Confidence to compete: HMHS senior hoping to inspire young girls

HMHS senior Erin Hoffman is competing for the title of Miss New Jersey Teen USA 2018.

Haddonfield Memorial High School senior sits in the backyard of her Haddonfield home on Tuesday, Sept. 19. Hoffman is competing in the Miss New Jersey Teen USA 2018 pageant.

Patty Hoffman said when her daughter Erin walked into the orientation for the Miss New Jersey Teen USA pageant, she entered a room full of big hair, stilettos and false eyelashes, and there was Erin in shorts and sneakers. She said her daughter was completely unfazed by the contrast.

“By the end of the four hours, she had already made friends,” Hoffman said.

From Oct. 13 through Oct. 15, Hoffman will embark on her first adventure in the pageant world as she heads to Parsippany to compete for the title of Miss New Jersey Teen USA 2018. Hoffman said her hope is that, by competing, she will inspire girls in Haddonfield to be brave and step outside their comfort zone.

Hoffman, a gregarious 17-year-old, carries herself with a confidence as fiery as the red hair atop her head. The Haddonfield Memorial High School senior said until recently, competing in a pageant never crossed her mind.

She said it all started when her friend and former classmate, Karly Riggs, won Miss Arizona Teen USA 2017. Speaking with Riggs about the experience and watching some of the goings-on behind the scenes on social media changed her perception about pageants. She said she was shocked to learn that behind the glamour was a group of normal young girls making friends.

“Every single girl who’s won has said it’s just been the most amazing year full of opportunities to talk to young girls and get more involved in their community,” Hoffman said.

In June, Hoffman said she decided to sign up for the Miss New Jersey competition. Following a phone interview and some paperwork, she was enrolled to compete. Patty said the news came as a surprise.

“I have to say that both her father and I were shocked when we got the phone call from the Miss New Jersey Teen pageant,” Patty said. “We had no clue that she had even signed up.”

The competition consists of three segments: an interview, evening wear and activewear. Hoffman said she’s picked her friend Riggs’ brain about the interview portion and spoke with some other girls in pageants to prepare. An active runner, Hoffman said her daily running has her prepared for the physical aspects of the competition.

Hoffman said she isn’t going to the competition with any expectations about winning, but, rather, her hope is that simply by participating she might inspire her neighbors and friends to “be more confident and be more true to who they are.”

“I’ve never heard of anybody doing it from Haddonfield,” Hoffman said. “It could be something to bring the community together because we’re such a small town.”

If she were to win, Hoffman said she wants to use the title to shine a light on her school’s Stand With Camden Club, which donates coats, books and other items to those in need. She said with the title of Miss New Jersey Teen USA, she could extend the club’s reach and get more people involved in the work the organization is doing.

“I could use to the title to promote so many positive things in our community,” Hoffman said excitedly.

This isn’t the first time she is stepping into the new and unfamiliar. Hoffman said competing in the pageant is a lot like the first time she went to summer camp. When she arrived at Camp Tockwogh in Maryland, Hoffman didn’t know anyone and felt out out place. She started counting down the hours until she could go home, but by the time the summer was over, she had unexpectedly formed lifelong friendships. She said the experience taught her she was braver than she knew.

“It was really where I found who I was,” Hoffman said. “I formed this new confidence In myself. It totally shaped who I [am].”

Running has also had an influence on Hoffman’s outlook. She said when she joined her school’s track team as a sprinter, she admired the girls on the team running distance but thought it was something she wasn’t capable of doing. She gave it a try anyway, and much to her own surprise, she discovered that with some practice, she was able to run farther than she ever thought.

Hoffman said she’s approaching the pageant with the same mentality. She said every time she thought she wasn’t capable of running farther, she did, and even though she’s never competed in a pageant before, she knows she’ll feel like she’s conquered the run leading up to the pageant.

To date, Hoffman has raised $700 toward the competition’s sponsorship fee. She’s fundraising to cover the remaining $700 in expenses of the three-day competition being held at the Hilton Parsippany Hotel. To donate to Hoffman’s fundraising efforts, visit https://www.gofundme.com/send-erin-to-win-for-haddonfield.