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Video: U.S. rivals welcoming, says Welsh ‘Perfect Teen’

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    MICHELLE KOSINSKI reporting: Hi there, Meredith . Well, what does it say about the American teenager if America 's Perfect Teen lives, oh, just across the ocean over there in Wales ? Is that what we had to do to find our shining paragon of teenagehood anymore? But all joking aside, we're talking about pageants here, so this is very serious stuff. Oh, how the American girls tried...

    Unidentified Woman #1: From sweet home Alabama .

    KOSINSKI: ...bringing out all the heavy artillery.

    Unidentified Woman #2: All jokes are funny to me.

    KOSINSKI: The butterfly wings, extraneous fabric, the teeth.

    Mr. MICHAEL GALANES: One young lady brought a live cougar on stage.

    KOSINSKI: What?

    Mr. GALANES: I mean, it's a very, very fun and exciting...

    KOSINSKI: A live cougar couldn't win this thing? Little did they know, a British invasion was under way by lovely young Anysha Panesar . If her revolutionary unbig hair didn't frighten and confuse the other contestants...

    Unidentified Woman #3: What is your perfect Facebook status?

    Ms. ANYSHA PANESAR: Oh, that's actually a really hard one.

    KOSINSKI: ...then the British accent might have been a big sparkly red flag. Anysha , whose parents own a vacation home in Florida , was about to sweep this thing.

    Mr. GALANES: Anysha had a beautiful black cape and high boots.

    Unidentified Woman #4: Anysha Panesar .

    KOSINSKI: Even she seems in disbelief at how easy it was to beat the Yanks at their own game.

    Woman #4: She came all the from Europe , and now she is America 's Perfect Teen .

    KOSINSKI: So that's where America 's Perfect Teen has been hiding. Pageant director and master of all things fabulous Michael Galanes , who can be seen on the cable show "Little Miss Perfect " wrangling pint-size divas, defends Anysha 's every rhinestone and feather.

    Mr. GALANES: You know when you say that girl had it? She truly did.

    KOSINSKI: The British press has devoured the victory, though even the runner-up has graciously accepted that America 's Perfect Teen is now a Brit .

    Ms. LOURDESE MARZIGLIANO (First Runner-Up, "America's Perfect Teen" Pageant): I didn't think that it was a problem. Everybody's in the pageant for the same reason, everybody wants to win.

    KOSINSKI: Even mom is OK with it.

    Unidentified Woman #5: She met the qualifications and she was awarded the title.

    KOSINSKI: Still, it inevitably begs the question... But if an American teen can't win America 's Perfect Teen , what's to become of this nation?

    Mr. GALANES: You know, that's a very, very good question.

    KOSINSKI: So in addition to that sparkly mega crown, Anysha has won cash and a scholarship to study broadcast journalism here in the US. So some of us may want to keep our eye on that girl. I'm not just talking about Tamron Hall . So hopefully she won't inspire fake British accents now among American teenagers, although some of them might sound a lot more polite that way.

    Meredith: Yeah. I think we all got to be -- better be worried. Michelle Kosinski , thank you very much . Anysha Panesar is in London this morning. Anysha , good morning to you, and, first of all, congratulations.

    VIEIRA: Thank you very much . Good morning, Meredith .

    Ms. ANYSHA PANESAR (British Teen Crowned "America's Perfect Teen"): Good morning. What's been the reaction over there to you winning America 's Perfect Teen ?

    VIEIRA: Well, it's been quite mixed. I think I've had a lot of media attention, but personallywise, I don't tend to mix my private live with my pageant life, so nobody in school really knows until, well, today, really, what I've been doing, all these media things, what's been going on.

    Ms. PANESAR: Well, there's been a lot of talk over here by some folks who feel

    VIEIRA: it's strange, irregardlessof you or your qualifications that in a pageant about America 's Perfect Teen , that somebody who is not an American would be allowed to participate.

    I think that the pageant now needs to expand internationally, in my opinion, because I believe that it's such a great opportunity for so many girls all over the world .

    Ms. PANESAR: At the time that you were in the pageant , it lasted for four days. At any time did any of the contestants raise any concerns about the fact that you're from Wales and not from America ?

    VIEIRA: All the girl -- all the girls were very welcoming. At every pageant I do, they always are. They welcome me and they didn't say anything nasty to me whatsoever. I was having the best week of my life, to be honest.

    Ms. PANESAR: So why do you think there's been this reaction since by some people? Do you think that it's sour grapes? I know your mom does.

    VIEIRA: I think that everybody in any competition or any hobby or sport that you do, if you don't win, you're always going to feel maybe a little bit disheartened, and that can sometimes lead to such comments. But I think that after thinking about it and realizing that what happens on the day happens, and it always leads to better things, in my opinion. So for maybe someone not winning, then there's always something else for you around the corner. And I think that at the beginning, yes, there were a few comments, but I think now everyone's welcomed me greatly.

    Ms. PANESAR: Anysha , ultimately what do you think sets you apart from the other girls? Beside that accent?

    VIEIRA: I think it probably was my accent, and I think that every girl has something special, whether it is you're outgoing or whether it's because of your personality, and I think that my accent did help, and maybe it was my haircut, I'm not too sure. But I think I was what the judges were looking for that day, and I just tried to bring my full personality and my fierceness to the stage.

    Ms. PANESAR: And what's next for you? I know that you won, among other things, this scholarship to study broadcasting in the States . Is that something you hope to pursue?

    VIEIRA: It definitely is. I'm going to finish my A levels in the UK first, and then I hope to move to America to take up my scholarship because broadcasting's always been a career that I've always wanted to take up.

    Ms. PANESAR: Well, we wish you the best of luck and, again, congratulations. Anysha Panesar , thank you so much .


Image: America's Perfect Teen
Deanna Meredith  /  America's Perfect Teen
Anysha Panesar won the America's Perfect Teen competition despite the fact that she hails from Wales. The teen thinks that her accent may have helped, along with her haircut.
TODAY contributor
updated 9/22/2010 9:34:46 AM ET 2010-09-22T13:34:46

At first blush, it’s a familiar story: A small-town girl beats the odds to win fame and fortune at a beauty pageant. But the twist is that the small town of Anysha Panesar, newly crowned America’s Perfect Teen, is not in America at all — and that has some folks up in arms.

Anysha, 16, hails from Llangan, Wales — some 3,500 miles from U.S. shores. While on a family vacation in Kissimmee, Fla., last month, she entered the America’s Perfect Teen pageant on a whim. But lo and behold, when the winner was announced, she was the last young woman standing among 30 contestants.

“I didn’t think I would actually win because I’m British, so I thought there was no chance I was going to win an American pageant,” Panesar told the London Daily Mail newspaper.

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But some pageant teens’ parents not only didn’t believe Panesar would win; they believe she shouldn’t have. They were shocked to learn that the pageant has no U.S. residency requirement, and have taken it up with pageant officials.

Vote on TODAY Moms: Should a British girl be America’s Perfect Teen?

The pageant’s sponsors also had a few choice words for its founder, Michael Galanes, who steadfastly maintains the right girl won America’s Perfect Teen — even if she doesn’t happen to be American. “There really is no reason for any sort of uproar,” Galanes told NBC’s Michelle Kosinski. “You know how you say, that girl had ‘it’? Well, she truly did.”

Riches-to-riches story
To be sure, Anysha’s tale is far from a rags-to-riches story — in fact, the $2,000 in cash and $18,000 in scholarship money may seem like small change to her family. Her well-heeled parents send her to the same elite private school in Cardiff, Wales, that chart-topping singer Charlotte Church attended. And they splashed out nearly six figures to throw Anysha’s Moulin Rouge-themed birthday party last year — a bash so lavish it was featured on MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16” reality series.

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But Anysha’s mother, Caroline, told Britain’s Daily Post newspaper that any complaints about a Welsh girl’s winning an American beauty pageant didn’t come until after the family had already left their vacation home in Florida and headed back to Europe.

“I did not hear anyone say anything nasty about being British when we were there, but I have heard it since and it’s sour grapes,” she said. “For every person who says, ‘Well done,’ there will be someone who complains behind her back.”

Even before entering the America’s Perfect Teen competition, the attractive teen was no stranger to beauty pageants. Her proud mother says Anysha has already been crowned Miss Teen Wales and won a modeling competition back home, and had even entered American pageants before, placing runner-up once.

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But Anysha said her track record was nothing compared to other girls in the America’s Perfect Teen pageant; some had been competing in beauty contests since they were 4 years old.

“I wasn’t as experienced as the other girls and didn’t know as much as they did — so I still can’t believe I actually won,” she told the Daily Mail.

Anysha said she’s going to put her scholarship money to good use; after completing high school in Wales, she plans to relocate to the U.S. to study broadcasting. In fact, she is already in talks to launch her own reality TV show about her year as America’s Perfect Teen’s reigning queen.

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Galanes admitted to the Daily Mail that Anysha’s pageant win did “cause a bit of a stir because she is, of course, British,” but maintained there was no violation of pageant rules.

The pageant judges were wowed by her, he added. “One of the judges told me they liked Anysha because she was a breath of fresh air,” he said. “She has natural beauty, but she isn’t afraid to be a bit wild. Anysha, what a beautiful girl!”

Still, NBC’s Kosinski asked Galanes a question likely on many people’s minds.

“If an American teen can’t win America’s Perfect Teen — what’s to become of this nation, Michael?” she asked.

“You know, that’s a very good question,” Galanes replied.

‘Best week of my life’
Speaking live on TODAY from London Wednesday, Panesar told Meredith Vieira she didn’t receive any flak from the American gals as she competed in and eventually won “their” pageant over the course of four days.

“They didn’t say anything nasty to me whatsoever; I was having the best week of my life, to be honest,” she said.

And while Panesar said she is aware of some complaints that a British girl claimed the America’s Perfect Teen crown, she sees it more of a case of the agony of defeat than bias. “If you don’t win, you’re always going to feel a little disheartened, and that can sometimes lead to such comments,” she told Vieira. “But I think that after thinking about it and realizing that what’s happened on that day happened, then there’s always something else for you around the corner. I think that at the beginning, yes, there were a few comments, but I think now everyone’s welcoming me greatly.”

Besides, Panesar believes the more apt title should be World’s Perfect Teen.

“I think that the pageant now needs to expand internationally, in my opinion, because I believe that it’s such a great opportunity for so many girls around the world,” she said.

So why does Panesar believe she was able to claim an American pageant crown as a foreigner? Having a distinct accent certainly didn’t hurt; and neither did the sassy bob that sets her apart from the big hair of most pageant contestants.

“I think my accent did help, and maybe it was my haircut, I’m not sure,” she told Vieira. “I think I was what the judges were looking for that day, and I just tried to bring my full personality and fierceness to the stage.”

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

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