use of her time. It has helped her to develop diverse talents; the interview portions augment her poised communication skills, the evening gown competitions allow her to practice carrying herself with confidence and the overall program has granted her the opportunity to win scholarships and serve local communities all over Maryland.
She also appreciates the opportunity to meet like-minded peers. “My favorite pageant experiences are when I can go out to eat or just spend time with the other contestants when we aren’t rehearsing or competing,” Bruckheim said. “It’s great to get to know them and talk about things outside of pageantry. That’s how I’ve made some really close friends.”
Aside from competing in pageants and winning titles, most recently Miss Baltimore Outstanding Teen, Bruckheim has a passion for music. She does theater and performs in the Chromatics here, and has an edgy taste in music that might shock a casual onlooker. “I totally love hard rock and heavy metal,” Bruckheim said. “I’m a huge pop-punk fan and I love Green Day and Blink-182, but I also love the classic metal bands like Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, and classic rock like Guns N Roses and Led Zeppelin.”
Bruckheim, even in all of her flower and ribbon-clad glamour, is surprising, humble and refreshing. It seems as if her diligence, community service and scholarships – all aspects of the widely detracted pageant lifestyle – have fostered her development into an impressively successful young women.