LAKE STEVENS — Isabelle and Aria Hansen are royalty.
They are sister princesses living right here in Snohomish County.
What’s up with that?
It’s pageantry, not aristocracy.
Isabelle, 8, was crowned Miss Washington Princess in the 2018 International Junior Miss pageant and Aria, 4, took the Junior Princess title.
The tough-as-nails Herald city editor was melted by the poised little princess who stopped by the newsroom with her mom pitching a story.
The Herald usually stays away from running stories about local beauty queens. A wire story, maybe, such as on the likes of TV child reality starlet “Honey Boo Boo.” Remember her?
Beauty pageants are rabbit holes for newspapers, because if there’s one story, then every queendom wants a story. Same with quilters, government strategic plans and people turning 100.
Child pageants conjure notions of high heels, sparkly dresses and big hair (and rightly so, those are elements) as well as commercialism, sexism and real-versus-fake beautyism.
Put all that aside.
Think of it as any sport or challenge for youth.
“You want to try harder. You want to keep going and keep reaching for it,” Isabelle said.
Winning is sweet. “You feel good about yourself,” she said. “You feel special. You get really pumped up.”
Trophies are not the only goal, tiaras not the only treat.
“You are competing, but you are supposed to have fun,” Isabelle said. “It makes me get in a nice mood and makes me happy.”
Is it stressful?
“Maybe for my mom,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for a while, so it just feels comfortable.”
Isabelle entered her first pageant at age 5. Aria wanted to be like big sis and started a year ago. Jordyn, 11 months, could join the sisterhood.
Isabelle, a third-grader, said kids at school don’t really understand.
“My teachers do, but mostly not the other students,” she said. “They don’t know how it really goes.”
She plans to do her pageant gymnastics/dance routine at an upcoming school talent show. She choreographed the moves.
Yes, she spends hours primping to look pretty for pageants, but she devotes more hours practicing her moves and articulation.
She also gets rowdy on the trampoline, even if it means risking bruising her beauty-queen face, which she recently did. She also does handsprings down the grocery store aisle, something her mom wishes she wouldn’t.
One pageant category is the interview, which entails speaking clearly and making eye contact while answering whatever question is thrown at her, from favorite color (teal) to who is the person she most admires (her mom, Paris).
Isabelle strives to keep it real. “Just be yourself, not anybody else,” she said. “Have your own answer. Just be you.”
She doesn’t watch “Toddlers & Tiaras,” the TLC series about the glitter and drama of the cutthroat world of pageants. She’d never heard of “Honey Boo Boo,” whose mother, June, now has her own show, “Mama June: From Not to Hot.”
Mama Paris is Isabelle’s main coach.
“We keep it pretty natural,” Paris Hansen said. “A lot of girls will pay for an interview coach and for hair and makeup. I am the interview coach and the hair and makeup for her.”
The International Junior Miss site states: “IJM site is not a glitz pageant. We’re a naturally polished pageant. We are looking for girls that are well put together, well spoken and confident. This is what IJM girls represent.”
Still, it comes with a pretty price. Paris said new gowns cost upward of $100, so she looks for deals on resale sites. The entry for state competition is about $300. It’s about $750 apiece for the sister princesses to compete in July’s International Junior Miss finals in San Antonio.
Unlike school and sports clubs, there aren’t group candy bar sales and car washes to cover expenses. The girls are on their own for fundraising. A current venture is a yard sale with items donated from friends and relatives. They are also collecting care-kit items for kids in need as a community service project.
Paris said the pageants have taken the family to California, Virginia Beach and other places that they’d never have gone otherwise.
“They’ve created all these memories for us,” said Paris, 27.
She and the girls’ father, Victor Martinez, 33, both went to Mariner High School and lived in Everett until their move last year to Lake Stevens.
Victor is a driver for a Woodinville drywall distributor.
“He is super athletic,” Paris said. “He thought the girls were going to take the sports route. If he had it his way they’d be on the flag football team or the wrestling team, and he still to this day thinks that’s a possibility. I think it scares him a bit because they get all dolled up. When they are on stage he is their biggest cheerleader.”
For Aria, the clothes are the best part. “I like to walk with my heels and my dress,” she said with aplomb.
Isabelle likes hanging out with her pageant pals. “I meet lots of friends and they can be your friends forever.”
Paris said the pageants have given Isabelle confidence. “She was shy. She was always that girl at the park who wouldn’t go up to another kid and talk to them.”
Isabelle said she used to talk in a low voice when meeting new people, but the pageants taught her to speak up.
Critics of child pageants claim that the parents are living vicariously through their children.
Is that what Paris is doing?
She puts it this way: “Growing up there were a lot of things I wanted to do. My mom couldn’t afford it and she was also working a lot as a single mom. When I became a mom my number one goal was to allow the girls to do whatever their hearts desired, so I live through them. Everything we do is all about them.”
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown @herald net.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.