Local girl crowned Lil’ Miss Eastern Iowa

Mary Atkinson · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Morgan Hodge, 9, of West Liberty, competed against seven other girls in her age division on Oct. 26, where she was crowned Lil’ Miss Eastern Iowa 2013.

She competed in interview, casual wear, talent and party dress categories. She likes participating in talent shows and pageants.

However, she spends most of her daily life just being a typical nine-year-old girl.

All the trophies, pretty clothes and tiaras only reveal one side of the girl. She also likes to go squirrel hunting with her dad, Stew, and playing right field in softball. She has a bedtime, does chores around the house, has a messy bedroom and watches Duck Dynasty.

In fact, Morgan said that when she competes in June for the title of Li'l Miss Iowa, she would like one of her outfits to be made of camouflage.

"I think it's great that she goes hunting," said her mother Roberta Hodge, "She's very diverse. She'll go from dancing and pageants to being a tomboy in a blink of an eye."

Hodge said there are days when Morgan needs a little push when it comes to practicing dance and modeling moves, but for the most part, it's what Morgan likes to do.

"I never push her to do it if she absolutely doesn't want to do it," Hodge said, "She knows that she has to put the time in to practice if she wants to be successful with it."

Hodge said she is aware that some people tend to stereotype girls and their mothers in the pageant world, especially due to reality shows.

"Going through parades with Morgan and she's sitting in the back of the car smiling and waving and there will be people in crowd saying 'Oh look, it's Toddlers and Tiaras!' I'm thinking in the back of my mind, I wish I could just stop and tell them 'you have no idea that she goes to school everyday. You have no idea that she is a well-behaved nine-year-old kid. That she's a normal girl. It's not what you see on tv.’"

She also said that Morgan does not wear a lot make up, fake hair, nails and other things that some competitors wear.

"She's just Morgan in a dress," Hodge said

Morgan said the things she enjoys the most about competing is dancing, which she has been doing since she was three, as well as spending time with the other girls she meets.

"I like having fun with the other girls," Morgan said, "Backstage we don't do very much. Some of the girls bring things to entertain them because there's a big gap (of time) when the other girls are performing. So that gives us more time with each other."

Hodge said she does not spend the amount of money that some do when their daughters compete. She said the Li'l Miss Eastern Iowa pageant cost her around $350; however, the monetary returns are not significant. 

The third grader is a member of the student council and wants to be a pediatrician.

As a competitor for Li'l Miss pageants, Morgan is required to put time into activities like working at a restaurant cleaning off tables. She said she doesn't mind because she earns a little money which she donates to charities such as the Children's Network.

"It's fun doing it because I like helping other people."

Morgan said her father keeps telling her to put a brick on her head and be a four-year-old again. He doesn't mind her competing in talent shows or pageants, but doesn't like her wearing make up.

When Morgan's parents agreed to let her compete, Stew had only one thing to say and he continues to say it:

"I'm very proud of her, as long as she has fun doing it - that's all that matters. As soon as she doesn't have fun doing it - it's time to find something else."
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